Ingrid Michaelson says that switching producers for her fifth album, "Home Again," made her "grow up."
"My initial problem with the record was I didn't have that, like, achy sadness in me that I used to write most of my other stuff," says Michaelson, 32, who got married in 2011. "So I wrote some songs, and I thought, 'I like 'em. I don't love them. I guess that's the way it's going to be now.' " But David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Lana Del Ray, Regina Spektor) didn't let Michaelson settle for that.
"He said, 'You've got a pretty voice, nice melodies. I'm impressed by the way you sing, how you just kind of go for it. I wondered why you never did that on your records?' " Michaelson recalls. "That got me thinking...That question he posed to me kind of lit a fire under me.
"He wasn't saying I couldn't do it, but I took it like that, and I was like, 'Yes I can!' I kind of took it as a challenge, and that inspired me...It felt like a breath of fresh air that allowed me to think about things differently. And all these songs came flowing out."
Despite Michaelson's tranquil domestic life, the songs on "Home Again" -- which debuted at a career-high No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart in January -- look at dark and troubled times in relationships -- though she explains that, "I don't think you necessarily have to be going through something to sing about it. I think you have more clarity, at least as a storyteller, if you're removed from a situation." And while the tenor of "Home Again" falls outside of the comfort zone she's established for herself -- and for her fans -- Michaelson says it's worth the risk.
"My father heard (the album) and was like, 'Where are all the little ditties?' " Michaelson says with a laugh. "But I don't like being defined as 'That's what you do.' That's NOT only what I do, and I hate when you become distilled to basically one or two songs. I have no comfort in that.
"So that's where this record came from. I'm not giving anyone a chance to put me in a little hole. I know there are many people who are like, 'That's the hole she belongs in,' but hopefully the fans who care about what I do will follow me, and I'll make new fans, too. That's all you can do."
Ingrid Michaelson and Pearl and the Beard perform Wednesday, April 11, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call (248) 392-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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