Chrisette Michele Talks Milestones, Personal & Professional
In an industry that’s constantly evolving, it is truly amazing to see someone who has still managed to maintain longevity through it all and continue to put out hit after hit, album after album. Grammy Award winning singer, Chrisette Michele is the epitome of musical greatness.
Reigning from Central Islip, New York, from the moment Chrisette Michele graced us with her astounding voice, we knew that her distinctive vocal skills alone, would take her to amazing heights.
Making her debut in 2006, the singer’s musical beginnings ignited while in high school. Her rich, sweet, and soulful sound rang in our ears, setting her apart from day one, making her one of the most well-respected female artists in the game. Furthermore, her work ethic and consistency made her even more admirable.
However, the road here was not an easy one—but, with perseverance, determination, and dedication, the singer was able to reach her milestone. We recently caught up with Ms. Michele for an interview to talk about her latest album, Milestone, her independent label, Rich Hipster, the highly anticipated upcoming Love Jones musical and much more.
Parlé Mag: We see that you recently performed during Essence Fest weekend 2016 in New Orleans and spent some time partaking in the festivities. How was that experience for you this year.
Chrisette Michele: Perfect. Essence is a tradition since I’ve been signed. I have to go down there and perform and just be with everybody. It’s nice because I think the artists and celebrities who come down feel welcomed in the city. So, they’re at restaurants, and they’re out eating, and shopping with everybody and taking pictures in the streets. So, it’s just a kind of different festival and really fun for everybody.
Parlé Mag: So, let’s talk about your album, Milestone—which released back on June 10th. Could you talk to us a little bit about what this musical body of work means to you?
Chrisette Michele: Sure. So, it’s my fifth album and it marks the tenth year of me being in the music industry. So, that ten-year mark is a milestone for me. I didn’t know—when I started out in the industry, that I would stay in the industry for a long time. I saw people being dropped to my left and my right. So, I mean, it was kind of a scary place for a really long time—in those regards. I finally feel a sense of security here and a sense of acceptance here. I finally made my way to a relationship and being engaged in the music industry. That’s sort of what the album is about; it’s about finding my security, my place in the world, and in love.
Parlé Mag: Okay, okay. Congratulations on your engagement, by the way!
Chrisette Michele: Thank you.
Parlé Mag: You have a few new features on your album. How was it working with Mali Music?
Chrisette Michele: Mali’s a lot of fun! We were very, very, very, very, very similar in our personality, in our writing style, and just that way that we talk to people. So, we both kept having strange moods, we’d stop and look at each other and be like, ‘You’re way too much like me.’ That was strange. Writing with him was a breeze because songs would be done in five or six minutes. So, it was kind of fun. We actually did about seven or eight songs together—not just one of them.
Parlé Mag: What would you say was your favorite song to record on the album?
Chrisette Michele: You know, they were all really fun. But, I think—let me think. My favorite? You know, probably “Black Girl Magic”. It’s a lot of screaming and yelling the words ‘black girl magic’. I didn’t know that I was going to use it for my album. I was just sort of hanging out in the studio one day and that subject was on my mind. I said, ‘Before it goes off of my mind, let me write about it and sing it the way I would want to sing it if nobody was watching.’ So, I did, and it came out that way.
Parlé Mag: Nice! So, as you said, this is actually your fifth studio album. Some people don’t even make it that far in the industry. What would you say has helped you stay versatile and true to your artistry throughout your career?
Chrisette Michele: Not worrying about staying true to my artistry, I think is one of the ways I’ve been able to do just that. I think that when people listen to your music, they don’t know what it meant to be true to your artistry. Only you know. But, they do know when you’re faking. So, if you try to create something just so that everybody listens, they’ll feel like it’s you, but it’s not going to come off well. If you do something and you’re being honest, then it tends to—even if they don’t like it, they’ll respect it. That’s something that I’ve learned over the years. People can tell when you’re trying, but they will respect it when you change.
Parlé Mag: So, ‘The Milestone Tour’ just kicked off. What are you most excited about for the tour and what can fans expect to get out of the show?
Chrisette Michele: My favorite thing to do on the road is to switch it up. I remember switching it up a lot between the album, I Am—my first album, and my second album, Epiphany. Then, switching it up for Let Freedom Reign, where I did mostly army bases and traveled to different army bases around the world, and more of a patriotic experience. This time around, it’s sensual; it’s got a lot of dancing. It’s got smoking lights.
Parlé Mag: Wow. Okay!
Chrisette Michele: It’s got a rock edge to it; the guitar is going a little bit crazy on the stage on this tour. So, I’m pulling from, you know, iconic stuff like Tina Turner and Lenny Kravitz on this tour. I’m excited about that.
Parlé Mag: As an artist, what would you say was that ‘milestone’ for you in your career?
Chrisette Michele: Oh, goodness! There’s so many. But, I think the most recent is beginning my own record label, ‘Rich Hipster’. ‘Rich Hipster’ began as a social media marketing company. Sort of a branding company. That was something I was really excited about. But, people kept saying to me over and over, ‘You know you can run your own label.’, and I’m just like, ‘Ugh! Who wants to do that?’
Parlé Mag: Right. [laughs]
Chrisette Michele: So, actually deciding to do it, and then, the small label of my own, getting signed to Capitol/Caroline, then finally putting out my own music has been incredible. So, I think that’s the biggest milestone so far.
Parlé Mag: Okay, so, did you have any reservations with ‘Rich Hipster’? Were you nervous?
Chrisette Michele: Yeah, totally. I still am. I’m a woman—and, whether we like to admit it or not, our voices aren’t the same as men’s voices. I never wanted to have to fight that battle; I never wanted to have to be the woman who said, you know, ‘I can do anything a man can do’ or ‘If men can do it, then women can do it, too.’ I just—I never wanted to say that. I never wanted that to be my motto. But, the truth is, with the right team, and with the right backing—with the right amount of tenacity and dedication, a woman is capable of doing great things. Running a record label is one of them.
Parlé Mag: We’ve learned that you’ll be hitting the road this Fall for the ‘Love Jones Musical’. I know that’s exciting. How did that come about?
Chrisette Michele: You know, this is my—I think, fourth play, in the last year on the road.
Parlé Mag: Wow!
Chrisette Michele: I sat; I prayed. I said, ‘God, you know, I really want to act.’ But, I’m afraid of TV and the big screen! You know, have your way in my life. Two churches opened their doors. One being The Potter’s House and, then, another one being Bishop Fernando out of Florida. They opened their doors for me to act with them, and it just became a snowball effect. One person would tell somebody else, and, then, I’m on with Je’Caryous Johnson. Somebody from that camp spoke to Melvin Childs, and now I’m working with Melvin Childs for the ‘Love Jones’–along with Warner Bros. backing. Then, some of my good friends, like, Musiq Soulchild and Raheem DeVaughn, etc. So, it’s going to be a really, really good time. I’m grateful.
Parlé Mag: That’s amazing!
Chrisette Michele: Yeah!
Parlé Mag: Switching gears a bit, there has been so much going on in today’s world—from the #AltonSterling case to just society as a whole. What are your thoughts on those situation and with everything that has been going on with and to Black people?
Chrisette Michele: At the end of the day, unfortunately, this is literally something that we’re hearing about, literally, at least once a week. Actually, every day. I mean, when we really sit there and count the statistics of how many people have been shot and killed by police in the last year, it’s over five hundred people. So, it’s exhausting; it’s tiring. It’s disappointing. It feels like there’s no hope; it feels like we’re moving too fast to come together and do something about it. It feels like, ‘Should my heart only reflect what’s going on—with police brutality, and nothing else?’ ‘Should I stop writing love songs?’ I think that’s kind of how we all feel, no matter what job we have. A teacher might think, ‘Is this a speech I should give in math class?’ You know, ‘Do I stop teaching math?’ ‘Do I only write about this if I’m a journalist?’ ‘Do I stop writing about fashion?’ You know? I think it’s time—for whatever it is that you do, to have some reflection of what’s going on in the world. So, if there’s a moment—in anything that you’re doing, where you can stop and say, ‘I’m aware of what’s going on.’ and ‘It’s not right; I don’t like it.’ It’ll be your way of making a statement. I think everybody, though, wants to stop!
Parlé Mag: Yes. Agreed.
Chrisette Michele: You know, and light something on fire. I wrote a song called, “I’ll Set The World On Fire”. In the moment, when I wrote it, it was right after everything had happened in Baltimore, and I wanted to set everything on fire. I was so angry. But, you don’t fight violence with violence. So, I think that staying peaceful in our spirits and in our hearts, is something we can make statements with our voices—wherever we are, and the only way to fight this particular battle.
Parlé Mag: Yes, yes. Well, we would like to thank you for chatting with us today. We wish you the best with your future endeavors!
Chrisette Michele: Thank you!