Chrisette Michele will release her new mixtape, ‘An Audio Visual Presentation: Audrey Hepburn’, on December 8th and The Lava Lizard was luckily selected as one of the first stops on her promotional campaign! However, my extensive interview went far beyond the scope of the set and I used my time to get closer the root of the woman with the silky voice.
Candidly chatting about ‘Audrey Hepburn’ and her highly anticipated ‘Better’ studio album, Michele revealed the many influences on her unique music and style. From Ella Fitzgerald to Solange Knowles (shocking, right?), Michele revealed her many sources of inspiration.
Yet, despite her undeniable talent, Michele will undoubtedly face an uphill battle to sell her new music in the shrinking R&B market. Does this mean that she plans to crossover to Pop music? How will she survive? Listen to Michele shout out The Lava Lizard and share the answers via our interview below:
You are currently preparing for the release of your ‘Audio Visual Presentation: Audrey Hepburn’ set on December 8th. What inspired the title of that record?
I love being a lady and I look up to iconic women, especially those iconic women who have dedicated their lives to philanthropic efforts and Audrey Hepburn was one one of those women. She is someone that I see as important and to whom we should pay attention for what she done in film, art, and in philanthropy.
Thus far, we’ve heard songs from ‘Audrey Hepburn’ that feature 2 Chainz and Wale. Are there any other guest artists on this record?
Yes. I have a jazz background so I called out to some of my jazz friends, one of them being Kenneth Whalum, and my younger brother, Lem Payne. I also have a few cool players from Angola who will be involved.
Which producers and writers contributed to the mixtape?
What’s excited about a mixtape is that it doesn’t have to be a name that everybody necessarily knows. You can call on your next door neighbour, sister or brother to contribute because it’s not a mainstream project.
So, I wrote every song on the mixtape and my younger brother Lem wrote his parts on the mixtape. A person named Nello Luchi also wrote for her song, ‘Love in the Afternoon’, which is the title of one of Aubrey Hepburn’s films.
I have to admit that the songs you have release so far from ‘Audrey Hepburn’ have been very impressive and have the potential to be major hits. So, why are they being released on a mixtape and not as part of a full studio album?
The name of my new album is ‘Better’ and it going to be one of my best efforts. What’s so exciting about it is that the songs on it are so incredible that I don’t feel like the mixtape will take away from that. If anything, I think the mixtape will help everybody to prepare for what’s coming.
Also, it’s always fun to give something away for free to your fans. I felt that they’ve been loyal for the past seven years that I felt that it’s my turn to give something back to them. No charge.
When will ‘Better’ be released? If the mixtape is coming out December 8th then how soon after can we expect the album?
You can expect the album in spring of 2013. The first single actually comes out in December and that is also really, really exciting news!
How would you describe ‘Better’? Is it R&B or more Soul? You previously said you worked with several Jazz artists so what should we expect?
Well, the mixtape is inspired by Hip-Hop, Jazz and R&B but my album is a fusion of those four sounds. It’s actually a positive and upbeat. I’ve been through a lot of heartbreak over the last four years so a lot of my other songs like ‘Goodbye Game’, ‘Blame It On Me’ and ‘Epiphany’ were inspired by breakups. Yet, ‘Better’ is a more hopeful album because I am a hopeful romantic.
Who can we expect to hear on the first single? Does it feature a guest artist?
It features me, my heart and nobody else.
On this album, do you have any particular song that is already your favorite?
My favourite track on the album is called ‘Be In Love’. It’s a really lively, upbeat song. The entire song is harmony, and I basically went into the studio and freestyled from the beginning to the end. Then I added harmony on top of harmony on top of harmony.
In the past you worked with people like Rick Ross and Drake. Will they be involved in ‘Better’?
Rick Ross and Drake will not be involved on this album but Fabolous will be involved on this album and I’m excited to work with him for the first time. I actually did a song with him a couple of weeks ago for an his upcoming project and he’s doing a song with me for mine.
Which producers and writers contributed to ‘Better’?
I obviously wrote most of the album. Chuck Harmony is involved as usual. He is almost like my good luck token. Musiq Soulchild actually produced on this album, which is cool because people don’t hear about his production as much as his writing and that’s really exciting.
One of my favorite people is Harold Lily. He contributed to a change in my life during the past year and he is one of the main reasons why I became a better person. He helped me cleanse, and shed unneeded weight from my body and soul.
As an R&B artist, you’re in a peculiar position because R&B isn’t really selling the way it did in the past. How important are sales to you at this point in your career and what steps are you taking to make this album a success?
What I’m doing to make this album a success is that I am hanging out with the fans a lot. I think it is important that I tweet people back to say, “hello,” as well as go to people’s stores and do autograph signings. I think it is important to forge relationships with the people who have been so kind over the last few years.
It’s one thing for an artist that’s great to come out with an album and expect people to buy it but it’s another thing for an artist to actually know her fans so they fall in love with each other. That way the music is great for both parties and not just the artist.
Are you planning on doing a tour to promote this album?
Absolutely! I’m never not on tour. I’m literally never not on the road because I am always performing.
On the topic of sales and the impact of your work, we’ve seen many R&B artists, such as Usher, Beyonce, Chris Brown and even Ne-Yo, branch off to perform more Pop-orientated songs. Are you planning to follow that route?
I get bored very easily so doing the same thing repeatedly tires me. You’ll probably hear me crossover from one sound to the next and I’m not sure if it will be Pop or Rock. On ‘Audrey Hepburn’, there’s a song called ‘Fair Lady’, which is another one of Aubrey Hepburn film titles, and it’s a straight Alternative/Rock song. I’m always experimenting but you don’t always get to hear it.
Speaking about your experimentation, I think that’s what makes you such a unique person. You have your own style of fashion and even music. Who are your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influences are from the Jazz era – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughan – but I also love the instrumentalists of yesteryear. I think that the drums in a song is what makes the song a song.
You said that Ella Fitzgerald is one of your biggest influences. Which of her songs is your favorite?
My favorite song that she did was ‘Take the A Train’. I love when she did ‘The Boy From Ipanema’. I think her remake of ‘The Boy From Ipanema’ is the coolest because its a special type of fusion.
Fast forward to present day, who are your favorite artists out right now?
I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I love what 2 Chainz is doing in the club because he is so much fun to listen to and I adore Janelle Monae! Solange Knowles is probably my favorite all around artist; from her singing to her fashion and contributions to society in general.
Who is your favouite rapper?
My favorite rapper is Wale and one of my favorite people is Wale.
To close this interview, lets talk about you on an artistic level. How do you describe yourself as an artist in just three words?
‘Rich hipster’ are the two words that I’m using to describe myself as an artist.
Excellent! Thank you so much Chrisette. I will be listening to and buying everything that you release!
I appreciate it! Thank you!
Michele will release her ‘Audrey Hepburn’ mixtape on December 8th, followed by her ‘Better’ album in 2013. Watch her new video for ‘Charades’, the lead single from the former set, below: