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Ingrid Michaelson Talks Matters of the Heart

Oct. 21, 2009
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Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson is happy that, at age 29, she’s finally learning the distinction between love and infatuation, even if the lesson required several rounds of mistaking mere hankerin’ for actual love.

“There’s a difference between a desperation that you have for somebody—you put them on a pedestal; you don’t even know them that well but you think you’re in love with them,” she explains. “And then there’s a real, deep connection that you have with somebody that you spent many, many years with. You know them, and it’s like there’s no finish line.”

Michaelson says she spent much of her relationship history in turbulent, fight-and-make-up romances, but now she’s learned better.

“I feel like, at times, we can substitute dramatics for actual, true love,” she says.

The experiences that led to that conclusion form the core of her latest album, Everybody. It’s the second follow-up to her 2007 debut, Girls and Boys, the album with her cheery piano-pop single “The Way I Am,” which sold zillions of sweaters as the soundtrack to an Old Navy commercial.

“It’s a little bit of a concept album,” Michaelson says of Everybody. “It’s sort of the deterioration of a relationship, centering around the idea that love isn’t enough, it isn’t the only thing, and just because there’s love, it doesn’t really mean anything. There have to be other things to back that up, to help sustain a relationship.”

The songs chronicle a relationship that ended a year ago, and even though it’s not a cheerful album, Michaelson says Everybody has a happy ending because she’s in love again. She believes people can appreciate good relationship songs regardless of whether the songs are about being together or falling apart.

“I just write love songs,” she says. “I’m not trying to break any new ground.”

Michaelson’s trajectory to stardom began when a music supervisor found her work on MySpace and placed several of Michaelson’s songs on “Grey’s Anatomy” and other shows. Then she was asked if she’d like to write a song for “Grey’s.” That was the emotional “Keep Breathing,” which 25 million people heard during the big ending of the show’s dramatic season three finale in May 2007. In September of that year, her Old Navy commercial aired more than 65 times in prime time, according to Billboard magazine.

Of course, major label offers came flying in. But, she explains, “I was already getting a lot of promotion from television shows and commercials and people were buying my album. I didn’t really need anything else. So there was no point in giving up what I’d worked for so somebody else could take 75%.”

That stance has earned her hero status among indie stalwarts, but she has major-league distribution and a team of heavy-hitters behind her. She also knows her success is a product of exposure that wouldn’t have happened without help. Still, she likes being her own boss. Having a significant other to share her success with is good, too. One thing seems sure: We’ll hear more about him on her next album.

Ingrid Michaelson plays an 8 p.m. show Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Turner Hall Ballroom with opener Matthew Perryman Jones.


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