Interview with Michelle
Singer-songwriter Michelle learnt to play the guitar around campfires in a small mining town in Canada and cites the likes of Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow and Dolly Parton as her biggest inspirations.
She has just released ‘Rough Cut’, her brand new single which was recorded and produced in Nashville and London during lockdown.
The track is centred around fighting the urge to polish yourself down to fit a uniform mould and how you have to dig deep to love yourself. It’s a refreshing reminder to embrace being a little rough around the edges and to learn to love our imperfections.
“It’s taken me decades to be not just ok with my ‘imperfections’, but to actually embrace what makes me who I am. This song is about owning our edges, letting the light reflect however we choose” says Michelle.
The song combines traditional country music sounds with rock ‘n’ roll, and Michelle’s feisty and defiant vocals are reminiscent of the classic 90s country divas. It is an empowering encouragement to us all to celebrate owning our individuality!
It was so much fun to chat to Michelle about her new single, her journey of learning to love herself and her dream collaboration…
How would you describe your style of music to someone who has never heard it?
I guess I’d say it’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll… a lot of 90’s influences.
Which musicians have had the biggest influence on your sound and why?
Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, Shania Twain, Dolly Parton, Twinnie… and so many more. I’m in awe of how all of them can blend honesty and a sense of humour into such beautiful songs. A song that can make you laugh, think and want to move is the ultimate goal.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
All over the place! Just like my taste in music, I enjoy writing different styles. As a songwriter first, I love the collaboration element. I’ve been lucky enough to work with people on pop, country, r&b and jazz music. But when I’m left to my own devices, things usually come out a little bit country, which is fine. I love to write starting with just my acoustic guitar and whatever mood I’m in.
Your track ‘Rough Cut’ is about accepting your imperfections. How did you personally get to a place where you were able to embrace your individuality?
A defining moment was just before leaving a toxic relationship some years ago. I always felt like I was walking on eggshells. They seemed to want me to be a diluted version of myself. Not too loud, not too silly, not too sensitive, not too outspoken. I felt like I had to turn the dial down on my true nature. Once I left and accepted that I didn’t have to live that way, it was so liberating. It was something I wanted to apply to every facet of my life. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Where’s your will to be weird?’ and I think it’s so important to defend our inner weirdos. Not letting ourselves be polished down too much by life and ‘normal’ expectations is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.
What is your favourite lyric from the track and why?
“I can see you trying to change me, let me wish you good luck baby”. I love that line because it’s really the essence of the song. You may as well embrace your individuality, including anything that makes you a little rough around the edges, because it’ll always be there bubbling below the surface. People can try to change that, or supress it, but it ain’t going to happen. Not really. Not if we’re honest with ourselves.
You are from Canada but moved to London over a decade ago. What inspired your decision to move?
I’m from a small town. You could literally see the hospital where I was born from the window of my parent’s house. I was living with them at the time and there was something overwhelming about feeling like I (literally) hadn’t made it very far in life. So, I had to do something about that – geographically at least!
I have wonderful cousins who live in London and were happy to have me visit. Don’t worry, I haven’t been living on their couch for 10 years! But it was a perfect starting point to falling in love with London and the amazing tapestry of art, culture, music, food, you name it… I fell hard for this city and haven’t left in almost a decade.
What do you love most about London’s music scene?
I love how eclectic and supportive it is. At a jazz gig, I met an R&B singer who I went on to write with. At a County Music Festival, I met an artist that I look up to, who has given me great advice. At a songwriter’s circle I’ve met lifelong friends. Obviously, in lockdown, those magical interactions have taken a hit, but I can’t wait until it’s all back.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
It’s got to be Dolly Parton. I feel like aside from her being an absolute legend, she’s credited with having composed over 3,000 songs. I feel like there’s nothing you couldn’t learn from her. Plus, I imagine she’d have so many great stories.
What song can you listen to over and over without ever getting tired of it?
Oh, I’d have say Fool In the Rain – Led Zeppelin. It just reminds me of my dad playing classic rock through giant speakers (sometimes way past our bedtime as kids). My mother would eventually get annoyed and ask him to turn it off. He’d negotiate ‘one more song’ and this was often in that mix. I think he chose it mainly because it’s over the 6-minute mark. If we snuck down the stairs, you’d catch them slow-dancing to this in our living-room. My older sister also played it at her wedding, so it’s just become a family song for us. Not to mention (after all the amazing solos) the punchline that the guy was waiting in the rain in the wrong place. So he wasn’t being stood up at all.
What can we expect from you within the next six months? Any releases planned? Future gigs?
I have at least one more single due to be released this summer and plan to put out my first EP later this year. Lots of time in lockdown spent sitting on the floor with my acoustic guitar, so I’m beyond excited to share what I’ve been working on.
By Eveline Vouillemin