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Ingrid Michaelson Does It On Her Own

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Ingrid Michaelson has had a single positioned in the Billboard Top 20 and an album in the top 100, seen a number of her songs played on Emmy-winning drama Grey’s Anatomy, opened for Dave Matthews Band, and performed on The Tonight Show and Live with Regis and Kelly, among others. But the twenty-eight year-old Staten Island native takes most pride in that listeners just remember the lyrics to her songs.

“The very first time an audience sang my words back to me I felt very moved and proud,” she says.

Michaelson, whose new album “Be Ok,” a collection of covers, live performances, and new original songs, was released October 14 and credits a solid work ethic and belief in her talent for the success she has achieved—even if she doesn’t quite believe that she’s done it.

“To be honest, everything surprises me,” she says. “The fact that people are buying and listening at all is still shocking! It is good to see what you can achieve if you work hard.”

The singer-songwriter grew up with two artist parents—her father a composer and mother a sculptor—and was involved in performing arts from a young age. Michaelson began classical piano training at the age of five, when she started playing publicly for the first time at recitals. There was always music playing in the house as a child, mostly musicals and classical works.

Michaelson still lives at home with her parents, and credits them for supporting her musical ambitions.

“I think we all form on our own,” she says. “My parents were very supportive of me which I think lead to my choices.”

She went on to study theatre arts at Binghamton University in Vestal, New York. If she ever got the chance to test her acting prowess in television or film, she says she just might have to try it out. Her background in drama might also have helped her transition from the theatrical stage to the musical stage.

“I am very comfortable on stage,” she says. “I don’t know if my training has informed that or not, but I do feel at ease in front of a crowd at my shows.”

Michaelson drew inspiration as a teen in the early 90’s listening to grunge-rock bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Lemonheads. Her voice has been called similar to those of legendary singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco—of the comparisons she says, “I’ll take it!” But for the most part she just tries to be herself as a musician and songwriter.

“I try not to compare. I just want to make a living doing what I love,” she says. “Songwriting for me is magical and I don’t try to define it or figure out how I am doing it. I just do it. I just write whenever the spirit moves me.”

Michaelson’s career received a substantial boost when she had several of her songs played on the ABC medical-drama Grey’s Anatomy in 2006 and 2007. She is an independent artist, recording and releasing her music without the aid of major-label marketing and publicity. This can pose challenges to an up-and-coming musician, but Michaelson seems up to the task, even if she has to get a little creative in how the public finds and hears her work.

“I think you can’t focus all of your energy on one thing. So non-conventional strategies are just as important as conventional ones.”

Die-hard fans can rest assured that the powers-that-be in the music industry won’t affect who she is as an artist.

“I will never change my music for anything or anyone except myself—regardless of a label.”

She begins touring the United States on October 16 in support of her album. Michaelson is excited to play her new songs to audiences across the country this fall and winter, especially considering the reception they have been given when tried out during past show.

“’Be OK’ gets a great response. So does ‘Over the Rainbow.’ So does ‘Lady in Spain.’ The songs on this collection are all songs that I have played before and have gotten great responses. That was the point of the record—to give fans some of the songs I have been performing that are not on ‘Girls and Boys.’ That and to give money to Stand Up To Cancer.”

Michaelson, a hard-working musician who takes a hand in all aspects of her career—“maybe a bit too involved,” she says, “I’m a control freak”—doesn’t forget where she came from and how far she has come in only a few years time. She still takes her shot at fame with a swig of humility. When asked how it feels to achieve her level of success, she says, “I have not really had that feeling because I don’t think I’ve made it.” And her listeners will be happy to know how much she values them, especially out on the road, where she never tires of playing the fan-favorites.

“The audience changes nightly, which changes the songs,” she says. “The audience makes the show.”

Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album, “Be OK,” is available online and in retail stores nationwide.

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