Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 09:23 UK

Parachute writer Ingrid Michaelson aims for UK stardom

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

You may not know Ingrid Michaelson. But the US singer who co-wrote Cheryl Cole's recent hit Parachute wants that to change.

Ingrid Michaelson
Michaelson is playing five dates in May as part of her UK and Ireland tour

Over the past four years, New Yorker Michaelson has gradually accrued a passionate fan base following with her offbeat live shows and melodic compositions.

Notably, though, she has done so without signing to a major record label, preferring instead to go it alone and keep her independence.

Through constant touring, word of mouth and high-profile placements on TV shows and commercials, she has quietly become one of America's hottest artists.

Yet she remains largely unknown in the UK - despite giving Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole a Top 5 hit with her recent solo single Parachute.

Michaelson co-wrote the song with the Los Angeles-based producer Marshall Altman, but chose to let another singer record it rather than release it herself.

"I knew that song would be a smash," says the 30 year-old. "I just didn't think I could pull it off.

"I'm so happy that Ms Cole is having success with it."

Now Michaelson is hoping some of that success will rub off as she prepares for a hectic burst of activity in the UK and Ireland, culminating on 26 May with her biggest headline concert in London to date at Shepherd's Bush Empire.

Sensation

It will also see her two studio albums re-packaged as a double record and her debut hit - fiendishly catchy ballad The Way I Am - receive a belated UK release.

The song became a media sensation in 2007 when it was used on a clothing commercial and was recently featured in the current series of American Idol.

Cheryl Cole
She co-wrote Parachute, a solo hit for Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole

The chorus for this gently winning number has her tell a lover that "you take me the way I am."

More than a romantic sentiment, however, this refrain has almost become a mission statement for a performer determined to do things on her own terms.

"I like having a lot of control," she told the BBC News website during a visit to the UK last November.

"Because I am my own record label I know everything. I make decisions on everything, down to what CD cases I want to buy.

"I don't want to throw money in places where it doesn't really matter and I don't want to push myself in any place," she continued.

"I just want things to happen as naturally as possible and make my records the way I want to make them."

Having her songs feature on such hit TV shows as Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy undoubtedly gave Michaelson's profile a boost.

Spectacles

The singer, however, is quick to admit she owes a lot to US retailer Old Navy's decision to use The Way I Am in a sweater commercial.

"It was huge," she remembers. "Everybody was buying the record and the press were really interested in this girl with no label who was top of the Billboard chart."

Ingrid Michaelson with Sara Bareilles
Michaelson has duetted with fellow singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles

Some people were more critical, attacking Michaelson for allowing her music to be associated with a product.

Raise this with the singer herself, though, and one gets short shrift and a mock-stern stare from behind her trademark spectacles.

"People said I'd sold out, but I don't really care," she says. "I wouldn't be here without it.

"If people weren't stealing records and not paying for music, artists wouldn't have to find other ways of making a living.

"Because the money you can make off a record has diminished, people are turning to other sources - touring, merchandise and TV and movie placements.

"Now everyone has their records on commercials, including very reputable bands. The people who were naysayers are now like 'oh yeah, of course'."

Michaelson's quirky humour and confessional lyrics give her live performances an intimate and improvisational feel that ensures no two concerts are the same.

'Chatty'

The Staten Island native has been known to tell extended anecdotes that go on for minutes, while audience participation through mass sing-alongs is a regular fixture.

"I like making people feel like we're all in a big living room," she explains. "It's as if we're just hanging out and playing music."

Establishing such a close connection with her fans does have its drawbacks, however. "Some people think they know me," she laughs.

"After shows they're like, 'Come on, let's hang out!' They give me their phone numbers as if we're best friends.

"But that's just what comes out of me. If I'm having a great show, I'll definitely get a little chatty.

"You can tell I'm having a bad show if it's a song, a song, a song with nothing in between. Those are the worst."

The Way I Am is released in the UK on 17 May. A special edition of Everybody/Girls and Boys follows on 24 May.



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