Ingrid Michaelson: Girl Chases Quiz Chases Girl
One of the differences between your high school garage band and Ingrid Michaelson is that, although both got their starts on MySpace, Michaelson's music has been heard by more than 30 people. In fact, her songs have been heard by millions of people, thanks to a licensing representative who immediately offered her a TV spot on Grey's Anatomy after finding her on the website. Michaelson accepted. She says, "I had never seen [the show] but my mother told me that my song should be on it." According to Michaelson, her parents' support factored heavily in her career success. "My mom always thought that I could be whatever, 'You could be an astronaut!' She believed in me so much."
Michaelson's distinct style is evident in her work. From deeply personal ballads about heartbreak to upbeat pop songs, her music is both evocative and entrancing. For this episode, Michaelson graces our stage with her ukulele and ethereal voice, and she joins Jonathan Coulton in a musical trivia game sung to the tune of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know."
On the intimacy of her music
One of the wonderful things about music is that it can mean different things for different people. It heals people. It excites people. It saddens people. But a song that maybe dredges up sad memories for me, that I play over and over again, can maybe make somebody feel really joyful in the audience. I'm just really amazed by it.
Heard in Quiz Me The Way I Am
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and with me is our house musician, Jonathan Coulton. But right now, let's welcome our very important puzzler, Ingrid Michaelson.
EISENBERG: You are from, originally, the forgotten borough of Staten Island.
INGRID MICHAELSON: Yes.
MICHAELSON: Anybody else from Staten Island? Three people. Awesome.
EISENBERG: Oh, nice. One of the things, I guess, because I didn't grow up here, I always think of is the accent.
MICHAELSON: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I could put it on.
EISENBERG: Wait. Yeah. Give me a little accent.
MICHAELSON: What do you want me to say? I have a dog. I get coffee.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) Is it hard to get a seat on the boat?
MICHAELSON: The ferry?
EISENBERG: The ferry.
MICHAELSON: In St. George?
MICHAELSON: Take the ferry to Manhattan.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) It's beautiful.
MICHAELSON: What? It's true. When I drink, it comes out, too. It comes out a little bit, yeah.
EISENBERG: Sure. So everyone likes to say that your early success was credited from being discovered on MySpace. Do you agree with this origin story?
MICHAELSON: Yeah, I put some songs up on ye old MySpace page (laughter).
MICHAELSON: And yeah, a licensing company found me randomly, and they said, you know, we put songs on TV shows like - and they named a couple, and they said "Grey's Anatomy." And I had never seen "Grey's Anatomy," but my mother told me that my songs should be on it.
EISENBERG: Oh, my God.
MICHAELSON: My mom always thought I could do whatever. She's like, you could be an astronaut. You know, she believed in me so much. And so she's like, you should get your songs on that show, "Grey's Anatomy." And I was like, oh, yeah, sure, done. And then so when they said we have, you know, connections to "Grey's Anatomy," I was like, I have to do it for my mom. And so within a couple months, I got a placement on that show, and that was the beginning of the end, as they say.
EISENBERG: Oh, my - yeah. What was it like to hear your song over a - I'm sure, a heart-wrenching montage?
MICHAELSON: It was at the end of an episode. There was something hospitaly happening...
MICHAELSON: ...And then it was playing, and I just was screaming and jumping around. I had a hive on my face. I was so excited. So I had ice on my hive, and I was like it's playing. And then it ended, and I was like, oh, that was so fast.
MICHAELSON: And that was it. It was like 45 seconds. And there was talking over it, you know.
EISENBERG: Right. There was like a whole scene.
MICHAELSON: But it was super awesome. It was the first time it ever happened, so I was very excited.
EISENBERG: That's amazing. Now your music is very personal, yet, you know, it's used on - for television. It's used on commercials. What is it like to have, you know, something so personal used as an anthem for something else?
MICHAELSON: One of the wonderful things about music is that it can mean different things to different people. It heals people. It excites people. It saddens people. But a song that maybe can dredge up sad memories for me that I play over and over again can maybe make somebody feel really joyful in the audience somehow. And so I'm just really amazed by it now.
EISENBERG: But in the beginning, you were like...
MICHAELSON: Oh, very weirded out - yeah. Well, it's strange to hear yourself, yeah, behind somebody who's, like, you know, having open-heart surgery or something...
MICHAELSON: ...Or like a diaper commercial or something. I'm not above that. Call me, Pampers.
EISENBERG: You've put out an album almost, like, every two years.
MICHAELSON: Pretty much.
EISENBERG: That's a lot of albums. I mean, you have an amazing work ethic. Have you always been just a hard-core worker?
MICHAELSON: (Laughter) No. I was actually just talking backstage with my publicist. She just wants me to do everything that I could possibly do. And I'm like I want to watch "House Of Cards."
MICHAELSON: So there's a little bit of a discrepancy there.
EISENBERG: But you're writing new albums, and you're recording new albums, and then you're touring, and then you're writing new albums...
MICHAELSON: Yeah, come on. Thank you.
EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.
MICHAELSON: I'm freaking tired.
EISENBERG: So when you are playing songs, you know, from your first album - when you play them, do you go back to where you were at that time or are you reinterpreting them from, you know, sort of your mindset now?
MICHAELSON: Most of the time, it's an reinterpretation...
EISENBERG: It is.
MICHAELSON: ...Because I'm in such a different - I feel like a different human. You don't want to sing the same song in the same way every day, every day. I feel like an audience isn't stupid. They're going to be like, wow, she hates that song.
MICHAELSON: And there definitely are nights where I feel like I might do that - not tonight.
MICHAELSON: But, yeah, I definitely change it up.
EISENBERG: Have you been touring anywhere, maybe, in the states or in Europe that you were like, nah, this is not going to be my favorite, and it ended up being one of your favorite places?
MICHAELSON: Salt Lake City.
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.
MICHAELSON: I thought they were going to be very kind of, you know, uptight Mormons. And they were...
EISENBERG: Yeah, conservative and you're worried about it.
MICHAELSON: ...Not uptight, but they were Mormons.
EISENBERG: They were partying Mormons.
MICHAELSON: They were party Mormons, the rare breed. They have no caffeine, but, wow, they can rock a Pellegrino till the sun goes down.
EISENBERG: I'm so jealous of that ability, quite frankly. That would be amazing to be like, three waters, and I'm on fire.
MICHAELSON: I know.
EISENBERG: Well, Ingrid, you're going to be coming up a little later to help us run a game, but right now, we would love to hear a song...
EISENBERG: ...If you would grace us with that.
EISENBERG: And I think you're going to play a song from your album "Girls And Boys."
MICHAELSON: Yeah, that - which is an old one. I'm afraid to say how old it is - 10 years. There I said it.
EISENBERG: Oh my gosh.
MICHAELSON: I admitted it. I wrote it when I was 7.
MICHAELSON: (Singing) If you were falling, then I would catch you. If you need a light, then I'd find a match 'cause I love the way that you say good morning, and you take me the way I am. And I'll buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair. I'll sew on patches to all you tear 'cause I love you more than I could ever promise. You take me the way I am. You take me the way I am.
MICHAELSON: Thank you.
EISENBERG: Ingrid Michaelson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.