Ingrid Michaelson says her new "Lights Out" release is her "most personal album yet." And, ironically, it's the one that's also the most collaborative.
Michaelson created "Lights Out's" 14 tracks with 15 different co-writers and co-producers, primarily fellow singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs and her bassist Chris Kuffner, with Mat Kearney co-writing and guesting on "One Night Town." And Michaelson tells Billboard that all those helpers didn't inhibit here emotions; in fact, it was just the opposite.
"There was something about writing with all these people that kind of opened up things maybe I wouldn't have thought of before, which I think a good co-writer will help you do," explains Michaelson, who recorded 18 song after coming up with more than 30 ideas for "Lights Out." "Getting in a room with someone else, it's like a date, a conversation. I ended up just being able to tap into things I wouldn't have without these other people. I had some sessions that didn't go well, that just weren't magical, but then I had a few of those magical sessions, and that's what made it onto the record. It was hard, but it was so much fun."
Many of the songs on "Lights Out" were inspired by dark circumstances in Michaelson's day-to-day life. Both of her parents fell ill, and Michaelson contracted nerve damage from acid indigestion in her stomach and throat, the "brutal" result of a thyroid condition which knocked her out of commission for a couple of months.
"Between that and my parents needing my attention, I wasn't able to focus on anything and fell down into this pit of despair," Michaelson recalls. "I was actually making the record interwoven with all the things going on in my life. It was sad stuff and the songs have a lot of life and death and darker elements. (The album) has a dark and heavy feel to it, but a whimsical feel, too. One thing I think I'm good at is finding the lightness in the dark, and I attempted to bring that out on the record and find the silver linings in there somewhere."
"Lights Out" equalled the career highs of 2012's "Human Again," debuting at No. 1 on the Top Independent Albums chart, No. 2 on Top Rock Albums and No. 5 on the Billboard 200.
"It's pretty poppy, but at the same time I think it's conically really interesting and not dumbed down," Michaelson says. "That's what I wanted. I definitely wanted to bring some intellectual poppiness to it. I've just sort of gone from the poppy ukulele girl to platforms-and-eye-makeup pop -- a little different, but not, like, completely left field."
Michaelson currently has dates booked into early June, including a show at the Hangout Beach, Music & Arts Fest on May 16 in Alabama and two-night stands in Washington, D.C. and Boston.