It’s so easy to love R&B powerhouse Chrisette Michele. Oozing positivity, love and light, the gentle spirit is a vibrant hybrid of class and eccentricity, a rare mix in the music industry.
Dressed in all-black-everything with double gold chains dripping around her neck, killer thigh-high boots and a sleek, bone-straight mane, Michele strut into the John Hancock building on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile like a stallion on Friday [December 4]. Making her rounds for press day after finishing lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, Michele walks with an enviable glow next to friends and crew and new fiancé, Doug “Biggs” Ellison, prepping for her sold-out Chicago concert at the UIC Forum.
Back and reloaded, Michele, born Chrisette Michele Payne, continues to roll out enchanting tracks of love, soul and relationships, but is quick to switch it up to remind listeners of her Hip-Hop roots. The New York native, who’s celebrating her 33rd birthday today [December 8] is dishing a plate of humble pie in her new banger, “Steady,” produced by Blackie Blaze of Four Kings Productions. With new album Milestone, her fifth studio effort, on deck for an April 2016 release, that Chrisette Michele reign just won’t let up.
The Source caught up with the “Aston Martin Music” singer as she dished on her regrets in the music industry, advice on finding love and what you can expect from her next year.
What can fans expect when they attend a Chrisette Michele concert?
“After 10 years of everyone coming to hang out, every once in awhile you want to come and re-invent or do something a bit different. When you come to Chicago, you have to sing your face off! So the band is prepared to hit those drums as hard as they know how because we’re going to go ham.”
Is there a favorite song you like to perform?
“My favorite thing to hear at a performance is when the audience sings along. And the audience sings loud when we sing ‘A Couple of Forevers,’ ‘Blame It On Me,’ and ‘Ephipany.’ So the songs I like [to perform] the most are the ones the audience sings to.”
You’re new single “Steady” goes so hard. What was the inspiration behind it?
“My life! I just started to talk about it. I usually keep that kind of stuff to myself; I’m really shy about the fact I have a record label. I’m really shy about the fact I have five albums and toured around the world, I’m shy about those facts. But again I needed to say them so I can get past them and be bigger and greater than that.
“A lot of times we get afraid to let people know about where we are in life and I feel like you have to set the bar for yourself and kind of let people know this is where we’re starting off next. I needed to do that with this next piece, because it’s a Milestone—2016 is going to be a year unlike the past. So we’re starting with ‘Steady,’ and we’re going higher and bigger than that.”
And that’s a really high bar.
“It’s a high bar, but they always say an overnight success happens after 10 years. I wanted a Porsche ever since I was a little girl and when I purchased it, in my mom’s favorite car color, it was like, ‘Now what?’ Of course there’s other things I do with my life; I have a tattoo on my arm that says, ‘feed the hungry.’ If that isn’t a big sign that I’m really active and involved in the community then I don’t know what is. But there’s so many things I want to do next.”
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
“There’s a lot of misconceptions but right now at this particular moment, I want to play with the misconception of what kind of music I like and the type of music I listen to and what I do in my down time. Being on R&B Divas LA people saw a glimpse of who I am, with silly things like playing in sparkles and wearing angel wings and just being feminine. I think people thought I walked around citing poetry all the time and I kind of don’t.”
What’s the craziest rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself?
“I don’t really have too many of those, I guess that’s not really my claim to success. I wish there was more rumors about things that happened on the TV show that would have been fun, but it’s been a mellow experience so far. [I find] what gets you further than drama is kindness and meeting people, saving their phone numbers and calling people back. You meet a lot of people in the music industry and say hi, but never say hi again. So it’s really important for me to keep relationships. If there was another misconception, it’s maybe I don’t have the friendships or connections that I’ve been blessed to forge.”
Congratulations on your engagement! You two didn’t have the cookie-cutter, perfect love story. What advice would you give to troubled couples?
“I didn’t even know we would make it. A lot of times it’s about waiting and becoming your best self in the meantime. Many times people wait, but they won’t improve or prepare. I always make up the story when you’re at the DMV and you get that number and when you sit down in your seat you do everything possible and fill out every single form because when you get called and it’s your turn, you don’t want get back in line. When you’re waiting for the right one, make sure you’re prepared when you meet them. Be epic while your waiting. Get epic.”
Do you have any regrets, anything you’d change if you could?
“Yes, I do. I don’t know if I would have signed with a major label so early on, I would’ve gave myself a few minutes to figure out what it’s like to be an entrepreneur earlier, but if I didn’t sign with a major label I might not have learned how to run my own label. It’s always like that Catch 22. I remember when it first happened, I said I don’t know about this, and I brought a composition notebook with me everywhere I went because I wanted to learn from Babyface, L.A. Reid, Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey, but it was a lot, really fast. I was a kid fresh out of college. It was petrifying; it was like overload. Maybe I would have waited a year or two, or maybe not, but all things work out in the end.”
How did you get involved with the Soul Train Awards Soul Cypher?
“It all started with an email from the Soul Train team, Paxton Baker at Centric has always been really kind to myself and the family. When we found out Erykah Badu was the brainchild I was like, I am down, whatever you want me to do! I didn’t even know what I had to do. I didn’t know who was going to be there when I arrived, I didn’t know it was going to be K-Ci, Eddie LeVert and Lalah Hathaway. We were all surprised, but if Erykah Badu was involved, I was down.”
So you guys didn’t know who you would be working with?
“Nope! The only thing they sent us was the break beat, so I didn’t know Omar [Edwards] was going to be on the keys playing or what was going to happen. I was petrified because I was like, how am I going to sing ‘Steady,’ a trap soul record, over an old school break beat, in front of Erykah Badu, next to Eddie LeVert! I thought this will not work and I was scared. But we pulled it off.”
What can fans expect from you next year?
“2016 is going to be jam-packed so everyone needs to be hanging out at RichHipster. It starts off with the clothing line Rich Hipster Belle with pop up shops all over the country, especially on the east coast. We’re going to release my album Milestone in April. In the summertime we’re doing the Milestone tour, college tour after that in the fall, then a Europe run in the winter. So stay tuned!”
Photo credit: Getty Images