The Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele drops her anticipated album, Better, today via Motown Records. She's been in the game for years—working with artists including Kanye West, Drake, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z. But today, it's all about her. Before the album dropped, Chrisette sat down with Complex to talk about working with Trinidad James and Stevie Wonder, being honest on her new album, and what inspires her to keep working in the industry.
Interview by Heather Haynes (@HomegurlHeather)
How has your sound evolved from your first album I Am until now?
My sound has evolved a lot. I’ve become a lot braver and less afraid to be vulnerable. I still sing the same but the subject matter is incredibly honest.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in this industry, in general?
I love marketing, branding, creating culture, and influencing art. I think in the African-American community and worldwide, Puffy did an incredible job of creating. Whatever it was, he created it and made all of us believe it, and we live it now.
All the music seems like it comes from a personal place. How do you get to that place in the studio?
Definitely not the studio, the studio is one of my least favorite places to be because you're in a closed dark room, with strangers. I've worked really hard to make sure that I form relationships with engineers and everybody from security guards to different types of people so that when I’m in the studio, I’m in the room with family and people I love—that helps get me to that honest place.
Trinidad James and I are talking about doing a song with Stevie Wonder. I don’t want to give you the name of the song because that will totally ruin it, you’ll be like, “Don’t do that.” But the word “ratchet” is in the title.
You work with producer Chuck Harmony a lot on your projects. What is your relationship like with him?
He’s become one of my dearest friends in this industry because we’ve been through a lot together. We both started out at the same time, we both had a lot of blessings around the same time and so we grew up together.
We both smoked weed the first time together in New York City, which is not a good place to find weed. We made a high-tape as opposed to a sex-tape. We learned how to roll up, one the engineers taught us, he lit it for us and next thing I know, I was outside in the rain singing.
Do you ever record music high?
People think that I record my music high and people always ask me about weed. But I don’t smoke—it’s not my thing. I’m high naturally.
You collaborate a lot with hip-hop artists. Who is your favorite rapper right now?
Trinidad James and Kendrick Lamar. Trinidad James and I are talking about doing a song with Stevie Wonder. I don’t want to give you the name of the song because that will totally ruin it, you’ll be like, “Don’t do that.” But the word “ratchet” is in the title.
What can we expect from the new album, Better?
I'm super excited to put it out, I feel like I’ve finally come into who I am. I’m not really afraid of it, I coined the term “Rich Hipster" on my track with Wale. I told him, "You are the epitome of rich hipster."
He was like, “I am not hipster.” Because if you’re a hipster you’re not allowed to say your hipster, it’s like against all the hipster laws. But I decided to go for it and see what happens. I figured if I put the word "rich" in front of it, [hip-hop artists] may be more attracted to it.
If you're a hipster you're not allowed to say your a hipster, it's like against all the hipster laws.
You've said you really found yourself on Better. What was the most emotional track for you on the album?
The hardest songs for me to record are love songs because I’m always afraid somebody will take it away. When it’s dark and when it’s angry, it's like, "Please take that, please." But when it’s love it’s actually scary so it’s hard to record more sensual songs like “All I Ever Think About,” they had to fight me to record that song, I didn’t want to sing that. The most honest song on the album is probably the song “Better.”
You were recently on tour with Keyshia Cole. Do you have any collaborations in the mix with Keyshia?
I’m not a R&B head, people think that I’m a R&B head. When I think of collaborations, I think about two different types of sounds which is why I love to collaborate with hip-hop artists. My dream is to collaborate with somebody like Fall Out Boy or Gwen Stefani.
Chrisette Michele's new album, Better is available on iTunes today.