What happens when two soul mavens sit down for a candid one-on-one? It becomes an artistic revolution that rocks the music world. When Jill Scott had some serious grown woman talk with Def Jam’s vocal powerhouse Chrisette Michele it was a heavenly meeting of two kindred and soulful spirits. Scott caught up with Michele for ESSENCE.com to discuss going against the grain musically, what it means to be a voluptuous woman in the biz, and what promise Michele made to herself.
JILL SCOTT: It’s such a pleasure to talk to you. I’m really sorry we haven’t met.
CHRISETTE MICHELE: Yeah, me too I’ve seen you live a couple of times so we’ve sort of met in my head. (Laughs.)
SCOTT: In 2007, your first CD received incredible reviews. Your voice is gorgeous. Has it been all you hoped for becoming a recording artist?
MICHELE: Thank you. I tell people this story all the time because it’s kind of funny. I got signed with an afro and a Bob Marley track jacket on. At that moment I said to LA Reid, “You’re sure?” He was like, “Yeah, this is going to be great1” and I was like, “Okay! Let’s go for the ride.” So I’m not really sure what my expectations were as far as thinking what people think somebody’s expectations might have been getting signed. It was more like, this is going to be fun, let’s see what happens. And it’s been a really, really fun, fun ride. Meeting all the wonderful, new people and people appreciating my new music has been really, fun and blessed ride.
SCOTT: Do you think you were prepared?
MICHELE: I think everything that happens in life we’re prepared for in ways we really don’t really know. But, I don’t know if I was prepared for, what was ahead because I was so, so honest and myself with everything I did. I wrote everything that everybody heard, so it wasn’t a kind of thing where I had a chance to say, “What are people going to think about this?” Because it was all from the bottom of my heart, it was all from me, so I just put myself out there. So, that was kind of like a scary journey, being so vulnerable, because I was so honest from the very beginning.
SCOTT: Is there anything you wish you had known?
MICHELE: (Laughs.)There’s a whole bunch of stuff I wish I knew like don’t spend the first check you get on a Mercedes Benz. You don’t have to take a band out for your first tour. Different ways of managing your money in the beginning and, just uh, and I think I had a really wholesome, kind of like an organic experience.
SCOTT: So you were taught to speak your mind and not be afraid and that helped you focus on being an artist and who isn’t afraid to do something different in music, which is what you’ve done. What do you think would’ve been a different about you?
MICHELE: I don’t know exactly how I’m supposed to say this, but when you have artists like yourself, who go against the grain but purposely it makes you think there’s no possible way that I’m going to be able to go into this music industry and not be myself because Ms. Jill Scott did it. Or Erykah did it. Or India.Arie did it. Or James Brown did it, So going against the grain was just something I had inside [of me], I wouldn’t felt like I was doing anything if I didn’t go against the grain.
SCOTT: How do you manage your appearance? Because it can be difficult when if you’re not a size four [over talking] getting out of the stores or off the runway.
MICHELE: My first and worst experience was going to a photo shoot for a magazine that shall remain nameless. I know they knew I was a size 14, I know they knew it. I know they knew I wasn’t a size 2! I came up in there and it was a rack of beautiful clothes and I couldn’t fit in none of them. And so they hand me a men’s pair of men’s jeans and man’s button up , and a man’s button up and a little tiny, itsy itsy belt off the lady who was doing the styling. I cried. I was so upset. I was so angry. I couldn’t believe it. There’s always beautiful women who are able to dress. I can go to Bloomingdales and buy my own clothes. That experience let me know that I had to be hands on with this clothing thing. I make my own books now, and I put thingstogether and let people know this is what Chrisette Michele enjoys. I like trendy clothes just like everybody else does.
SCOTT: I like that you’re not ashamed or upset or angry or starvingSCOTT: Uber. So let me ask you this, since you can sing beautifully about anything and you write so well, why do you choice to write about love the way that you do?
MICHELE: Why do I? Because my mother makes me. Everybody makes you write about love. I mean…it’s a beautiful, beautiful, amazing, subject and an instrumental part of our lives.
SCOTT: Have you ever been in love?
MICHELE: Of course I have! If I haven’t then I’d be very upset. I’d be very upset. Lately though I’ve been in love with myself and I’ve become my own best friend. I decided that no one’s going to be able to love me until I really love myself, so this album Epiphany, is definitely me finding out, wait a second, he might not have done such a great job but it’s about time you started loving yourself. So I went and brought myself my own little promise ring and put it on my ring finger and just told myself, “Girl I love ya!”
Chrisette Michele’s new album, “Epiphany,” is in stores now.