Ingrid Michaelson Is Everywhere New York City indie-pop artist Ingrid Michaelson got her big break when Old Navy used her song "The Way I Am" for a sweater collection. She takes time out to play for the Bryant Park Project.
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Ingrid Michaelson Is Everywhere

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Ingrid Michaelson Is Everywhere

Ingrid Michaelson Is Everywhere

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


All right, even if you don't know Ingrid Michaelson by name, you've probably heard her music.

(Soundbite of song, "The Way I Am")

Ms. INGRID MICHAELSON (Singer): If you are chilly, here take my sweater 'cuz I love the way you call me baby.

(Soundbite of clapping)

STEWART: She encourages audience participation in concert, by the way. That's Michaelson's song, "The Way I Am," and it was used in a commercial for, yes, the Old Navy Fair Isle collection. Now, if you've read any of the press on Michaelson, and recently that would be really easy - I mean, she's been on "Good Morning America" and the pages of Billboard and Rolling Stone - you know the basics of her story.

She was discovered by Old Navy on MySpace. She was living at home with her parents on Staten Island. She'd been courted by major labels but decided to put her music on her own indie label. It'd been quite a year for the young woman, and when she stopped by the BPP studios, we sat her down to see if the old story still stands.

(Soundbite of electrical sound effect)

STEWART: Ingrid, so much has changed for you in the past year, so I want to check in to find out if certain parts of the Ingrid Michaelson story still stand. Are you still living at home with your folks in Staten Island?

Ms. MICHAELSON: Well, okay, yes. Technically it's where my mail goes, but I'm on the road a lot. So I do want to get my own place, but I feel like if I'm home like one week out of the month, if that, it's like, you know, do I really want to pay X amount of dollars to live in New York? So I'm going to wait until my life kind of slows down, and then I'm going to get my own place. But the answer is yes, I do.

STEWART: Are you still an independent artist, not signed to any big, major label?

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yes. I don't have a label.

STEWART: And of all the success you've had so far in the past year, what's been the most satisfying?

Ms. MICHAELSON: The most satisfying? That's a difficult question because my personality type is rarely satisfied. I'm kind of always like okay, now what's next, and it's hard to kind of be in the moment and sort of relish and really just soak up everything and feel completely satisfied. But I have glimmers; I have moments.

So I remember one moment a few months back when things started kind of picking up for me, and we had a show at The Knitting Factory, and everybody in the audience was singing along with every single song, every word, and it got to almost - it could have been annoying for somebody else, but I was so excited that people were actually listening to the record, and all of the song, not just the one song that was kind of shoved in everybody's faces, you know.

That was a really great show, and I had a lot of moments of oh, wow, this is so awesome, and I feel so complete and so full right now. And then, of course, as soon as I got offstage, I'm like wha…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: (Unintelligible).

Ms. MICHAELSON: That's how I am before a show and after a show. I'm always like oh, I'm not going to have anything to say. I'm not going to be able to really have my songs translate. Oh, this is miserable, and no one's going to care. And then I get on the stage, and it's like the best thing ever, but then the kind of crashing feeling when you come off of it. It's like why would I want to go through that again? And then I do go through it again. It's this weird little cycle that I have of hating and then loving and then hating again. I don't know.

STEWART: I think it's called anxiety.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Oh yes, honey, I do have that.

STEWART: I think it's called anxiety. So I do want to ask you to play the song that's been in all of our faces.


STEWART: Although we all really like the fact that this song has been in all of our faces. I know you've been asked a million times, but I do want to hear the story of how your song, "The Way I Am," ended up in an Old Navy commercial.

Ms. MICHAELSON: They wrote me on MySpace and said that we think your song would be great for our Old Navy Fair Isle Sweater Collection campaign.

STEWART: How did you feel about Fair Isle sweaters before this?

Ms. MICHAELSON: I didn't even know what a Fair Isle sweater was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MICHAELSON: This is actually from Old Navy. This is one of the ones they gave me. Yeah, baby, cashmere. It's not a Fair Isle sweater, though, because they have, like, patterns.

STEWART: Stripes.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yeah, I don't know. I wouldn't wear one of those things.

STEWART: I'm not a fan of the horizontal across the part right here, no.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yeah, not when you've got the lady bags.

STEWART: Exactly.

Ms. MICHAELSON: It doesn't help.

STEWART: No, not so much, but they are warm and cozy.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yeah, they look good on very skinny, tall, beautiful women, so…



STEWART: I guess people who live in the Fair Isles.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yeah, exactly.

STEWART: Where are the Fair Isles? Is Staten Island a Fair Isle? Well, then I am a Fair Isle resident.

Ms. MICHAELSON: It is now.

STEWART: Can we hear "The Way I Am?"

(Soundbite of song, "The Way I Am")

Ms. MICHAELSON: (Singing) If you were falling, then I would catch you. If you need a light, I'd find a match, 'cuz I love the way you say good morning and you take me the way I am.

Ms. MICHAELSON: (Singing) If you are chilly, here take my sweater. If your head is aching, I'll make it better 'cuz I love the way you call me baby and you take me the way I am.

I'll buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair and sew on patches to all you tear 'cuz I love you more than I could ever promise and you take me the way I am. You take me the way I am. You take me the way I am.

(Soundbite of bell)

STEWART: That means we're good. We're back in with Ingrid Michaelson here at NPR on the BRYANT PARK PROJECT, and you obviously did not sing that song alone. Tell folks who else is in the studio today.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Ms. Allie Moss.

STEWART: Hi, Allie.

Ms. ALLIE MOSS (Singer): Hello.

STEWART: Obviously, you didn't write that song about sweaters.


STEWART: When and where did you originally write that song?

Ms. MICHAELSON: I wrote that song in my room. And I remember I wrote it before - I wrote it really quickly, kind of like the bass line. I play the whole song on the just one note, originally, the one string, basically. And I wrote, and I kind of, I hadn't done none of the words, I remember the chorus. And I was like, this is really catchy, and I'm totally going to remember it, and I'll go do my thing and I'll come back. I had a - I forget where I had to go. And we're driving in the car and singing it over again (sings a few notes of song). And I went and did my errands, and I came back, and it was gone. It was gone out of my head. And I tried to reconstruct it. I was like, this isn't right, this isn't it, I lost it. And I was like, ah, oh, whatever. And I woke up the next morning singing it. And I wrote the rest of the words - I recorded it that day.

It was kind of just, the words kind of came out of not really a happy place. It was more of, oh, man, I'm so messed up, and so, like, twisted inside. Is anyone ever going to really love me? It was just very like sad, sort of, you know, woe is me song. But it ended up turning out to be this kind of happy ditty that everybody uses as their first song on the wedding. It's kind of become this happy, happy song, but it really stems from a pretty like sad place in me. And I was dating a guy that was sort of balding at the time.

MARTIN: I was wondering has Rogaine contacted you?

Ms. MICHAELSON: No, no. I don't want that to happen. I'm fearful of that.

MARTIN: On there are many glowing reviews of your album "Girls and Boys", and this one is sort of telling. It's from a guy, and he starts out his review, normally I don't like chick rock, but... Have you run into the chick singer-songwriter stereotype as you've been doing press and playing out?

Ms. MICHAELSON: Yeah, totally. The most I see that is when we go to gigs, when we go to venues, and the sound people - it's all men, generally speaking most of the time. And most of the time they don't expect much from you. But my live show is very interactive, I really like involve the audience and I really, like, I want to make people laugh, I want to make people feel like it's kind of an experience. Not just them watching me, but them joining in with me.

The 180 from how we were treated before to how after, and it's a sold out show, and whatever, whatever, it's like, oh, that was really great. One time some guy was like, I really wasn't expecting to like it at all - like I get a lot of that. So I think that there is a stigma that goes alone with the girl with the glasses and barefoot, you know, crying into her microphone kind of a thing. And I definitely was there. I have another album out that I put before this. And I felt like it was sort of that sort of stereotypical, like, what I thought a woman should sing about and sound. And then I kind of broke out of that. And my writing now, I'm pushing even further away from that.

But, you know, that exists. And there are a lot of girls and women that do kind of own that, you know? And some own it in a good way, some own it in a very, you know, everybody else way. So, but yeah, it's hard. Dudes are hard to capture.

MARTIN: We're speaking with Ingrid Michaelson, and we're going to get another song, I think. This is called Breakable?

(Soundbite of song, "Breakable")


(singing) Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts? Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts. So it's fairly simple to cut right through the mess, and to stop the muscle that makes us confess.

And we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise, and we are just, breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.

And you fasten my seatbelt because it is the law. In your two ton death trap I finally saw a piece of love in your face that bathed me in regret, then you drove me to places I'll never forget.

And we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise, and we are just, breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.

And we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise, and we are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls - breakable, breakable, breakable girls -breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys, and boys, and boys.

MARTIN: We're talking to Ingrid Michaelson, who was nice enough to come by the NPR studios today.

STEWART: You have a ton of media appearances coming up, "Good Morning, America", "Regis and Kelly", and you wrote the funniest thing on your blog about it, you wrote, I should get new clothes and brush my hair.

Ms. MICHAELSON: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Has your view of self-image and view of projecting image, now that people are taking pictures of you and you are going on TV shows, has that changed at all for you?

Ms. MICHAELSON: Well, I mean, a few years ago, I would just kind of roll out of whatever I was and go sing and do a show, and I didn't care about anything. And now, I like, you know, I brush my hair and I put a little makeup on. But I'm never going to be the girl that can get so dolled up for anything. It's just so time-consuming and not comfortable for me, you know?

I do have to get some new clothes though. I've been traveling around for about a month now, and I'm living out of my suitcase. And all my stuff is like squished and wrinkled, and it doesn't even fit me anymore. It's like I need to get something nice to wear on these television things.

MARTIN: The last song you're going to play for us is one that a lot of people know. Why do you choose to play this one? Do you like this song? What do you like about this song?

Ms. MICHAELSON: Well, the way that I write my own music is pretty, like, simple themes that everybody has heard, you know, millions of times: love and loss and things like that. And I just - I like to say things really simply, but really effectively, and I feel like this song does that. It's just very simple, but so beautiful.

STEWART: All right. Let's hear "Can't Help Falling in Love".

(Soundbite of song, "Can't Help Falling in Love")

Ms. MICHAELSON: (Singing) Wise men say only fools rush in, oh...

STEWART: That's Ingrid Michaelson, channeling her inner Elvis. If you'd like to see a video of Ingrid performing that song, go to The name of her album is girls and boys. This is the BPP on NPR.

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