interview with singer-songwriter ingrid michaelson

Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y. 


Fun fact: Michaelson isn't necessarily looking to get rich off of her music; she just wants enough money to add to the retirement fund she recently started. Wait, retirement fund? “I'm totally, like, neurotic,” she says. 

Why she's worth watching: She's just like her music: independent enough to be intriguing (she has rebuffed the record labels that have approached her) but accessible enough for prime-time TV (she's been on Grey's Anatomy four times). 

For fans of: Regina Spektor, Feist, Tina Fey

Ingrid Michaelson has a self-described "librarian chic" (she wears glasses), cinnamon-color eyes that match her hair, a crystalline voice she softens with a touch of vibrato, and a fantastically twisty approach to songcraft. “I like obvious, catchy songs, but done in a non-obvious way,” says Michaelson, who has self-released both of her albums, 2005's Slow the Rain, and the relationship-focused Girls and Boys (approximately one-third of the latter was heard on Grey’s Anatomy this past season).

Michaelson also has a dry sense of humor. We knew she was born on Staten Island, but when we asked if she’d always lived there, she replied that she had once spent a year in Brooklyn. “Oh, really? What part?” we inquired, figuring Michaelson would name one of the borough’s hipsterized neighborhoods like Williamsburg. “It’s called… I blocked it out of my memory,” she says, her face serious. “It’s called Rats, Mice and Cockroaches.”

Maybe she was in a particularly droll mood on the damp afternoon we chatted with her in Manhattan. Or maybe somebody who is on the brink but still has to tour in her mom’s minivan has to keep things in perspective. Michaelson was discovered on MySpace and, in September, Old Navy chose her tune “The Way I Am” for a sweater commercial. But the singer hasn't forgotten how she reached these early successes: by being proactive.

“Every day, my manager and I have a list. There’s a ‘goals’ list, and there’s a ‘to-do’ list, and it’s very detailed,” explains Michaelson, her amber eyes flashing behind her spectacles. “It’s work.”