In her forthcoming debut album “Pain Medicine”, Memphis native K. Michelle speaks of love and loss, proving herself as one of the best voices in R&B along the way. But under her lyrics lies a tale of a single mother who struggled to make it on her own, and above all a promise of healing. Urban Magazine recently caught up with the artist to discuss the album, due out this Spring, as well as her own personal struggles and her surprising love of country music.
What led to your decision to choose music as a career?
K. Michelle: I didn’t choose it, I ran from it. It was just a calling I was supposed to be doing. I had always been in piano and different things like that. It was just a gift that was given to me.
You’ve done a lot of other things before reaching this point in your career, such as working a desk job and tour with Sound Fuzion. What obstacles have you had to overcome?
K. Michelle: Oh my god, all kinds of things. It’s a struggle being a woman in the industry, it’s a struggle being a single mother, it’s a struggle with politics, it’s the struggle of the devil finding me – all of that.
As a single mother, you must have faced some difficulties. How has it affected your career?
K. Michelle: It’s just made me work harder. You know when you have to be away from your child doing what you do, there has to be a reason. You have to fight and work hard to provide for them. It gave me a lot of drive.
You received a music scholarship for yodeling; is yodeling how you began?
K. Michelle: (Laughing) Yeah, my voice teacher always had me sing country music. That’s where that love came from. He wanted me to sing other things because if they see a black girl they are going to automatically assume she’s singing Whitney Houston. He’s the one that introduced me to country music.
You’re a fan of country music? Did you catch the CMA’s this past weekend?
K. Michelle: No I didn’t – not this year. I think I was working. I was doing something because I usually watch them and I knew they were on.
Does your foundation in country music affect what you write now?
K. Michelle: Yeah, definitely, because it’s about storytelling. In country music, they tell focus more on stories than R&B and urban music. A lot of the records I love actually tell stories and they make sense.
Did growing up in a town as entrenched in musical history as Memphis influence you as an artist?
K. Michelle: Absolutely. Everywhere was blues and soul; everything was based in music. Even at dinner music was always around. So it definitely gave me an appreciation of music and the need to always have it in my life and never be without it.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
K. Michelle: (Laughing) A lot of country music – The Judds, Rascal Flatts but also R. Kelly, Mary J. Blidge, Whitney Houston. A lot of really musical people.
Your first album Pain Medicine is just about to come out. How does it feel? How long have you been working on it?
K. Michelle: Hmm, how does it feel? I’m ready for this album to come out; I’m actually kind of tired of it. I’m happy for the opportunity but I’ve grown as an artist. My music is based on my life issues, and I’ve had other issues now so it’s time for me to start working on something new. I have been working on it for two and a half years.
What’s the album about? Was there any particular inspiration behind Pain Medicine?
K. Michelle: Just about losing different things. Music is supposed to be a healing therapy and it is something that I wanted to offer to people. A lot of times, we all go through the same things and I wanted to offer a form of healing. That’s where the album gets its name from.
Was this your first time producing?
K. Michelle: No, I’ve always been very active in the process of my music.
How would you describe your music?
K. Michelle: Well there’s my label music and my music, but overall I would have to describe my music as honest. Very honest and very true to who I am, as well as very healing to a lot of people.
Is there a difference between your personal music and the music you create for your label?
K. Michelle: In my music I don’t give a damn. I do what I want to do. My music isn’t in a box. There’s different genres and different things. In my label music I’m supposed to be a poster child.
Can you tell me about your writing process?
K. Michelle: I just write about whatever is going on in life, and then I go in with a lot of great songwriters and I talk to them about what I’m going through and what issues I’m having. I always begin with lyrics. I’m a very lyrical person because I have to relate to the song.
You’ve gained a lot of fans by using the power of social media; how exactly has this helped you?
K. Michelle: Social media is good and bad. It’s been good for me because people are really getting to know my personality, but that also may be bad (laughing). It’s been good and bad for me because you get to say a lot of things, but you also have to watch what you say and I haven’t found a balance yet. I’m still looking for a self-edit button.
Describe what led to the decision to use social media as a marketing tool instead of more traditional means.
K. Michelle: It’s the new way. You can completely do your own thing when you’re online. So it’s really good for you in that aspect, but you have to know how to control it.
Do you have any plans after the album’s released?
K. Michelle: I’m already planning on starting a new one, as well as a lot of touring. I’m excited about the new album so people can hear what I’ve been going through the past couple years.
What’s the best experience you’ve had so far in your career?
K. Michelle: Hands down the fans and to know I’m helping women. All the letters and the Facebook messages and everything I get saying thank you.
What advice would you offer aspiring female artist about the music industry?
K. Michelle: Keep your legs closed. Hold to your morals and values and know that God will make room for your gift: you don’t have to.