by Adelie Salagnac
“In hindsight, I feel the song came to me prematurely for a reason, as in preparation, a foreshadowing, as in comfort, like a messenger. [It gave] me courage to start over, to evolve and move forward on many levels. The personal changes were difficult, but while life was turning pages, so was the music.”
Change can happen to anyone, anything, at any point in life. Things will always change, just as the seasons come and go; weather, nature, fashion…and music. Michele Karmin is a multi-faceted artist who knows how to experiment and stay relevant to one’s time. From doing alternative or electronic music to being a singer-songwriter, Karmin’s sound has been constantly changing and evolving, but music has always been a major part of her life.
“I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a child,” Karmin explains, “but music was the career I was always most passionate about. My earliest memory experiencing that drive was around seven years old, singing for my first large audience.”
She remembers: “By the third grade, I had more confirmation. My class had an assignment to make a times-table song over the melody and rhythm of a popular song on the radio. I got the bright idea to convince my group that we should write our own. Of course it was awful. My group probably hated me after that, but the memory stuck and that is when the writing began to chase me!”
Releasing multiple cross-genre projects throughout the years, including teaming up with DJs, taking the stage as a solo musician, modeling and even featuring in movies such as I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Karmin started to think she was at a point in her life when she needed a change.
“After my 2008 project, I had a strong sense there was still something missing, something more of myself I had yet to be,” she explains. “I was happy, but not fully satisfied with what I had released and I was getting impatient with my progress. The third project was all over musically- a mix of many genres. The songs were okay on their own, but not a cohesive collection of music. A part of me knew I would eventually find where I was going inside all of the chaos, but I wasn’t expecting to take such a leap until I did.”
Karmin believes the projects she released before were attempts to fit a mold she was too late for. “Yet they were certainly essential to get to this point. I do like to fuse genres, and I’m glad I experimented with the production styles then. Amidst them all, I found my happy medium eventually, through my love of ’90s alt/rock, downtempo electronic music (which is partially the reason I adapted the kick drum while playing the piano) and intimate/honest/complex/emo lyrical compositions from songwriters like Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Mazzy Star, Moby. The piano really was the glue to my mess.”
In 2009, Karmin finally starting working on Let Me Introduce Myself… Again, an intimate, piano-driven record showcasing the singer’s powerful and emotional vocals, debuted in 2012. “I wrote the title song a year before this ‘change’ in me occurred. During that period, I didn’t really relate to the song,” she explains, “so my two friends became the muse of the story. However, fast forward to a year later, change happened, which essentially was starting over musically and then personally. My soul had been stretched quite a bit. I took the song out of my back pocket and I found myself relating to the music for the first time.”
Pairing electronic elements with her smooth vocals and piano-driven orchestration, I like to believe that Let Me Introduce Myself… Again is Karmin’s most honest and authentic piece of work so far. Listening to this record, full of insightful lyrics and ballad-like melodies, is like taking a trip through Karmin’s raw emotions and interests – a nice and refreshing turn for the many-sided artist.
Now, looking back on the past seven years, where is Karmin’s music heading? “I do believe the time off in between releases, just letting the songs incubate has been really important to where they are now. I hear so much more now than I would if I didn’t give them that space. Making them come to life is always a bit intimidating though, mainly because I don’t want to mess it up, or turn myself against a song by way of doing too much or doing too little.”
Karmin plays up to the fact that she has a certain romance with her music. She wants to keep that excitement alive and a studio can enhance that or kill it. “I am often in a constant state of writing, but the recording part of it is another story. At this point, I should just release three albums into one to make up for the lost time! I took a year off from even thinking about recording, and decided to keep playing shows, learning more, building layers and production ideas. Then new songs come in, and I have to decide which ones should walk the plank! It’s quite an arduous state of mind for me and I can’t help but think too much about it.”
Even thought Karmin admits she doesn’t like to “put a date on anything until (she is) very close to being done”, she is very optimistic about the future of her career and says we should expect to hear from her a lot in the next couple of years. “A lot can be done in a very little time, and very little can be done in a lot of time. I just want to get it done before I run out of time!”
When talking about her upcoming release, she says: “lyrically, it has continued to mature, more complex imagery and the music is as well. I still hone into themes of introspection, which is a staple of mine, but the stories run a bit deeper and are more evolved. Sonically, some of the songs may reminisce the production styles to heavy, and six years from the last record, but not so much of the semi-pop tunes like “The Weeds”. It will be an intimate album for sure.”
Four years after the release of Let Me Introduce Myself… Again, Karmin is now a well-rounded artist, ready to take over the world with a fresh view. Amongst the many lessons she learned along the way, she likes to emphasis on her personal growth, as well as the evolution of her sound.
“I learned that I get bored easily, and that one should never hinder the evolution of the self in order to fit into some paradigm that is working currently or suggested,” she says. “A producer, who I have always respected and looked up to musically, once told me, ‘if you are making music to be current right now, you will always be behind’. It is so true. That being said, being bored then turns into a blessing when you start stretching yourself beyond what you and your audience are accustomed to hearing.”
She still writes the same way, but her focus has changed. Instead of a focus on becoming a good writer; Karmin has learned it is not so much about being a good writer, but more importantly how to be a good listener. “Considering much of my writing happens subconsciously, like a random knock on the door. Who’s there?! I have no clue really, until I start to open it. Learning to listen beyond the silence became a very meditative and therapeutic experience over the years. No plan, no thoughts just beautiful blank quiet. I am sure other artists can relate that when the noise of the world tunes out, the most real and honest music manifests itself into existence.”
You better keep an eye out for Michele Karmin, for she has a lot going on in the very near future. Hoping to finish her new record as soon as possible, Karmin will then pitch her music for movie and TV placement, and do some touring all over the place, both in the US and in Europe.
“I used to think I shouldn’t get nervous, but over time and hearing others’ experience, I know it’s an important part of the career,” she explains. “It is similar to that excitement of being in love. You want to be your best self for that person all time. There is something about that constant rush that ignites you with butterflies and emotion. Just like a relationship, it is important to find ways to keep things fresh so that we don’t lose that fire that pushes us to be the best versions of ourselves in our careers.”
A former NBA player reconfirmed this for her years ago. He told her a story about a player who had many nerves before he got on the court, but still he was one of the best. “One year he stopped getting nervous and that went down as his worst year played. I think in this profession when you love what you do there will always be nerves to some extent; it means you care about your craft. We should not deny them, but it is important to channel them properly, which I believe does take some learning.”
But that’s not it: acoustic covers, electronic projects, pitches to other artists, even a book! Karmin is bursting with energy and ideas. In the meantime, you can check out her song, “Sweet Whiskey”, below.