Michelle Chamuel on her brand and upcoming album, “Face the Fire”

You may know Michelle Chamuel from the fourth season of the incredibly popular singing competition show The Voice, but if you aren’t already familiar with the Massachusetts based songstress you will be soon. She snagged second place on the show and has already built a strong fan following across the country. After years of playing in the electro-jazz, pop, soul seven piece group Ella Riot, and continued work on her solo project, The Reverb Junkie, Chamuel is on the precipice of releasing her first full-length album, Face The Fire, out February 10th.

I caught up with her about keeping in touch with her Voice family, the making of this album and what kind of pants she was wearing. 


AfterEllen.com: Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first and foremost, what’s your sign and are you seeing anyone?

Michelle Chamuel: I am a Pisces and yes, I am seeing somebody.


AE: I know you’ve spoken with us here at AfterEllen a couple of times at this point, and at length about your sexuality. That being said, as you’ve risen in the public eye how has your being “out” affected your trajectory?

MC: I think the two interviews I’ve done with AfterEllen have visited me at very different stages in my trajectory, my new updated version of the answer is I’m still not entirely sure. Because the way it happens over time is a subtle shift. Every time I say I’m a musician, I make music, I’m not trying to present myself as a lesbian musician or a gay musician or a Jewish musician or a female musician, but just trying to make the music. But, I think that’s too idealistic a way of framing that. Because there are people out there who are making huge progress for the world by putting those two things in the limelight and at the forefront. What’s interesting about the two versions that I’ve seen is that the artist would include a political message or their personal life right at the forefront, so you get that right away with the music. And what’s really great about that is you get a certain kind of visibility in a world where there isn’t as much visibility. But I’m a different kind of artist. The way I think it goes with me is someone might discover my music or find out more about it and then if they keep looking and they’re interested, they’ll find it. It’s not hidden. And they can say, “Oh cool, that person is gay” or, “That person is blank,” or whatever box you want to put someone in. And hopefully that expands their category of how they view gay people or women, etc.


AE: After a bit of space and time from The Voice how are you looking back on that experience?

MC: It’s kind of like graduate school or something. It felt like an amazing opportunity to learn a lot, to develop, albeit in front of a lot of people so that part’s a little weird, but definitely learned a lot of lessons.


AE: Do you keep in touch with Usher, or anyone else from the show?

MC: Yeah, mainly over the interwebs and that kind of media, mainly because everybody’s so busy. But they still feel like a part of the extended family.


AE: I read that you gave a TEDx talk, how did you find that experience?

MC: That was really fun. It was definitely challenging too, because I’ve done a lot of practice performing and singing, I have not done a lot of practice speaking succinctly. Kind of how to communicate new ideas in certain chunk of time. It was a rush, I was definitely nervous and scared, but it was really really cool experience. I love the TED talks.

AE: You’ve released solo music in the past, but under the moniker The Reverb Junkie, what prompted the decision to move to your full name for your upcoming album release?

MC: Those are two different projects. The Reverb Junkie had been in existence since about 2009. Singing in a seven piece band (Ella Riot) I wasn’t doing too much personal expression, so that came out really naturally. I wanted to see what was in my own head. Then The Voice happened and I’d already written most of the The Reverb Junkie album before getting on the show. Then all the sudden there’s the Michelle Chamuel brand, which is just my my name, but the show The Voice is such a recognizable and contagious brand in itself. And I’m not trying to use the word brand in a gross commercial way, it’s just that it’s a package, a thing you can identify. So now Michelle Chamuel, my name, had these things associated with it, like singing straight-ahead pop and really clear vocals—and accessibility, which is big. Whereas The Reverb Junkie project is more obscurethe sound is really different. They are just two totally different projects.

I wanted to release The Reverb Junkie album anyway because it was time to do that. So I did, and I mainly promoted all that stuff on a whole different page, tried to keep it separate so that my fans and people coming to it could really understand that there is a difference. I’m not trying to pretend that one thing is the other.


AE: Can you tell us a little bit about the process behind that record coming together?

MC: There were two key collaborators that worked on this, they were Theo Katzman and Tyler Duncan. They’re the two people that I co-wrote and produced “Go Down Singing” with, which was the first official Michelle Chamuel single. Both of them came to my house in Amherst. We had all written these short snippets for music and everyone brought different ideas and methods to the table. Then over the course of a couple weeks we fleshed it out. Like I might have written the chorustake for instance  “Golden” (forthcoming on Face The Fire). I came with the chorus and this intention and identity, then we fleshed it out and turned it into a whole song. Or “Rock it” (forthcoming on Face The Fire) was something Theo and Tyler came with, they had the hook and the groove and then we fleshed it out together. The whole thing was co-produced and co-written, it was a three person operation.


AE: Do you think that sticking in Massachusetts is the plan, or do you think you’ll do the NY/ LA thing?

MC: I can safely say that NY/LA is probably not in the cards just because, well to make an anecdote of it, you’re pulling up to a restaurant and you want to park somewhere. If there’s no parking I get frustrated pretty quickly. So LA and NY it would be like that all of the time. I could not do that. I love visiting both and I know that being there for periods of time is definitely in the cards but as far as like establishing a hub where I can just go and have like a safe haven, I’m going to need to be a little further out.


AE: Where have you been drawing inspiration from lately?

MC: I think life in general, the people I’m around, the people I love, all of that is going to coalesce into my brain and come out in the music.


AE: What comes next?

MC: There’s a lot of prep work. There’s about a good solid four months leading up to an album’s release where you get whole outreach plan in place and being on tour is definitely part of that. In addition to that, the tour is the way to actually see the people that support the music and get to play it for them. So that’s an important part for me to do. Next I’d like to get back into my creative zone pretty soon and keep writing.


AE: What’s one thing I wouldn’t be able to find out about you via vigorous internet research?

MC: No one is going to know what colored pants I’m wearing at this exact moment, somebody could probably guess though.


AE: OK, I’m going to guess. Um, black?

MC: That’s a good guess cause I do have like four pairs of pants, so you have four colors to choose from.


AE: So I got one of them right?

MC: Yes, but I’m not wearing black pants today.


AE: Oh, so what color pants are you wearing today?

MC: I’m wearing maroon pants!


AE: Maroon! I literally never would have gotten there.

MC: It’s black, maroon, olive green and grey. Those are the colored pants I have.

Face the Fire will be available February 10, 2015.