NPR Story
1:08 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Catching Up With Michelle Chamuel Of 'The Voice'

Tonight is the season finale of NBC’s hit singing competition, “The Voice.” That means it’s been about a year since Michelle Chamuel came in second, after her breakout run on the fourth season of the show.

Chamuel was a huge fan favorite, with her big black-framed glasses that inspired the hashtag #foureyesontheprize.

In the past year, she’s been very busy making music: a full-length solo album “All I Want,” an EP “The Drift” and a new pop single “Go Down Singing” — and she’s currently working on another album.

Michelle Chamuel discusses her music and life after “The Voice” with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights: Michelle Chamuel

On coming in second

“For me, it was a really happy moment. I feel like it worked out wonderfully. Coming in second is just, I mean — it’s funny, because people are like, ‘Oh, you didn’t get first,’ you know? And I’m like, ‘But I got second! That’s amazing! Like, I’m super pumped!’”

On staying true to herself

“No matter where you are — whether you just won the lottery, or met the person of your dreams, or you’re on stage and people are being supportive, and you’re learning and you have the best coach ever — whatever it is, you’re still you, and whatever work you’ve done to be comfortable with yourself, you know, you’re not really going to advance beyond that point unless you put in that work. There’s no magic fix. So, definitely still grappling with all of those things, and even after going — people are like, ‘Wow, what does it feel like? Is it, like, you know, a dream?’ And it’s like, it’s amazing, but at the same time, it’s similar to going to school or something. To some people, that’s, like a big dream — like, wow, you went to college, that’s incredible — you know, and it’s like, people have different opportunities, and I think it’s just — you’re always you, with your own insecurities.”

On working with her coach, Usher

“He’s the ultimate coach, at least for me. I think people have different styles, but he is someone that values hard work, dedication, authenticity, individuality — like, the things that worked really well for me, and he reinforced all those things. And he’s so creative and in the moment, and very respectful and wise. I mean, just in general, when you’re with someone who’s coaching you with values, it’s a great fit.”

“I just felt this pull towards Usher as far as like, ‘Okay, I feel like I need to go here in order to find what I’m looking for.’”

Guest

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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

Tonight is the season finale of NBC's "The Voice," the hit singing competition, which made us wonder, how is Michelle Chamuel doing? She was a huge fan-favorite last year in sneakers, blazers, big black framed glasses. She inspired the hashtag #foureyesontheprize, kind of nerdy-cool. Then she'd sing. Here's her audition.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MICHELLE CHAMUEL: (Singing) I kissed a girl and I liked it. The taste of her cherry Chap Stick.

YOUNG: Michelle came in second, and since then she's been forging an independent career. She has a new single, "Go Down Singing." And Michelle Chamuel joins us from the New England Public Radio Studios in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she lives. Welcome.

CHAMUEL: Oh, thank you so much, Robin. It's amazing to be here.

YOUNG: No, no, this is a thrill for me. Didn't you get my vote?

CHAMUEL: Oh yes. It rang extra because of Robin, and I was like, yes.

YOUNG: Well, for people who don't know, this is a show where the judges select the contestants, and then ultimately listeners across the country do it's live. Are you watching this season now?

CHAMUEL: I'm keeping up as much as I can. I've been watching all the performances on YouTube, but I actually don't have TV.

YOUNG: What? That's right.

CHAMUEL: Yeah.

YOUNG: You would say this last season, that maybe not having a TV and reminded of what a huge star you had become was easier. I don't know. When you came in second, with all that was riding on number one, what was that moment like?

CHAMUEL: For me it was a really happy moment. I feel like it worked out wonderfully. Coming in second is just - I mean, it's funny because are like, ah, you didn't get first, you know. And I'm like, but I got second. That's amazing. Like, I'm super pumped.

YOUNG: Let's listen to a little of the new single. It's called "Go Down Singing."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHAMUEL: (Singing) You can tell me what's right. You can say that I'm wrong. You can tell me I'm weak, so you can think that you're strong. But you can't take my soul or the gifts I've been given. I'mma go down, go down, go down singing.

(Singing) You can build yourself up when you're putting me down. You can think you're a king, 'cause you've taken my crown. But you can't stop the fight for the life that I'm living. I'mma go down, go down, go down singing.

YOUNG: Lyrics like I see everybody staring at you and the clothes that you're wearing. It seems like nothing's good enough. I hear everybody saying that you're never going to fit in. You talked a lot about, you know, your differences in some ways, feeling a little geeky and introverted.

CHAMUEL: Yes. You mean, like, in the song or in life?

YOUNG: In life.

CHAMUEL: Yeah, it's funny, 'cause all those lyrics that you're quoting from the song were written by Theo Katzman and Tyler Duncan who are two of my current collaborators on the album. And after "The Voice," and during "The Voice," actually, I ended up visiting that song a whole bunch to kind of get in the mindset of finding my own voice and facing a certain type of pressure, I guess.

That song was more about bullying, and that's not at all what I experienced, but it still helped me find strength. So afterwards, I redid the bridge, and connected it more to my experience. And then that's actually the single. So it all came together in a really nice way, I think. But I agree, it's something I do talk about.

YOUNG: Well, talk a little bit more about that, this idea that, I mean, even though you're up there and you're kicking it when you're performing, there were still insecurities.

CHAMUEL: For sure. I mean, no matter where you are, whether you just won the lottery or met the person of your dreams or you're on stage and people are being super supportive and you're learning and you have the best coach ever, whatever it is, you're still you. And whatever work you've done to be comfortable with yourself, you know, you're not going to really advance beyond that point unless you put in that work. There's no magic fix.

So I'm definitely still grappling with all of those things. And even after going, you know, people are like, wow, what does it feel like? Is it, like, you know, a dream? And it's, like, it's amazing, but at the same time it's similar to going to school or something.

Like, to some people that's, like, a big dream. Like, wow, you went to college. That's incredible. How - you know, and it's, like, people have different opportunities, and I think it's just you're always you with your own insecurities.

YOUNG: Talk about being on the show and where you're feeling that almost, you know, oh, it is like going to college, that schooling. You worked with Usher. Let's just listen to a little of you guys singing together.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MICHELLE CHAMUEL AND USHER: (Singing) We're one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other, carry each other. One.

YOUNG: So what's the thought bubble above Michelle Chamuel's head at that moment?

CHAMUEL: Well, I was just thinking out, like, in this smile, a big smile just came onto my face. That was so fun. I loved that. I - that was one of my highlights was getting to sing with him. We had a blast.

YOUNG: What did he teach you?

CHAMUEL: I mean, he's the ultimate coach, at least for me. I think people have different styles, but he is someone that values hard work, dedication, authenticity, individuality, like, the things that worked really well for me, and he reinforced all those things. And he's so creative and in the moment, and very respectful and wise. So it's - I mean, just in general when you're with someone who's coaching you with those values, it's a great fit.

YOUNG: Did he tell you what to do after the show? Because you're independent. You've chosen to remain an independent artist. Did you get - yeah, did you - was that a choice? Did you get offers to sign with a label? Or...

CHAMUEL: Yeah, it's a choice. I think what's interesting is that what really pulled me to the show was this idea of teaming up with someone and learning from these people. You know, growing up, like, Christina Aguilera, when she was on the show at the time, and I was, like, man, like, I've studied how she sings. This is such a cool opportunity to learn from her.

And then she wasn't on the show when I was asked back. And I just felt this pull towards Usher as far as, like, okay, I feel like I need to go here in order to find what I'm looking for. So I was just - I wasn't necessarily going into the show being, like, man, this whole show is a set up so that I can get signed to a label.

Because I had been a band for about five years by that point and we had done the industry thing. I mean, we'd done a lot of big stuff, and then I was starting to learn more about what I wanted. And so I was really excited about the learning.

So that happened, and then after the show ended, I had some time to realize that, like, I think I would prefer to partner with someone once I've established what I actually am trying to do as a solo artist with my actual name.

YOUNG: What do you - and what do you think that is?

CHAMUEL: I'm super excited about that, because I've gotten some time to think and breathe, and I'm still making a type of vocal pop music with it. And I do think "The Voice" helped establish that brand. It's kind of like, oh man, there are these fast food restaurants that do everything kind of the slower way, like, the - it's grass-fed beef.

YOUNG: Slow food.

CHAMUEL: Yeah, the slow food movement. It's like, an attempt at, like, pop music is music that's made more accessible to people. And there's a certain lifestyle and everything that goes with it normally. And I feel like I'm the slow food attempt at pop music, you know.

YOUNG: Michelle Chamuel, just hearing you speak right now, I'm sure I'm not the only person thinking, God, I miss her.

CHAMUEL: Aw, very kind.

YOUNG: From watching you try to work out some of these thoughts on "The Voice."

CHAMUEL: Right? Yeah, this is what they had to deal with. They were, like, God, in the editing room, ah, what do we do?

YOUNG: Well, back to "The Voice," who are you rooting for? You've got Josh Coffman, just is - you talk about a pop voice, his gorgeous pop voice, Jake Worthington, the country singer, Christina Grimmie, who just chews a song up. Who are you rooting for?

CHAMUEL: Oh man. I think they're all - you can't go wrong with any of these three. You know, Team Usher has my heart a little bit, so - but it's - you know, they're all fantastic and America can't go wrong.

YOUNG: And what would you tell the person who comes in second?

CHAMUEL: Congratulations.

YOUNG: Michelle Chamuel, last year's second place finalist in "The Voice." This year she's out with some new music. But Michelle, thank you so much.

CHAMUEL: Thank you so much, Robin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHAMUEL: (Singing) 'Cause you are the piece of me I wish I didn't need. Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don't know why. If our love is a tragedy, why are you my remedy? If our...

YOUNG: And Jeremy, I know you like to call me every night just to chat. Do not call me tonight. The final of "The Voice."

HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Robin Young.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHAMUEL: (Singing) ...my remedy. If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity? Walk on through a red parade and refuse to make amends. It cuts deep through our ground and makes us forget... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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