The Girl is OK 

Ingrid Michaelson on fans, charity and when an album isn't an album

Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson is a bit of a rare specimen. She planned to go into theater, but had a gift for storytelling and songwriting. Like so many young strumming balladeers, the doe-eyed New Yorker created a Myspace page and posted her songs. Among those who clicked to listen was a management company with the power to change her life.

Soon four of the songs from her debut album, Girls and Boys, were featured in the third season of the ABC hit, Grey's Anatomy. One of those songs was an original song written for the show. In the span of a couple of years, Michaelson's song "The Way I Am" sold over 200,000 digital downloads and was used for an Old Navy sweater commercial; Michaelson was VH1's featured "Artists You Oughta Know" and opened for Dave Matthews Band and Jason Mraz.

Michaelson plays the Knitting Factory Boise on Monday, Dec. 15, as part of 94.9 The River's Concert for Cause, which will also feature local musician Andy Byron, young comedian Trevor Hattabaugh and live and silent auctions. Proceeds benefit Terry Reilly Health Services.

click to enlarge With a smile like that, Ingrid Michaelson makes it easy to Be OK. - PHOTO BY DEBORAH LOPEZ

Part of Michaelson's appeal, beyond her fresh face, sweet voice and wicked ukulele skills, is her charitable contributions. Half of the sales of the title track of her newest release, Be OK, will go to the Stand Up To Cancer foundation. In her bio, Michaelson explains: "I met two of the women at Stand Up To Cancer and they were looking for songs ... I hadn't recorded it, so I sat in this little room and played it for them, and by the end, we were all crying. It may sound hokey, but everybody who was there can testify to how magical the moment was."

During her interview with Boise Weekly, Michaelson learned that her Boise performance will be part of a charity event. She was surprised albeit quite pleasantly. "That's awesome," she said.

And though she'll profit some from the sales of the "Be OK" track, the whole thing was made with a larger purpose in mind.

On a discography of Michaelson's albums, Be OK would be listed as her third. She doesn't exactly see it that way.

"It's all so confusing," she said. "I put out an album a few years ago called Slow the Rain, which was my first attempt at writing and recording. It was nothing. I don't even play those songs any more; I don't even consider it much of an album. It probably sold 2,000 or 3,000 copies," Michaelson said.

Girls and Boys is my first full-length studio album. Be OK isn't even a full-length. It's a collection of B-sides, acoustic songs and covers and things like that. I don't really have my second full-length album out yet in my eyes. [I'll be] working on it next year."

So why make a record that doesn't count as a record? Michaelson wanted to do something for her fans, a word she still has a hard time using. "Fans. That's assuming you have people that like you, I guess," she laughed.

Some of the songs on Be OK date as far back as four years. That may not seem old, but for Michaelson, who has been touring regularly for much of that time, the songs were becoming rather dated.

"I had been playing a lot of those songs for a while and, for sanity's sake, I had to start playing newer songs," Michaelson said. "And some of the songs I played so much that I couldn't put them on a [full-length] album. Even though they're 'new.' So I [recorded] a lot of those and some covers to satiate fans until the new record comes out hopefully next fall," she said.

Reviews for Be OK have been positive, but that has, strangely, been a little negative for Michaelson. The assortment of acoustic tracks, live recordings and covers of classics like "Over the Rainbow" and "Can't Help Falling in Love" make it more like a self-made bootleg than an actual album.

"I want to downplay it," Michaelson said. "I don't want it to be seen as a record. It's not. It's a collection. I get a little anxious when [reviewers] are like 'There are a couple of tracks she's already released and some live ones and some covers. It's not a complete album.' I'm like, 'It's not a complete album!'"

Whatever these songs are, one thing they are not is sad, maudlin or depressing. It's a cheerful, happy body of songs, something important to Michaelson because of their connection to Stand Up To Cancer.

"I wanted [them all] to be uplifting and positive because of Be OK being the title track, it sort of took on this other meaning. I wanted [the whole thing] to not be a downer," she said.

Monday, Dec. 15, with Andy Byron and Trevor Hattabaugh, doors at 6 p.m., $17.50. Silent auction begins at 6 p.m.; Byron and Hattabaugh at 7 p.m.; live auction at 8:30 p.m.; Ingrid Michaelson plays at 9 p.m. Knitting Factory Concert House, 416 S. Ninth St., 208-367-1212, bo.knittingfactory.com. For more information, visit 94.9 The River's Web site at riverinteractive.com.

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