K. Michelle Says She’s the ‘Black Taylor Swift,’ Opens Up About Mystery Man & New Album [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
"I'm the black Taylor Swift," K. Michelle declares to The Boombox, making it clear that like the mega pop star, the singer's love life fuels her music. "If I can’t write a song about you, I’m not going to date you. I always write about who I am dating."
Swift is famous for writing songs about the men in her life, and Michelle is following the same path. She freely announces names, including athletes J.R. Smith, Lance Stephenson and Chad Ochocinco, and perhaps, a very famous actor (more about this mystery man later in the article).
While most stars avoid publicizing their romances, Michelle has no inhibitions about providing graphic details. Why is she so open about her romances?
"I want to sing about what's going on in my life," the 30-year-old says. "It's a part of me. That's why people relate to me."
Following her No. 1 debut album, 'Rebellious Soul,' Michelle's second LP is inspired by a more recent lover, someone she was head over heels in love with, but who bailed out because he was having a baby with another woman. Her heart was broken again, hence the title, 'Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?'
"You can have your heart broken so many times," she says, "you want God to buy your heart."
View the album trailer and you feel her suffering. "The inspiration for the trailer was everything that caused me pain," she states. "Evil people on the Internet...You see my old recording contract being torn up. I was on a label (Jive Records) before that didn't give a f--- about me."
Watch K. Michelle's 'Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?' Trailer
She left Jive in 2011, after releasing four singles, but never dropping an album. Her career was stalled, then revitalized a year later when she was cast in 'Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,' leading to a new contract on Atlantic Records. She thanks the show's executive producer for saving her career.
"Mona Scott-Young is my fairy godmother," Michelle says with gratitude. "I wouldn't be anywhere without her. Mona gave me the chance to be who I am."
Riding her popularity from 'L&HH,' Michelle released her first album 'Rebellious Soul' in August 2013. The project hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart, and made history as the highest Billboard Top 200 entry for a female R&B singer’s debut since 2001. The LP earned her a Soul Train Music Award for Best New Artist and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist. She considers Atlantic her "second chance," and now she's constantly on the grind to make sure she maintains her success.
"I have no time to rest. I email the label at 4AM," she reveals, "and they're shocked I'm up working at that time."
She would love to rule the music world just like Swift, and the comparisons do not end with songs about former lovers. Both lived in Tennessee (Swift in Nashville, Michelle in Memphis) before moving to the New York City area in 2014, and they share a love of country music.
"Country music. These are my roots," she states. "The first tape I listened to was 'Love Can Build a Bridge' by The Judds."
Michelle attended Florida A&M University on, believe it or not, a yodeling scholarship. "My vocal coach said you're black, you're expected to sing R&B, show them something different," she remembers. "I made 'Nashville Star,' the country 'American Idol.' I didn't go back because I had an exam."
Watch K. Michelle's 'Love 'Em All' Video
She was committed to her education and she graduated on time in four years with a degree in psychology, despite having a baby. Now a decade later, she's highlighting her country roots by recording 'God I Get It,' a song with a southern twang on the new album.
Just like Swift didn't allow herself to be pigeonholed in the country genre, Michelle doesn't want to be limited to R&B.
"This is country pop. I will sing what the f--- I want to sing," she says defiantly." It's hard for black artists to crossover, but I want my music in all formats -- rock, country... I deserve to be on every chart."
Obviously with the new album, she's still a rebellious soul. Not only rebellious, but always controversial, rocking the boat, behaving in ways sometimes she regrets.
On 'God I Get It,' she expresses her desire for personal improvement. In describing the song she says, "God, I get it. I know I do wrong. I know you’re trying to help me and send me signs. I have to do better.”
Along with the new LP is the reality series, 'K Michelle: My Life.' She wants to show she is "doing better" with this show. "I am no longer that same person that will slap bitches. I don't curse people out all day." Good thing we won't see her doing anything like throwing a lit candle at Rasheeda in 'L&HH: ATL.'
Has K. Michelle truly changed from the loud, pugnacious woman whose temper and wild antics made her a constant target on social media?
Now at age 30, she thinks so.
After all the Twitter bashing with Tamar Braxton and Soulja Boy, her mentor R. Kelly, Anita Baker, and other artists advised her that she had to change her behavior.
"Yes, I've changed," the songstress says confidently. "It was very needed. You have to grow."
Michelle knew she had to flip her attitude to avoid her greatest fear: being known only for her rants and not recognized for her talent.
"On 'My Life,' people see me in a different light, as a mother and a business woman," says Michelle. "They also see how much fun I have and I can be goofy. A different me."
So this is the new, improved K. Michelle -- physically and mentally. Like her love life, she has nothing to hide when it comes to her body. She admits she's had physical enhancements and shows off the end result. In one 'My Life' episode, you view her fat being literally sucked out of her stomach.
She used to hate how she looked. Now she's more comfortable with herself.
"I don't fully have it together, but I'm is trying," she admits. "I’m doing a lot better than I was before."
Watch K. Michelle's 'Something About the Night' Video
Although she's doing better by having a beautiful home in New Jersey, she's making a sacrifice for her career by leaving her 10-year-old son Chase with her parents in Memphis.
"The most difficult thing is not tucking him in every night," she shares. "I travel back and forth to Memphis to see him and he stays with me in New Jersey in the summer. I had him in college and my parents cared for him so I could graduate in four years."
With a demanding schedule that keeps her constantly away from home, K. Michelle decided that for now, it was better for her son to live with her parents.
As she looks to 2015, she has big plans, including a tour with Keyshia Cole, followed by her own performance trek.
She's also looking to expand her fan base in Europe. An appearance at London's MOBO (Music of Black Origin Awards) in October 2014, fed her desire to blow up in the British market.
"In London, they think my attitude is funny," she states. "They love my music. They were screaming for me at MOMO." So she plans to star another reality series in England called 'K. Michelle Takes London.'
She's also making her debut as a TV producer, working with Mona Scott-Young on a show called 'Busted' in which she catches the boyfriends of her female fans cheating. Plus, she's becoming an entrepreneur with the opening of her first spa in Memphis.
But now, 'Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?' is her priority. The motivation for this effort was not the same as recording her first album.
"The first album was very aggressive. I had a lot of prove," she discloses. "This one is not as aggressive, but l had to step it up vocally."
Her voice is even more impressive, and she also stepped up her image. While Kim Kardashian was breaking the Internet buck naked last month, Michelle also went au naturel for the 'Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?' cover -- in a tasteful, yet provocative way. She appears naked, but in a silhouette. Unlike Kim, Michelle leaves something to the imagination.
"I wanted to do something memorable," she reflects. "Freedom. Baring it all. The inner me stripped down."
The cover reflects that although she appears tough as a pit bull in her Internet battles, she can be vulnerable.
As Michelle entered the Core Room in New York City, prepared to discuss her new album at a invitation only listening session, that vulnerability emerged. She began crying as she was handed a microphone.
"It's difficult to be bashed so much, and people don't understand where I'm coming from," she said through the tears. After composing herself, she continued, "The TV series has been a journey. I wanted to be honest and not hide anything. Be free so I can sleep at night."
Later in an exclusive interview she said, "I get negative tweets everyday. Now, I don't read the bashing anymore. Those are comments from people who are miserable."
Regarding the album's first single, "Love 'Em All,' she says her mother told her, "Don't screw them all, love them all. Date. Get as many free meals as you can until you find the right person."
At the VIP listening session, industry tastemakers roared their approval of the album, and especially one track, 'Maybe I Should Call,' her most personal and most painful song on the CD. The song is centered on being in love with a man who leaves to be with a woman who is having his baby. In essence, being the side-chick who gets dumped.
“Long distance in the way of what could be, even when you’re here, you’re not with me, she’s having the child I should’ve carried, I’ll be damned if y’all get married, How’s the baby, How you adjusting?” she sings on the track.
"The whole album is about one person," Michelle reveals before laughing. "If I don't find a man to break up with for the next album, we'll be in trouble."
About the mystery man who inspired the LP, she confesses, "I sent all these songs to him. He said, 'This is sad it has come to this.'"
Michelle talks about how the relationship was more intense than her flings with basketball players, because she was in love while also sharing professional creativity.
All the evidence points to a very famous actor alluded to earlier: Idris Elba. They worked together when he directed 'Rebellious Soul: The Musical,' which debuted Aug. 19, 2014, on VH1. Commenting on their professional relationship, Michelle says, "He stepped in and he took over that musical and he did an amazing job and I’m forever grateful to him for that."
As in the song, he is the father of a new baby, named Winston, born on April 16, 2014. Ironically, K. Michelle's musical is about a woman struggling to break the cycle of bad romance. But maybe it ignited a brief romance that left Michelle bitter and abandoned.
Is 'Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?' about Idris Elba?
She hesitates to answer the question, then says, "I am supportive about his situation. I respect him and I will always love him. That's all I will say about it."
However, she has more to say about the "mystery man" who inspired the album.
"This was the person that understood everything about me. So I thank him. And he knows who he is."
Michelle adds, "I am not sad, because without him, I really wouldn't have had an album."
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