Even if you weren't aware you were hearing a Michaelson song, you likely have. Her catchy pop confections such as "The Way I Am" and "Be OK" have aired on more than a dozen episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," as well as shows such as "One Tree Hill" and "The Real World: Denver." It also has been featured in films such as "The House Bunny" and "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" and commercials for Target and Ritz Crackers. She makes no apologies for her ubiquity, stating simply "without all that I don't think I would have had any sort fanbase."
On Oct. 18, the 32-year-old Michaelson will headline the Trustees Theater in Savannah. Two days before that show, we talked to her about onstage improvisation, the ills of Spotify and why she never would have auditioned for "American Idol."
Question. Have you been on stage and forgotten what city you're in?
Answer. My tour manager ... puts the name of the city on the set list, so if I have a braindead moment, I can look down. But, yeah, all the time. It's a crazy lifestyle when you fall asleep on a tour bus at night, and you wake up and you're in a new city -- and you do that 30 times over. I don't always know what day of the week it is.
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Q. It's Tuesday, by the way.
A. I would not have been able to tell you that.
Q. In Iowa City, you improvised a song called "Mean Girl." Do you do that sort of thing a lot?
A. I do. I feel like I like to make people laugh as much as I do perform music. I like to keep my band on their toes. I like to make the band laugh, too, because they have to play the same songs over and over again. I definitely like to change it up a little bit. It is a common occurrence, for sure.
Q. Do you ever YouTube yourself?
A. The only reason why I'll go on YouTube is to see how we're sounding or blending or how the band is doing. (But) it's never a good angle. The lighting's always weird. Generally it's not the most enjoyable thing.
Q. Some of your music is on Spotify but not your latest album. Is it because artists get a poor royalty rate on Spotify?
A. Yeah, there's not much money for artists to be made on Spotify, unless you're Beyonce. ... I think eventually we'll put the new record ("Human Again") on, but I think it just sort of cheapened it right off the bat to throw it up on Spotify. We figured let's have a year and sell it online. I put the older stuff on because, yeah, whatever. There's no money to be made in record sales anymore. It's going down, brother.
Q. If you were forced to start from scratch and appear on a show such as "American Idol" or "The Voice" how do you think you'd do?
A. I would never do one of those (shows). Not because I'm above it or anything, but because of just competing in front of people and being judged is too much for me to handle. I don't think I'd excel because I'd be too much in my head and nervous. Once you do that and get somewhat far then that's what you are for the rest of your life. You're the person that was the eighth runner-up for "American Idol." I know I have labels. I'm the girl that has all her songs in commercials and on "Grey's Anatomy," but that's an easier label to buck. I don't think I would do well in a competitive atmosphere. I think I'd crumble.