8:00am PT by Ashley Lee
'Voice' Runner-up Michelle Chamuel Talks Reality TV Arcs and Usher's Best Lessons
In spring 2013, it was Michelle Chamuel who delivered so many of The Voice's most heartwarming moments, such as singing into a mirror on Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" or adding dramatic theatrics to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble." Under Usher's wing, the seasoned musician was initially pitched as an introverted rocker nerd to viewers, who then watched her self-confidence, stage presence and marketability grow week after week — a journey that helped her become season four's runner-up.
After releasing the empowering single "Go Down Singing" at the end of 2013, Chamuel is ready to share her debut album. Face the Fire hits on Feb. 10 via The End Records/ADA. Written and produced with friends and former bandmates Theo Katzman and Tyler Duncan, the LP's 10 pop-synth tracks touch on two themes: "universal love — love lost and love found," and, of course, "authenticity, coming to terms with being yourself, facing reality and being as true to yourself as possible."
"I don't know if there's really a lot of emphasis in society on how much work it can be to just figure out what you want — there are so many voices," Chamuel tells The Hollywood Reporter of the latter theme. "We're social creatures who like knowing what everybody else is thinking, but it's hard sometimes to just stop and listen to what you actually dig, think is cool or makes you happy."
Musically and emotionally, the most difficult track to finish — to the point where it almost didn't make the album — was "Lottery," the single about going all in for love. "I heard it and couldn't figure out why the character was so crazily, euphorically happy about playing a game that they were sure to lose. The odds — I had to figure out the story, and tie the darker verses with the more hopeful pre-choruses and the exciting choruses."
Chamuel spent December performing the album across America, allowing her to put back into practice her pre-Voice experience onstage as a member of My Dear Disco, as well as the lessons she's kept from her show mentor, Usher. When she was with My Dear Disco, "we were performing in bars where no one cares, and we never knew what kind of audience we were going to perform to, so I always just gave it everything I had," she said. "Usher helped me bring out more finesse and attention to certain details.… He has more patience and vision for what the entirety of a performance will look like."
Her coach helped her star in a reality TV arc that stressed the themes of authenticity and self-love her album now echoes. "Especially on a show like The Voice, which has a lot of heart in it, people I think are watching it as much for the stories of the people as they are for the singing," she reflected. "I personally went on the show just to learn. I wasn't trying to tell a story, I wasn't trying to even be seen; it was just a way to work with these people."
"Zooming out a little bit, no matter where you go, I think it's helpful to approach something as a learning experience, so anytime you're going to learn something, you will have an arc," Chamuel continued. "If you go on a show just to get famous, you're probably not gonna have that great of an arc, because you're not necessarily trying to better yourself; it's just, 'I want, I want, give me money or give me power.' The way to true success involves personal change."