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dot_clear.gif (43 bytes)Michelle Crispin Superstar!
NAJM Dance Culture
dot_clear.gif (43 bytes)After seeing Michelle perform as Billboards Best New Dance Artist of 1999 at Atlanta's club Fusion, NAJM was compelled to speak with Michelle about her new single "Superstar" and her plans for the future. Michelle's new single "Superstar" is available now on her website and in stores! Michelle is on Lovegroove Records.
NAJM:  We wanted to take a few minutes and let you know what we’re doing and why we started with you. We're in the process of setting up a small independent record label called NAJM Records, which stands for No Attitude Just Music, we don’t manufacture divas!  

 

dot_clear.gif (43 bytes) MC:  Cool! Congratulations.
NAJM:  Thanks, it’s been a lot or work considering the fact that we both are still working 9 to 5 jobs, which really sucks. Got to pay the bills somehow, Michelle.
MC:   Dude, I know. I went through that for so long. I’m still to an extent at that level. I’m like, God; I’m just ready for the money to start rolling in. 
NAJM:  We liked your quote from your web site, can you be half-hippie, and half diva?
MC:   That’s totally me. I even dress like half – some days I look like a total hippie, some days I’m just like the Glam queen, like I can’t make up my mind.
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the past...

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NAJM:  What was your first big break?  Did you just kind of drop into the scene, I know you picked up and went to LA, but what was your first break, and what was the indication that is was breaking?
MC:   First big break for me was Fem2Fem, first group I was with. I was only in LA less than a year, and I was at an audition for something else, and didn't’t make that audition, but got referred to people who were looking for a lead singer for this band called Fem2Fem. They already had a record deal, everything was in place, they just needed a front person, it was like boom, and there I was. Next thing I know, we’re touring all over the world, and we have a record on the charts, and the whole thing. So that’s my first big break, I’d have to say. 
NAJM:  When you moved to LA, did you have a specific goal in mind?
MC:   Yeah, I moved out to LA to be a singer, songwriter, and keyboard player, something within the music field. I also dabbled in acting too, because I mean, what the hell, you’re in LA. I found that I was getting called out for a lot of things, so I kind of did both, but I was really focusing more on the music aspect of it.
NAJM:  How prevalent was music in your childhood?
MC:   My family never played [instruments] or sang, or anything like that, but they were kind and really supportive. I showed an early interest in [music]. My family immediately got me piano lessons. I started playing right away for chorus, bands, and then went on to major in piano performance in college. I have a pretty strong music background in that that’s where my education lies.
NAJM:  What other instruments do you play other than keyboard and piano?
MC:   A little bit of guitar, but generally keyboard, it’s my main instrument.
NAJM:  When you moved to LA and joined Fem2Fem, did you just want to develop yourself as an artist, or did you just want instant stardom?
MC:   Honestly, when I moved to LA, I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew I wanted to be in the music industry, either as a songwriter in the background, or I could see myself being the front person. But honestly, when I first moved out here, I envisioned myself in a band scenario, like the typical playing at The Whiskey kind of band, and when I fell into Fem2Fem it was a different kind of project. It wasn’t the typical band scene; it was choreography and things like that. 
NAJM:  Now that you’ve had a chance to experience both aspects of the business, fronting Fem2Fem, and now finally your solo singing career and songwriter, (now that you write all of your own material), which do you like better?
MC:   I like aspects of both. I’m an exhibitionist, so I really like performing.  But being able to perform your own material and connect with people, it’s probably the highest compliment, the highest high for a performer that you can reach.
NAJM:  Fair enough. I read an article that came out after Fem2Fem broke up – that Fem2Fem was supposedly being exploitive of gays and lesbians. Could explain a little of that?
MC:   Yeah. When I went into Fem2Fem, we did have a different concept of what we wanted the group to represent, and where we wanted to go with it. Initially, all four of us girls just wanted to promote open sexuality. It was a period of time when it was more open and accepting for men and women to come out of the closet. You were starting to hear about it more and more. Not that it was there more, you were just hearing about it more. We wanted to promote that. That was the big thing, not everybody in the group was a full on lesbian, but everybody in the group felt that sexuality should not play a part in political games and all that other crap that goes on. So that was what we were going for. When the group was put together, it was put together by a management/production team. It was not put together by us four girls finding each other and moving ahead with it.
NAJM:  So it was almost like a pre-made girl band, like the boy bands of today?
MC:   Right, it was a Spice Girl thing.
NAJM:  Do you feel like your were pioneers for promoting open sexuality?
MC:   I think in some ways we were trying to be those pioneers, we were just promoting open sexuality. Be who you are, and be happy with it, go for it. As the [act] progressed (we were ending the first record and moving on the second record), it was getting to a point where the management/production team was taking over control of where the group was going. It was becoming more exploitive. We were being asked to do and say things that we just weren’t comfortable with. We weren’t getting a voice in the areas that we wanted to be heard in. So I was the first one to bail out. I just told them I that I didn’t want to be represented in that way and if that’s the way it’s going to go, then I’m out. So I got my papers and I was out.
NAJM:  So it happened pretty quickly?
MC:   It happened very quickly. I don’t know if you watched the progression of the group, but it changed dramatically [after I left]. By the time the second record came along, they had a completely different live show. Very different! They had a show on the West End called “Voyeurs” that I didn’t have anything to do with. Once I saw that show, it was apparent to me where they were heading all along. We started out with good intentions, and I would like to think that we made an impact. You wouldn’t believe the fan mail I still get. Primarily gay, some women, a lot of them are saying that [Fem2Fem] was their first exposure to music that was open and made an impact on them.

the present...

NAJM:  Fantastic! You were part of a good thing. Politics aside, what are some of your musical influences?
MC:   Kristine W., I love her. Got to meet her at the Dance Music Summit [in Atlanta], she’s fantastic! George Michael, Madonna, Bjork, Everything But The Girl.
NAJM:  Have you heard EBTG’s new single – Five Fathoms?  
MC:   Love it!  Massive Attack, Portishead.
NAJM:  So you like a lot of the UK stuff?
MC:   Yeah! You’ve probably only heard my single, “Superstar” which is more house, more four on the floor dance pop, but I also have a lot of things on the full record that are drum and bass, trip-hop, and some other things.
NAJM:  So you have a lot of musical influences from a lot of artists all over the world. Geographically speaking, do you think that an artist has to be based in an “art city” for great music to be produced?
MC:   Produced, no. Marketed and shopped, yes! To be produced, you can produce the best record in dead-gum, GA, or you could be in Ocala! If you have the right equipment and the right producer you can get it done. But it sure helps if you’re in a major city where you can get it to the people that are going to play it. That can get you the marketing opportunities that you need.
NAJM:  We agree. Marketing is the key. Do you consider yourself a dance music artist?
MC:   Yes. 
NAJM:  Does the dance music genre limit your audience?
MC:   Absolutely not. I think it’s a fantastic, loyal audience. I’m fortunate enough that I’m locking myself into that market. I’d rather do that then lock myself into something as ambiguous as rock or pop or something like that. I think that nowadays, with artists like Madonna and even Cher crossing over, the lines are much more blurred. 
NAJM:  Any other types of music you’d like to explore?
MC:   Yeah, I’d like to delve deeper into the darker side of drum and bass, and Trip-hop, jungle.
NAJM:  Are you more into a dub sound, or more into a vocal track?
MC:   I really like the dub stuff, and I’d like to explore that more. The only way that I can express that side is doing remixes of my songs. My record label wants stuff that is listener friendly, able to cross over, and I do want to get it out there. I want to be released as a dance artist primarily, but I’d like to bring dance music more to the forefront of the pop scene as well. If I throw too many dub tracks on there, they [the audiences] are going to be like, what? 
NAJM:  We here at NAJM are vocal people ourselves, so make sure you keep putting out lots of vocals. 
MC:   Don’t you worry; even the dub mix of “superstar” has vocals in it.
NAJM:  We’ve been listening to the new single a lot. It’s really a great song! As one of the featured vocalists at the 1999 Billboard Dance Music Summit at Atlanta in July, you were billed as the Billboard Dance Artist of the Year! The Summit was great. We were impressed with your performance. The night you performed was one of the highlights! To be in such an intimate setting (at Club Fusion) and to be seeing so many great artists perform one right after another was amazing! What were your impressions?
MC:  It was a little intimidating too. I hadn’t even finished my song yet completely. I did [the live performance] to an unmastered DAT. I had no show. The song wasn’t even fully written when I performed it. It’s a little scary to share the stage with people like Amber!
NAJM:  So a little inside scoop that the song wasn’t done?
MC:   The version that you guys heard wasn’t finished. I just went for it!
NAJM:  The club was filled primarily with people from the dance music industry, record labels, remixers, etc. Were your feelings and emotions performing for us any different than if you had performed for your fans?
MC:   I want to say no, but probably yes. When your performing for straight out fans, they give you even more love. They’re even more responsive than at an industry showcase.  [The fans are] there because they love you, not because it’s an industry showcase and [the industry people] want to check you out. It makes you in turn; want to give it back even more. 
NAJM:  In your opinion, is Dance Music - artist, DJ, or producer driven?
MC:   I think it varies from person to person. I think in the past it’s been primarily producer driven. But I think that’s definitely changing these days. DJ’s and artists are coming more and more to the forefront. Look at people like DJ Rap for instance, perfect example of the Artist/DJ that’s also the producer. 
NAJM:  You have a great voice. Do you plan to pursue any other entertainment avenue outside of music? We know you dabbled a little bit in acting and you’ve had a couple of scenes in recent network television.  Do you have any other plans to maybe go that route?

the present future...

MC:   Definitely! We’ll see where it takes me. I’m going to continue to audition for things. I’d like to do some independent films, maybe some more TV, it’s fun. As long as it doesn’t take away from the music, because that’s really my priority. For a while there, I was getting a lot of acting gigs and it started to over shadow the music. I just had to decide where I wanted to channel all my energy. I pulled back on the acting thing and moved forward in the music. As soon as I did that, that’s when things really started picking up. So I did the right thing.
NAJM:  Following your heart. You’re signed with LoveGroove, which is a pretty new label. With Fem2Fem, you were signed with Critique, which has other indie artists on it, like France Joli. Why did you pick another indie label?
MC:   The first time the indie label picked me, Critique. That was already a done deal.  Fem2Fem had already signed. It was in the bucket, and I just came along.  LoveGroove was a little different; Lovegroove was founded by Robbie Hoffman, who’s also my producer. Robbie believed in me from the beginning as far as making the dance music thing work, and using my fan base from Fem2Fem to make it work. From the very beginning when we started producing demos together to see how it would work, we started getting excellent reviews. So based on that feedback, and his vision, we said screw the big labels, let’s go for it, as long as we have big distribution we’re fine.  
NAJM:  It appears you do.
MC:   It’s good to, I have a lot more artistic control over this one, well, I have artistic control.
NAJM:  Is that important for artists these days?
MC:   It’s so important, especially if it’s your own material. 
NAJM:  What sort of a challenge does a new solo artist face?
MC:   I don’t know about other artists, but for me the Fem2Fem thing has been a double-edged sword.   Coming from a group like that, I have decent Soundscan numbers, we have a decent fan base, but on the other hand we weren’t exactly known for being real musicians. By way of a sword, people want to know what I am doing out of a funky curiosity. But they are also skeptical, like come on. That’s really been a big challenge for me.
NAJM:  You’re listed first on the credits for “Superstar” to what extent was you involved in the writing of the song?
MC:   All of it. 100%. Every song that I write is done by me.
NAJM:  Did you have anything to do with the producing?   I know you said had a lot of artistic control.
MC:   I suck at producing. I do!
NAJM:  (laugh) We appreciate your honesty.
MC:   I know what I want to hear. Trying to put it in such ambiguous terms, as make it sound Orange or whatever, I suck at that.
NAJM:  Your write it and then say put it to music?
MC:   Yeah, but then I sit there and try and tweak it myself. I don’t know enough about the boards to do it myself so I explain it to him (Robbie). I write it on keyboards in like 4 tracks then give it to them and then they go nuts with it.
NAJM:  What’s your favorite mix of “Superstar”?
MC:   The last one #6, The Star Radio Edit, is the one I think is the strongest for like a video. That seems to be the one people are picking to play on the radio too. Personal favorite, I kind of like the Ecstasy Mix, just because I think it’s a really ambient groove.
NAJM:  That one would sound great mixed with track #2.  Awesome in a club!
MC:   Which one is your favorite?
NAJM:  Track #2, because it’s the closest to what we like, it has the vocals, it has the funky, hip-hop, heavy, heavy house sound. We’ve been grooving to it since we got it.
MC:   That’s my roommate’s favorite too.  My roommate on that MTV show, “The Real World”. He plays track #2 nonstop in hopes that MTV will air it. Trying to sneak it on there, God Bless Him!
NAJM:  Never hurts to try. You’re in the right place.
MC:   I think it’s great!
NAJM:  We asked you a question a minute ago about producing and we laughed when you said you suck at it. Robbie Hoffman of notable pop fame produced “Superstar”; he’s done a lot of stuff with pop oriented artists such as Michael & Janet Jackson and more recently Christina Aguilera. If you consider yourself a dance artist, did you have any reservations about his ability to make that transition from pop to dance?
MC:   Not really, I wanted to have that pop element to it. I wanted him to add his "popness" to it. I did have reservations about him doing the remixes, but after hearing them, I think they are fantastic! I think they sound great. He does a great job, he can do anything he sets his mind to, and he’s very talented.
NAJM:  And you believed in him from the very beginning, you guys formed a relationship?
MC:   Exactly, I’ve gotten some great reviews in Billboard and all of a sudden I had all these labels contacting me with offers that felt like Fem2Fem all over again, so Robbie and I said, “screw it”.
NAJM:  And your most important criteria was the creative control?
MC:   Yeah, pretty much, having as much input as possible [is extremely important]. [This time,] I wanted to control my image. That was my whole beef with Fem2Fem was that it was getting out of control.
NAJM:  How long did “Superstar” take to record?
MC:   A couple of weeks. It was fun.
NAJM:  If you’re anything like us, you constantly surround yourself with music. Who’s in your CD player right now?
MC:   It’s called the Voices of Drum and Bass, a compilation. How random is that?
NAJM:  (laugh) Hum, we’ve have to pick that one up.
MC:   You should if you like Drum and Bass. This is really good; you can find it at the Virgin Mega store in the European section. It appealed to me because of the drum and bass format with vocals.
NAJM:  Any chance of you doing a club tour to promote the single “Superstar”?
MC:   Absolutely.
NAJM:  How about a South Florida appearance?
MC:   Absolutely. [Just try to] keep me away. Florida is my home, so I’ll be there.
NAJM:  Any advice for future up-and-coming talent who are trying to break into the business?
MC:   Perseverance. The more you network, the more you work on your craft, that’s the big thing. Never once have I ever said I can’t take another songwriting class; I can’t get input from another writer. As soon as you stop learning about your craft, that’s when you stop being able to create.
NAJM:  Any advice for us here at NAJM just starting out?
MC:   No, you guys sound like you have your act together!
NAJM:  (laugh) What’s next in line for Michelle Crispin?
MC:   Honey, I can’t think past this damn single right now! Pushing the record for now. Further down the road, I have a million things I want to do, deep underground mixes and release them as that, write for other people, and acting. [I’m] hoping to make it to your part of the country by the end of this year. I will let NAJM know. I will post my tour schedule on my website.
NAJM:  Love the new single; keep up the great vocal tracks! Congratulations on all of your successes. Thank you Michelle for taking the time to talk with us. We wish you all the best. Be good!
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  Check out NAJM's review of Superstar!
 

 

 

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