It feels like you're in an episode of Glee when Lea Michele walks into a room full of musical instruments, flashes her megawatt smile, and takes a seat to chat about the power of music. She looks, talks, and sounds like Rachel Berry. Then, she touches on the loss of Cory Monteith and anxiety about releasing her first solo project, and it's clear this is not a scene from a high school musical. This is Lea's real life.
"It's out for everyone to hear now, which is so f*cking scary," Lea said of her biographical album, Louder, out Monday. "But I'm going for it."
Lea joined a small group of journalists last week to preview the CD, which came out on Monday, at Pulse Recording studio in LA. In the same room where she recorded her album, Lea opened up about the personal struggle that inspired and coincided with its production. Lea is admittedly in a tough spot: how does she celebrate and promote the biggest moment in her career while acknowledging the rough and transformative journey she's taken since Cory, her late boyfriend and Glee costar, died last July?
"As awkward at it might be, we needed to find something to explain to people how I am," she said. "A lot of people don't know how to touch this situation. It's like walking on eggshells. So, I felt 'Cannonball' was the perfect first single, because it kinda puts it all out there. It's like, this is really hard. We're not denying that it's hard. We're going to get through it."
It's the same outlook Lea has embraced throughout her rise to fame. "This has been a really unbelievable journey. I moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2008 with the hopes of getting a guest spot on Grey's Anatomy or something, playing a car crash victim. That was my goal. That's all I wanted," she said.
As Lea's story goes, she soon landed the role of Rachel Berry on Glee. "All of a sudden, I was on this hit TV show, which unexpectedly, to everyone's surprise, became this huge phenomenon. And I found myself in the recording studio every day," she said. But making the transition from the stage to a TV and music studio threw Lea for a loop. "That first recording session was not cute. I didn't know how to use the headphones. I didn't know how to sing into the mic. Thanks to the guys at Glee; they really trained me for working in a recording studio."
The hit Fox program gave Lea the chance to showcase her wide vocal range and goosebump-inducing crescendos on everything from Barbra Streisand to Britney Spears classics. As the hits rose on iTunes and the Billboard charts, so did her promise in the music industry. Her solo career wasn't a question of if but rather when. "I've always wanted to make a record, but I never really knew what kind of record it would be," Lea said. The challenge: deciding whether she would go the Broadway-covers route or pop music. "And then Glee only made me more confused because one day I'm singing 'Don't Rain on My Parade' and the next day I'm singing 'Push It' by Salt-N-Pepa."
The decision to move forward with her longtime ambition came in 2012. "I thought, 'OK, I think I get Glee well enough now; I know how to juggle that. It's like I felt like I had one kid and I knew how to do that, so I was like, 'OK, I'm ready to have another.'" After completing the album in June 2013, Lea thought the songs were reminiscent of everything we hear on pop radio. The following month, Cory died, and the album was postponed as Lea mourned the loss of her longtime boyfriend. The experience shifted Lea's focus, and she soon gravitated toward emotional and cathartic material.
"During that time we discovered 'Cannonball' and Sia and I wrote 'If You Say So.' It's really the story of the past two years of my life — the incredible, beautiful, happiest moments of my life as well as the worst. My goal in all of this was to make an album that was honest and true to me," she said. "It was a very difficult year, but somehow something beautiful came out of it."
Source: Getty / Christopher Polk