Chrisette Michele is unlike a lot of "American Idol" rejects. The versatile singer-songwriter, who tried out but didn’t get picked to be on the show, has a Def Jam recording contract.
Her soulful album "I Am," released last year, boasts the Grammy-nominated tune "If I Have My Way" and features Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, a not-too-shabby collaborator, on a couple of tunes.
The confident 25-year-old, who headlines San Francisco’s Independent on Thursday, doesn’t seem too upset that she didn’t make it past the first round of "Idol."
During a recent phone interview, she said, "But I met Randy, who told me, ‘Yo, I need to get you on my CD.’"
She’s admired by other big-timers, too. She sang on Jay-Z’s "Kingdom Come" album and came to the attention of India.Arie, who took notice of her appearance at a New York club and set her up as her opening act.
Michele has been making music since she was a young child. There were a lot of instruments around her home, she says, and she was a music major at Five Towns College on Long Island, near where she grew up. Although if she weren’t a musician, she might bea lawyer ("I love to argue"), she seems destined for even greater show-biz success than what she’s now experiencing.
Unusually, she "literally got to do whatever" she wanted to do when making "I Am." As she was finishing up, when she asked the people working with her if they had any additional ideas, she says they told her, "No, Chrisette, you just keep writing songs."
Michele likes, and can write, all kinds of songs, from hip-hop to R&B to jazz, and even country. She compares writing a melody to coming up with a nursery rhyme.
Lately, she’s particularly enamored with jazz, pointing to the artistry of icons such as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday ("She gave all her heart, she was not about hoopla").
For Michele, performing is "the coolest thing," an arena where communication goes straight "from one heart to another," she says.
So far, she’s having an OK time dealing with the business side of her career, something that admittedly requires attention. "The pressure is in learning how to say no," she says, adding that, "keeping it in the family" helps keep her moving forward.
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 771-1421 or www.ticketweb.com