Ingrid Michaelson inspired by ‘Stranger Things’

Songwriter finds solace in nostalgic TV show

Ingrid Michaelson plays from “Stranger Songs,” her new 1980s-inspired album at the Fillmore. (Courtesy Shervin Lainez)

It wasn’t easy for quirky tunesmith Ingrid Michaelson to create her latest ninth album, 2019’s “Stranger Songs.”

The death of her mother in 2014, followed by her father’s passing three years later, left her reeling, unsure of how to continue on, creatively.

“It was pretty devastating, and it changes you in every way possible, I think,” says the New Yorker, 39, who experienced the tragedies much earlier in life than she expected.

She found unexpected solace in the Netflix TV series “Stranger Things,” whose warm 1980s-retro vibe triggered a wave of child hood memories in her and her older brother as they settled the family estate.

“Just watching that show made me feel super-nostalgic, like a kid again,” says Michaelson, who unveils the concept record — and some of her favorite ‘80s covers that match the carefully-sculpted “Stranger Songs” sound — in San Francisco this week on her Dramatic Tour.

“That was my brother and his friends, total outcasts playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I was the little sister — there was just something about that series that made me feel the warmth of being little again, in your home with your family, totally protected. So I wanted to create an entire record inspired by this show.”

The process started slowly, with a poem the composer penned absentmindedly on an airplane called “Christmas Lights,” for the flickering method of communication with her son employed by Wynona Ryder’s Joyce Byers character in the program’s first season.

She showed it to her longtime beau, actor Will Chase, who encouraged her to pursue the novel idea.

It fell into place quickly after that. With a key character being named Eleven, she knew it wouldn’t be an EP — it had to be an 11-track LP.

Netflix even got on board, allowing use of its neon-bright “Stranger Things” font and artwork for the album’s upside-down cover photograph.

Tentatively, Michaelson sent show star David Harbour “Hey Kid,” a song she wrote for his Jim Hopper character, and he loved it.

The whole exercise awakened some latent talent in the artist.

Long before she had hits like “Girls Chase Boys” and “The Way I Am,” Michaelson was pursuing musical theater. It has boomeranged back. She got a cameo in the film “Humor Me,” appeared on Broadway in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” and is currently transforming Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” into a stage musical.

“I’m actually playing one of the songs I wrote for it on this tour,” she says. “Like with my covers, I’m not saying which one it is. You’ll just have to come down and see.”

IF YOU GO

Ingrid Michaelson

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9

Tickets: $50

Contact: (415) 346-6000, www’livenation.com

Pop Music

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