There are moments of sheer folk-pop bliss on Ingrid Michaelson’s latest CD “Lights Out,” such as the single “Girls Chase Boys,” with a video that spoofs Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” clip, only with men in matching-uniform drag instead of lipstick-glossed women.
Yet creating the album was an unexpected ordeal for the singer. “I had a difficult time before, and while, making the record, and then I had a pretty horrible time after the record was done, when I lost my mother, so it’s been a very tumultuous few years,” says the New York-based singer, who appears in Oakland this weekend.
Despite their chipper arrangements, several “Lights Out” songs – such as “Afterlife” and “Wonderful Unknown,” featuring her then-husband Greg Laswell, with whom she recently split – deal with the protracted illness that Michaelson watched her mother endure.
“So I think a lot of the record that I wrote had to do with the fear of losing her,” she says. “I was getting all that out in my music, but also trying to self soothe, so a lot of it has an ‘It’s OK, you’re going to be all right’ feel to it. I released it last April, and she passed away in August.”
Michaelson, 35, jokingly adds that she’s riddled with minor ailments. She was diagnosed with a thyroid condition called Graves’ disease, which she usually controlled by medication. But it spiraled out of control, and was compounded by a serious spate of acid reflux. “My throat was burning, my heart was racing, I couldn’t eat anything, and I saw all these different doctors,” she says. “And I remember writing ‘Girls Chase Boys’ with Trent Dabbs, and I had to leave the sessions because I was in so much pain.”
Serious about the subject, she says, “I’ve had so many scopes down my throat, I’ll do a little PSA on esophageal cancer. If you have reflux, you should get an endoscopy at least every three years, if not annually, depending on its severity. Don’t be afraid of it, because that’s what’s going to save your life.”
After getting medical help, she sought songwriting assistance, as well, for the first time in her six-album career. It gave her story a happy ending.
“I started off with writers I knew, then included people I’d never met before,” says Michaelson, who frequently flew to Nashville for collaborations. “Now I’ve been writing for my next record, and I have nine songs, and so far they’ve all been co-writes. And I love it. I feel like, ‘What was I missing out on all those years?’”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. June 13