Lea Michele. There’s just something so incredibly special about her. She’s effortlessly charming and sweet like the perfect girl next door. But she also shines with a radiant sparkle, the kind that only the biggest stars have. It was Lea’s own personal magic and astounding vocal artistry that made Rachel Berry — the first captain of the William McKinley High School glee club — one of the most beloved characters on “Glee.” No matter how many diva moments she had, we never stopped loving her.
On April 28, Lea will release her brand new album, Places, a resonant masterpiece of striking emotional beauty. Just a few days after that, on May 1st, she will kick off her “Intimate Evening” tour at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre.
“I haven’t been to Philly in a really long time,” Lea began. “I sang the national anthem at the World Series there with ‘Glee’ a few years back. I think that might’ve been the last time that I was there. I called some of my friends who live there and asked them what the Merriam Theatre was like and they told me it was a beautiful, beautiful space. I can’t wait to see it!”
Lea was born in New York and spent a number of her formative years in New Jersey. Besides choir, she played volleyball and was on the debate team at Tenafly High School.
“I’m really excited because I’m getting to kick off this tour on the East Coast so I know that a lot of my family from New York will be there,” she expressed. “I’m excited for people to get to see this concert that we’ve been putting together and working so hard on. We wanted to make sure it was something that everyone would enjoy.”
“I guess there’s no turning back now,” she added, laughing. “It’s just weeks away!”
A little over three years ago (February 28, 2014), Lea released her debut studio album, Louder, on Columbia Records. Because she was so busy working on “Glee,” she didn’t have a lot of time to promote the release. In many ways, the artist confessed, “Places feels much more like my first experience than it does my sophomore album.”
“It was very challenging recording my first album and releasing it while in the midst of ‘Glee,'” she continued. “It was difficult for me to figure out what my own sound was as a solo artist — you can hear some of those inconsistencies on that first record. I wanted to wait till I was completely finished with ‘Glee’ and take some time to think about what I wanted this album to sound like. Who am I really on my own?”
But just because “Glee” ended, it didn’t mean that Lea slowed down with her acting. “Dreams Come True,” the final episode of the series, aired on March 20, 2015 and just six months later, on September 22, 2015, FOX aired the first episode of “Scream Queens.” In this outrageously twisted slasher series, Lea plays Hester Ulrich, a Kappa Kappa Tau pledge who wears a cumbersome apparatus — which promptly earns her the nickname “Neckbrace” courtesy of Chanel Oberlin — and claims to have scoliosis. It turns out, however, Hester is actually a rather twisted but remarkably brilliant sociopath who nearly gets away with murder. A whole lot of murder.
Currently, you can see Lea along with Robert Buckley and Joel McHale in the “MatchMaker” episode of Lionsgate, Hulu, and RocketJump’s new sci-fi anthology series “Dimension 404” (created by Dez Dolly and Will Campos). The highly imaginative and mind-bogglingly innovative series explores the unexplainable and probes that eerie feeling of unsettling weirdness that hits you around 3:00 a.m. at night. In “MatchMaker,” Lea plays Amanda, a girl who is such a perfect match for a music blogger named Adam that he attempts the unthinkable just to be with her again after she abruptly dumps him.
“Places is an amazing representation of where I’ve come from and who I am as an artist,” Lea informed. “I’m 30 years old and I’ve had a lot of experiences throughout my life, both personal and professional. This album definitely is a big representation of everything that I’ve experienced, but especially over these past three years. I feel like I’ve grown a lot and come to a really positive and beautiful place in my life. I’m very thankful for that. There is a maturity in this record. It was important to me that this album was timeless, but I also wanted it to represent where I am in my life today.”
The songs on Places came about in one of three ways: they were sent to her, like “Heavenly” from Ellie Goulding and “Anything’s Possible” from MoZella (“Wrecking Ball”); she would sit with a small group of writers and talk about stories and concepts that were meaningful to her — “Tornado” came out of one of those sessions; or she would sit down and write them like she did with Ali Tamposi on “Hey You.”
“The songs are all either personally written by me or from my own personal story or they were sent to me. If they were sent to me, they had to be something that I personally connected to — I cant sing anything that I don’t feel makes sense for me,” she noted.
The track listing for Places is 1. “Love Is Alive,” 2. “Heavy Love,” 3. “Proud,” 4. “Believer,” 5. “Run To You,” 6. “Heavenly,” 7. “Anything’s Possible,” 8. “Getaway Car,” 9. “Sentimental Memories,” 10. “Tornado,” and 11. “Hey You.”
Although she admits there are those rousing tracks like “Love Is Alive,” which allow her to spotlight the exquisite power of her voice, on songs like “Sentimental Memories,” Lea pulled back to offer fans something a little different. “There’s something to be said about the simplicity of a song. Simplicity can be as impactful as those big moments.”
In regard to her songwriting, Lea told Entertaining Options, “I definitely know what I want to write before I sit down. But the process of creating an album involves writing some things that work and some that don’t. When I wrote ‘Hey You,’ I intended to write a breakup song, but ‘Hey You’ is definitely not a breakup song! You just kind of see where the journey takes you. It’s all so exciting because you never really know what’s going to come out. At the end of the day, through all the different turns and experiences, you hopefully end up with a cohesive album that you’re proud of. I am incredibly proud of this record.”
“We worked so hard on this tour. We put together a bunch of songs from Places as well as a few songs from Louder. We also have a really great section that features some of my favorite songs from ‘Glee.’ That was something I really wanted to incorporate in the show, paying homage to ‘Glee.’ It was such an incredible experience. I’ve been asking fans online which songs they want to hear from the show. If you come, you’ll get to see which ones I do. And before I perform each song, I tell a little story that goes with it. I’m pretty private with my life, but in concert, that’s my time to really open up and connect with my fans, so I really hope that people get a chance to come out and see me perform.”
“No homage to Hester?”
Lea laughed. “For everyone sake, no.”
Places will be available on April 28. [You can pre-order HERE.] An Intimate Evening with Lea Michele kicks off at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre on Monday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. [Tickets available HERE.]
Current list of dates for Lea Michele’s “Intimate Evening” tour:
May 1 – Philadelphia, PA – Merriam Theater
May 3 – Boston, MA – Shubert Theater
May 4 – Ledyard, CT – The Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino
May 6 – Toronto, ON – Massey Hall
May 8 – Seattle, WA – Moore Theatre
May 10 – San Francisco, CA – Palace of Fine Arts