Amherst, Massachusetts Top 10 contestant on NBC's The Voice Season 4, Michelle Chamuel, is preparing to "Face the Fire" with her brand new album. By her side: someone to "keep her warm," a la Grammy-winning girlfriend Mary Lambert, although she will only say, "She's amazing," when Macklemore's muse comes up in conversation.
Keeping the focus on the music has always been important to 28-year-old Chamuel.
"'Face the Fire' was something that came about organically. Two of my friends had written a song called 'Go Down Singing' [and] I ended up collaborating with them on the back end and [we turned] that into my first single as Michelle Chamuel," the namesake said. "And then I was like, 'Alright, let's make an album!'"
Chamuel's reference to her first single under her own moniker derives from a past incarnation as the lead singer of electro-pop, funk band My Dear Disco, which was renamed Ella Riot ( 2007-2011 ).
Making a new album meant splitting up the tasks based on location since none of the songwriters lived in the same city.
"There were a lot of different phone memos floating around. And then we all got together at my home in Amherst, Massachusetts and fleshed out these songs. [We] finished 10 songs in a couple of weeks and the process continued," Chamuel recalled.
Making the geographically-challenged process gel was not for the faint of heart.
"It takes a lot longer to work remotely. We were doing Google Hangouts and screen-shares and trying to figure out what I was hearing that I wanted to change," Chamuel recalled. "It takes a lot more patience and a lot more diligent communication [than being in the same room]. I would say it's definitely preferable to work when we're all next to each other, but everybody's got a life and different things to tend to, so I guess the flexibility of that is really nice, and so it's a trade-off."
The result was a labor of love — from afar.
"We're all co-writers/co-producers, and came up with the basic arrangements in Amherst. The instrumentals were all flushed out in Ann Arbor, Michigan," Chamuel said. "Tyler Duncan did most of the engineering and mixed half the album. I recorded all of my vocals, edited them down and arranged them before sending them over to Michigan, where everything happened. The rest of the album was mixed [and mastered] by Devin Kerr."
Working on 'Face the Fire' was a mini-reunion of sorts for Chamuel.
"[The album included] people from the University of Michigan that I met there, and people I've been working with for many, many years. It was a lot of fun," she said.
The vibe on "Face the Fire" is variable and vast.
"It's a pretty expansive sounding album, but at the same time, there are some pretty intimate elements," Chamuel explained.
Chamuel will be hitting the road to support the release of "Face the Fire," hitting 17 stops along the way.
"I've already played Detroit and Pittsburgh…Chicago will be the last stop on the tour," Chamuel said. "I'm very excited for every single date."
The expectations are a bit different for Chamuel than they were when she stepped onto The Voice soundstage.
"The platform that The Voice brought to the table is an incredible venue. So now being able to actually come out and be in a room with people and be live is just so exciting — I'm really looking forward to that. So it's been great to have actual, physical humans that are all in the room watching you and not necessarily — I mean, screens are great too, but you can't replace that one-to-one ratio," she said.
Not that she could see much of anything anyway.
"I have horrible eyesight, so I couldn't really see where the cameras were coming from [while filming The Voice]," Chamuel said. "It reminds me more of what it's like to be in a studio versus being in a live room. I mean, there's a great audience when you're on The Voice set, which is fantastic. It'd be really different if there were no audience members, but it's sort of like doing early morning TV — or, it's that similar vibe of you know there are more people watching, but you can't quite see them."
Stretching her talent into the performance arena was also a new topic of trial and error for the singer.
"The path I was on with music [before The Voice] was almost self-effacing where I didn't want people to think about who I was or what I personally was doing. I wanted them to focus on the music," she said. "And so in the band, Ella Riot, I was wearing dark sunglass-type things and really just trying to forefront my voice and the sound before anything else."
That all changed when she stepped in front of the cameras on national television.
"Going on a show like The Voice where your personality is so present, that just switched everything around. So I'm still balancing my two ideas - because it's nice to have people understand where I come from when I make music and understand me a little more, but at the same time, that's a little scary for me," Chamuel shared.
In fact, sharing herself with her fans may be the next tier of her career.
"I know that music is what I want to do and what I want to share. I didn't necessarily fully grasp the concept of what it means to share yourself as a person while making art. I mean, granted, there's still some things that I keep private and there's still clearly a divide, but The Voice made that a lot less," she said. "I'm learning how to balance all the different [experiences] and enjoy them, because it's a gift to learn more about that."
What would Chamuel reference as the best career advice received so far?
"The best career advice I've received so far that I've gotten in a couple of different places: I can distill it down into two words, which is "Do You." Just do your thing, do you. It's very encouraging to hear," she said.
Chamuel will be practicing her "Do You" attitude when she heads to Chicago, Illinois on her Turn It Up tour.
"As Ella Riot and My Dear Disco we've played Chicago a couple of times and we've always had a wonderful experience. I have family in Chicago…I don't remember it as being very windy," she joked. "We played Lollapalooza there, too, in 2010. I remember having deep dish pizza once. I now can no longer eat gluten, so I won't be able to try that, but if anyone knows of a gluten-free killer deep dish pizza place, I'm in."
That sounds like a challenge, Chicago.
Catch Michelle Chamuel at Lincoln Hall on Monday, December 15, 2014. Tickets may be purchased by visiting www.lh-st.com/Shows/12-15-2014+Michelle+Chamuel .