No need for introductions here . All the way from Pittsburgh in the USA. Demi Michelle the piano tapping, guitar strumming talent who many may remember from her collaborative work with British singer songwriter Lindsey Farrow. Now back with a special number for Christmas is the heart warming, Michelle gives more insight into her latest song, more behind the lyrics and her definition of Christmas as well as what's coming for 2023.
1. Demi Michelle , what a fine finish your latest record Winter Cold is. How did this single come together? DEMI: The writing and recording processes of “Winter Cold” were just as magical as the song. I actually wrote “Winter Cold” last year during Christmas time. I love writing my original Christmas music during the holiday season because I’m in the mood, though it’s hard to hold onto my songs until the following year. “Winter Cold” was definitely worth the wait. Recording the song was one of the most fun studio sessions I’ve had. From the start, I envisioned “Winter Cold” as a piano ballad with a wintery and festive atmosphere. I recorded the piano on the track and played it perfectly on the first take, which is special. My saxophonist, Brett McCutcheon, completely sleighed—yes, pun intended—and the saxophone truly brings something magical to the song.
Right from the intro, “Winter Cold” sparkles with wintery magic. My producer, Bob McCutcheon, did a flawless job, and I loved contributing to the production as always. I’m grateful I get the chance to be hands on in the studio. Recording “Winter Cold” was such a wonderful experience. I put together a studio vlog from the session, and you can watch that here.
2. The song really provides a marvellous imagination for listeners and really feeds into the Christmas spirit and cheer. What do you wish that listeners take from the song itself ?
DEMI: Writing “Winter Cold” brought me comfort, so I hope it does for my listeners as well. Though Christmas is a festive time, it’s also the time of year when things wind down, at least for me. I’m not as busy, so I have more time to reflect. Being left with my thoughts gives space for some melancholy feelings to come up. Still, the metaphorical language of this song captures the message that the fire in my heart, which is lit from my hopes, dreams, and sparkling moments, keeps out the winter cold, or the sad emotions. I hope “Winter Cold” makes listeners feel like they’re cozy by the fire while the snow falls outside their windows. I wish for this song to remind others to search for the light in the darkness and hold on to the golden moments of life that burn brighter than the ones that feel like the winter cold.
3. In the making of the song, you went for a more stripped production, with voice, piano, and saxophone, which is lovely . What made you go for live instruments on this record ? DEMI: I feel that live instruments are so much more effective, especially on a ballad like “Winter Cold.” No matter how realistic digital instrumentation may sound these days, I don’t think it captures the authenticity the way live piano and saxophone does. Piano is my main instrument, so I never pass up the opportunity to play live piano on my songs. Also, the saxophone radiates natural expression, as does the piano, and playing live to capture genuine human emotion is something digital instruments can’t replicate. In general, I’m aiming to use live instruments on my new music as much as possible, except for songs where digital would make more sense, like an uptempo pop song. I’m always thinking of ways to further develop my sound and the quality of my music, and live instrumentation is an important component of that.
4. You’ve had a major run this year with many releases like your EP It Is What It Is, Across the Pond, Afterthought, and more. What’s your song of the year and why ?
DEMI : Oh my gosh, this is almost impossible to answer, wow! At the moment, I’d have to say it’s a tie between “I Hope You Know You’re Lucky” and “Halfway Outta This Town,” which are both on my EP, It Is What It Is. Like “Winter Cold,” both of these have live instrumentation.
“I Hope You Know You’re Lucky” is a song I wrote back in 2020, but back then, it wasn’t the right time to release it. After playing it live for two years, it felt amazing to finally share it on my EP. Along with the guitar, bass, and drums, this is the first song I got pedal steel recorded on, and I love it so much. So, “I Hope You Know You’re Lucky” is a special one.
“Halfway Outta This Town” means a lot to me as well. I played piano on the song, and my guitarist, Luke Wood, added delicate acoustic guitar that made me cry the first time I heard it. I refer to this song as the “Will I Ever” of It Is What It Is. This song went through many rewrites, and the writing process was emotional, since it’s such a vulnerable song. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, and it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever recorded.
I released so many songs this year that I love, but these two are close to my heart.
5. When it comes to festive cheer and the Christmas season over the years, what’s one of your best memories ? DEMI : I love Christmas traditions, and one of those is making cookies with my mom. We make a ton of different kinds, and it’s always fun baking and decorating them. My favorites are the truffles. We roll them in many different things, like powdered sugar, chocolate chips, coco, nuts, and cinnamon and sugar. They’re delicious.
A more specific memory is that when I was in college, we held our Christmas concert in the university’s chapel every year. I went to a Catholic university with such a gorgeous chapel, and performing in such a beautiful space each holiday season was something I looked forward to every fall semester. I miss the Christmas concerts so much.
6. With 2023 around the corner , what can we look forward to from you ? DEMI : You can definitely look forward to new music. I’m getting back in the studio on December 30 to work on new songs. Since my “Homecoming Queen” cover did so well, I’ll be sharing a second cover next year. I won’t share which one yet, but it’s a country throwback and one of my all-time favourite songs. Along with that, prepare for more originals. Aside from new music, I’m keeping up with my podcast, Write on Track: A Song writing Podcast, so get ready for many more amazing conversations with my guests. The show is available on all the major podcast platforms. I’m hoping to play live as well, and of course, there will be surprises that I don’t even know of yet. One of my favorite things about 2022 was getting so many memorable opportunities that were unexpected, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my music career next year.