The last we heard from Lea Michele in the music department, it was on 2014's Louder, her debut pop album. She was still on Glee and it was just six or so months after Cory Monteith, her co-star and then boyfriend, had died. Some of that album was inspired by that time in her life, when she was definitely in a different head space. Now with her sophomore release, Places, slated for release on April 28, the singer/actress is ready to show everyone what she's been up to for the last few years.
"It’s taken me almost three years to happen with this album, and it’s finally happening. I don’t have a baby and I don’t know what that’s like, but I could sort of imagine that that’s what this feels like. You’re nervous and excited and you don’t know what to expect until it finally happens, so I’m prepping as much as I can," she recently told The Daily Dish. "It’s a lot of mixed emotions. I’m really thrilled about it."
Fans will certainly see an evolution from the singer on the album. "I feel like I’ve changed a lot in the last three years. A lot has gone on in my life, a lot of changes. I finished Glee. I lived in New Orleans for a while. I’ve had a lot of life changes that have gotten me to the place where I am today and I really wanted this album to reflect that," she said. "I feel like my first album definitely reflected the phase of my life that I was in then. And it was important for me for this album to really just have a nice, light, positive air to it. I feel like I’m in an incredible space in my life where I’ve really learned my true dreams and I’ve found such extreme happiness. It was important for me to really show that on this album with 'Love Is Alive' and 'Anything’s Possible' and 'Believer.' Of course there are those other songs that do touch upon maybe some not-so positive aspects or heartbreaks here and there, but overall, I feel like I’m in such an incredible space and I really feel that you can see that from this album."
Lea is definitely and almost apologetically an open book on the release, which includes a song written by Ellie Goulding called "Heavenly." In fact, she said, she occasionally had to remind herself that there are going to be people who are going to actually hear everything she's singing about on it.
"I get very personal when I write and when I record songs. Sometimes after the fact I have to remember that people are actually going to hear them. I don’t want to do anything on this record that I wouldn’t be able to freely feel comfortable talking about. I think on my first record, I was new to the process, so I would record these songs, I would write them and then it was difficult for me to talk about them and really opening up. I’ve thought a lot about creating an album and that process of every song that I put on this record. I can’t wait to talk about it. I can’t wait for people to get that one-on-one, personal experience with me," she said.
Still, she notes there is some pre-release anxiety of sorts — especially when it comes to a few of her subjects eventually hearing the songs. "Any of the songs that I personally wrote, you’re always going to have that moment where you’re thinking, 'Okay, it’s going to get out there.' I wrote breakup songs on the record. With stuff like that, you don’t want to give people more attention than they may or may not already deserve. For me, I thought hard about that. At the end of the day, this is me being honest and creative and part of my life," she said. "I just really wanted to open up. If it’s personally written, then I would say it’s a little more nerve-racking for me. Again, I wouldn’t put anything on this record that I didn’t feel like opening up or talking about. I really do the most talking in my concerts."
Lea isn't just focused on what folks hear on the album, but also what they will see from her. "I’m doing a little bit of a throwback with this album, and it’s really reflecting a lot of the music I listened to growing up. I was inspired by Barbra Streisand when creating this record. I sort of have these overall concepts I wanted. I have a little bit of a New York vibe to it, a little bit of New York in the ‘60s theater with Barbra Streisand. For me, I throw out these references but I need someone with a creative vibe to help me really harness that and strip it down and make it come to life. For that, I was so grateful. I worked so closely with my incredible stylist Brad Goreski, and he really helped me," she said. "We brainstormed and everything came together with the help of him, with the cover shoot of the album and everything. He was there putting the looks together and it couldn’t have gone anywhere without him."
And while the new music certainly harks to Lea's next chapter as an artist, there is an important tie to her past in it as well. It comes via the album's title, which she brainstormed with her longtime pal, Jonathan Groff.
"With Jonathan, he’s been such an incredible support for me for so many years. When I was trying to come up with this album title and I wanted to do something about my life back in New York, I called him up and was like, 'What do you think I should name this album?' And we just talked on the phone and came up with some fun ideas, so I really adore him and having such great friends and support systems in my life really allows me to work my absolute hardest and do my absolute best," she said. "I love that he really helped me come up with this idea. Every time I say it or talk about it I think of him and it makes me so happy."
With the release date right around the corner, Lea is very focused on the album and her acting commitments. And after years in show biz, she's really worked out the right way to keep it all balanced. "For me, I feel like I am a pretty good multitasker," she said. "I’m currently filming a television show, promoting an album, putting together a concert tour, and doing other press stuff, and doing everything at the exact same time, while also trying to be a good friend and daughter and good person in general, in life. It definitely is a lot, but I feel grateful to do what I love every single day and I really make sure to take those times and those moments to just breathe and be able to recharge and then I can go full-force into whatever I’m doing professionally."