Many know Lea Michele from the hit Fox television show Glee, in which she plays overachiever Rachel Berry. The role has garnered her two Golden Globe nominations as well as an Emmy nod.
Michele started at a very young age in musicals like Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof; then she originated the part of Wendla on Broadway in Spring Awakening.
After Glee made it big, she dabbled in a few movies such as the comedy New Year's Eve and the upcoming animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return where she plays Dorothy Gale.
This year, the talented young lady enters a new chapter of her life with her album Louder ( on Columbia Records ) and her first book, Brunette Ambition.
She took a break from filming Glee to speak with Windy City Times about her connection with Chicago.
Windy City Times: Hello, Lea. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk about your first album. Why did you decide to go this direction with the songs?
Lea Michele: I took my time in this whole process. I gave a lot of thought and care to what sound I wanted to make, as well as what message I wanted to relay with this record. At the end of the day after the recording of it I really feel we put out something really special.
WCT: You went for strong power ballads, as opposed to a Britney Spears pop album.
Lea Michele: Well, I come from a Broadway background and with the television show I have been exposed to lots of different types of music and sounds. I feel as a performer I put my emotions forward first. That is how the album sort of evolved.
WCT: It sounded like you stretched vocally for the track "Battlefield."
Lea Michele: "Battlefield" was written by Sia. She's so incredible and such a genius as a songwriter and singer. I think in everything she writes you can really hear the emotion in the chords and the words. I love songs personally like that.
When I heard "Battlefield" for the first time I knew it was going to be something that I definitely wanted to sing.
WCT: Did you have a big choice of people to work with on Louder? You must know a lot of people from Glee.
Lea Michele: No, it was a pretty organic process. I co-wrote some of the songs. I was thankful for the people that gave me some of their songs, like Sia and Christina Perri. I feel like I am starting out in this whole recording world from the beginning.
WCT: Are you making plans to tour with Louder?
Lea Michele: I cannot wait. No plans have been set in stone yet but we are definitely talking about it. I am really looking forward to getting the opportunity. I come from a background of performing live onstage so that is really where I feel the most comfortable.
WCT: I saw you perform on the Glee tour in Chicago.
Lea Michele: Really? Let me tell you something: I have the best memories of Chicago from that Glee tour. We always say Chicago was the best time. I think I got three tattoos while I was in Chicago. I have only been to one club in my entire life, and it was in Chicago. I had one day with Kevin McHale and we were doing press all day there. I think if you ask anyone from the show where they had the craziest memories, it is definitely in Chicago.
WCT: What club did you go to?
Lea Michele: I have no idea. I had never been out before in my whole life. My cast will tell you, "Seeing Lea at a club is like seeing a unicorn!" They talk about it as the one and only time, like that's it and I will never go out again. I did it in Chicago.
WCT: You must have to protect your voice and not be out in smoke machine-filled clubs.
Lea Michele: I would rather be at home with my cats.
WCT: I heard about your two cats! [Both laugh.] What tattoos did you get in Chicago?
Lea Michele: I got a tattoo of Imagine with my cast member Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale, then me, Jenn, and Amber Riley got little star tattoos together. It was so fun!
WCT: Is Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel on the show, your gay best friend or do you have another one somewhere?
Lea Michele: [Laughs] That is so funny to me because people ask me who my gay best friend is but, for me, whether you are gay or straight, a person is a person. I don't categorize anyone for their sexual orientation. I think every girl needs a gay best friend and thankfully I have my fair share but I don't want to put any labels on anyone like that. People are who they are.
WCT: You have performed at many LGBT fundraisers in the past, such as the Human Rights Campaign and Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS, so the community appreciates the support.
Lea Michele: Oh, yeah. I grew up in New York so I was supporting [Broadway] since I was 7 years old. Growing up in the theater community is really who I am. I am really thankful to be a part of it.
WCT: Talk about this new book.
Lea Michele: It is called Brunette Ambition and it is coming out in May. It is a really fun lifestyle, how-to book. I have great chapters on my family [and] Glee as well as awesome chapters on fashion, beauty,and fitness. It covers the whole landscape of Lea Michele's life.
WCT: Well, I know you have to get back to set. Come visit Chicago on a concert or book tour.
Lea Michele: I definitely will. I need another tattoo!
Louder lands in stores on March 4. Visit www.LeaMicheleMusic.com for more on Michele's projects.