When actress-singer Lea Michele starts her tour Monday at the Merriam Theater, she’ll attack booming theatrical songs from her just-released Places, her 2014 pop debut Louder, her career-defining television smash Glee, and dramatic tunes from Broadway, where she made her start in 1995 as Young Cosette in Les Misérables.
In the immediate post-Glee landscape, what sort of gigs did you want? What songs did you want to sing?
I’ve been performing since I was 8 years old, straight onto Broadway, and then straight into television. I’m grateful for that and happy to have been performing such great material since a very young age. I’m living my dream. Knowing that has always been a nice way of going forward, no matter what I was doing.
Do you ever wonder if knowing so much so young is a blessing and a curse?
Honestly, I just think of it as a blessing. A lot of people search and search forever for a path in life. I knew what opportunities were out there. I had time to be able to figure out what to do with what I loved most. Every day I get to live that, and for that I am so happy.
When you made your first album, you were filming and touring with Glee. Do you have a greater sense of focus on Places?
Building a television show and recording my songs -- that was definitely a challenge. For me, the most difficult part was finding the time to go out and perform my own stuff as much as I would have liked.
Performing onstage is your thing.
Exactly. That’s where I'm most home and alive. So my main goal with this new record is -- though I am still doing a television show regularly -- to utilize the free time that I have in my life to get on the road and perform this. That’s actually why I set up tour dates before Places was finished. The live show takes some songs from Louder, the new album, Broadway classics I’ve been involved with, and even some tunes from Glee with me telling stories about my life at the time I came in contact with those songs. I think the whole show really represents me. Maybe I didn’t have the time back then to do this right, but I have the time now.
Being that you were a musical stage baby from early on, who were your first heroes?
Obviously, Barbra Streisand. But being that I was on Broadway as a kid, I had the chance to meet and work with some incredible, awesome talents. I worked on stage with Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel when I was young; both women were so wildly talented. They were mentors then, but now I get to call them friends.
The new album actually harks back to that theatricality, as opposed to Louder’s brand of pop.
Yes, definitely. It is who I have always been and I wanted to highlight that, finally.
So now you can get as loud as you want to get.
[Laughs] For sure.
I like that the title feels so open-ended.
I wanted the album to show where I come from -- the stage -- where I got my education. "Places" in theater is where they put you, where you have to go at the top of the show. It is my version of yelling "show time!"
Ryan Murphy break: You went from his Glee to his new-ish, blackly comic Scream Queens, yet he’s gone from the grueling vicious American Horror Story to the catty, but feminist-friendly Feud. Did you know he had this rich, dark streak in him, and would you like to do something gorier?
Prior to Glee, Ryan had Nip/Tuck which was one the craziest shows ever. I definitely enjoy him doing horror. I’d love to be on that [American Horror Story]. I also enjoy doing comedy, which is great because I’m doing a comedy pilot for ABC [executive-produced by Hamilton Tony winner Daveed Diggs].
On the last album,you wrote with Sia. On Places, you wrote with Linda Perry. Ellie Goulding gave you a song for the new album, too.
I’m absolutely grateful to work with such talented women. That’s incredible to me. I definitely know what I want to talk about when I sit down to write, whether it is an experience or a feeling. When I do the show, I’ll tell you just what I was thinking when I wrote.
Can you give us a hint with “Getaway Car” and “Hey You"?
"Getaway Car” is about first love. I remembered growing up in high school and driving around with my first boyfriend … you know, feeling butterflies, listening to music like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car." “Hey You” is very personal. I can’t tell you who it’s about but people will interpret it for themselves and make of it what they like. I’ll talk about that during the show. You should come. I walk down memory lane and talk about the future.