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Lea Michele bares her soul on ‘Louder'

By Gerrick D. Kennedy
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES

“I didn’t record one word I didn’t feel – whether or not I wrote it,” Lea Michele said during a recent listening session for her debut album. “These are words that are parts of me.”

“Louder” shows the Broadway veteran and star of Fox’s musical “Glee” making a solid bid for pop stardom.

While “Louder” is packed with club-ready dance anthems and sweeping ballads, some beautifully crafted by pop expert Sia Furler, the album doesn’t sidestep the tragedy that changed the singer’s life.

In July, her longtime boyfriend and “Glee” co-star Cory Monteith died from heroin and alcohol.

With the anticipated album finished in June, Michele opted to head back into the studio after she postponed the project after Monteith’s death.

“Now that I had this experience happen to me … we decided to write about it,” she told reporters at Pulse Recording, where she cut the album. “We decided that’s what felt organic.”

Michele teamed with Furler to pen the album’s stunning closer, “If You Say So,” which was inspired by the last conversation she had with Monteith.

That collaboration quickly altered the direction of the album.

“After we had this very, very emotional writing session, we were about to end the day, and she says, ‘Listen to this song,’ ” Michele said. Furler then left Michele alone with “Cannonball,” a track produced by Stargate and Benny Blanco that became her debut single.

“I just literally keeled over, because grief is a very scary thing, and there comes a point where it can really take you down,” she said.

“(The song) lifted me up. It was what I needed to get through my difficult situation.”

“And now I will start living today, today, today / I close the door / I got this new beginning and I will fly / I’ll fly like a cannonball,” she sings.

“As awkward as it might be, we needed to put something out there to explain to people how I am,” Michele added. “A lot of people don’t know how to touch this situation. It’s like walking on eggshells. I felt ‘Cannonball’ … kinda puts it all out there. It’s like this is really hard, we’re not denying that it’s hard, we’re gonna get through it, and so it made sense for it to be the first single.”

Michele says she always wanted to record an album, even if she “never really knew what kind,” but the breakneck shooting schedule of the series made it difficult.

“I was really settled at ‘Glee’ and settled in my personal life, and I thought, ‘OK, I get (the show) well enough now I know how to juggle that,” she said. “It’s like I felt like I had one kid and now I’m ready to have another, and so I decided to make this album.”

Despite its often reflective lyrics, Michele’s rafter-reaching voice remains the core of the album. She’s at her best when she sings with resiliency on “Cannonball” and “Battlefield”; when she’s reliving true love on “You’re Mine”; or dealing with the pain of loss on “If You Say So.” But dance numbers such as “On My Way” and the title track will appeal more to her younger fans who keep Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson on repeat.

“If I’ve learned anything from this past year it’s that you have one life. I didn’t really understand what they really meant until recently. You have to live your life to the fullest. You have to love as hard as you can love and live as hard as you can live because we just have one life. I feel like ‘Louder’ really expresses that.”

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