Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” takes on a new life when done by Michelle Kash
Kash’s story is one of wanderlust. She found a gospel choir on Craigslist after being inspired by Aretha Franklin. She relocated from NY to LA and found her calling in a retreat in Utah. Kash has a once in a generation smoky rebellious tone to her music. It is entrancing. She is currently working on her debut album. For info visit https://www.michellekash.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
MK: I think that my process of songwriting has shifted over the years. Most of the time it was me alone, writing. It can be very intense and extremely emotional. Working on Bad Love Game was a new experience for me. Aaron Kamin and I connected immediately and there was an exceptional flow. It brought a kind of lightness to my process that I think I didn’t know how to access on my own.
In terms of the way that I write, I use notebooks and handwrite in them. I doodle in them over and over, the pages are just covered in words, phrases, and doodles. It looks nuts.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Smoking Gun.” How did that song develop?
MK: I wrote “Smoking Gun” when I was caught between two loves. An old lover came back into my life and tried seducing me. We had that indescribable magnetism and one of those connections that you never forget, but going back there would have fucked everything up.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about the “Smoking Gun” video. Did that fit your image for the song? How was it to make?
MK: I intended the Smoking Gun video to portray a relationship that was intoxicating but also toxic. To feel bound to someone, to feel like I have no control and question.. .do I actually like it? And who is responsible for the outcome?
It was an amazing experience to make it and incredibly fun. Nandy McClean, my director, had a vision for a cinematic experience and she made me feel so comfortable. It was my first music video and it was a huge learning experience. Smoking Gun was the starting point for me to dive into where I wanted to go visually, which led to the video for Personal Jesus.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Hurt Me.” How did that song develop?
MK: I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with and analyzing my ability to be in a relationship. I get comfortable having things the way I like it, doing whatever I want. “Hurt Me” was written when I had given it a go with someone for real, but it was long distance. I realized I didn’t really give it a real chance because I was always leaving them. I wanted to be challenged more, I wanted them to wake up and see that this wasn’t working, that maybe we weren’t meant to be. I wanted them to fight back and meet me where I stood, not just settle. It went beyond the relationship, as I wanted them to not settle in their life. It was an emotional time and I still have a difficult time performing this song live because it brings up a lot of residual feelings for me.
FEMMUSIC: How is the album coming? What has been the biggest challenge making it?
MK: The album is coming along great. I think the biggest challenge has been the emotional challenges; revisiting relationships and navigating my own life through the songwriting process. It can be a very intense experience, but ultimately I find it the most rewarding form of self expression.
FEMMUSIC: Are you interested in being signed by a label? Why or why not? What do you look for in a label?
MK: Being independent can have its challenges, and right now, it is very pure…I’m able to express myself, and figure out how best to present it. I’ve had a chance to be mindful and take time and space to evolve as an artist. I have heard pretty intense stories about working with a label and how the business side can dominate the creative side. I’m sure it would be a great experience if they believe in what you’re doing and put the power that they have behind you.
Today, I have an amazing team that understands and believes in what I’m trying to create. It isn’t easy to find those connections. I trust them and we have such a great relationship and I look forward to what’s ahead together!
FEMMUSIC: What are your goals for the next year? Musically? Personally?
MK: Musically, my goals this year are to write and record more songs, play more shows, go on tour, and collaborate with other artists. I would love to get music out and build a fanbase that I can get to know and connect with.
My main personal goal is to make animals lives better. I do a lot of animal rescue work and I am currently relocating dogs in need from India to the States. I am helping a clinic in Dharamsala, India, with things they need (that we tend to take for granted here) such as a generator to keep the lights on and an operating light for surgery. As I write this, I just got word that a few of the dogs are being transported for adoption in the US and I’m so excited!
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
MK: “God Will Take Care of You”, Aretha Franklin (Amazing Grace album) Having experienced depression and anxiety, this song reminds me to hold on to the fact that it will pass. Even a moment of hope can lift you out long enough to take a breath. Music has always been that for me; a breath when I couldn’t breathe.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
MK: I think that the biggest challenges I have faced were internal. I think there’s an unrealistic expectation for women in our society and I have definitely fallen into that. One of the best things about music is that it can be messy and that it’s for everyone. I find that I’m my biggest critique in all aspects of my life and it’s an ongoing invitation for me to practice self love and acceptance. I look to the women in punk rock like Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde. Their artistry spoke with authority and paved the way for gender equality. They weren’t playing into a woman’s expected role as vulnerable object. The way they navigated these times is an inspiration.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
MK: There’s so many innovative artists I admire that I would love to work but if I had to choose it would be Radiohead. How they have evolved and what they have done artistically over the years is incredible. They have pushed boundaries with music and technology, and to share that stage would be phenomenal. I also love what Billie Eilish is doing, her art is rebellious and vulnerable but also comforting.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
MK: I’m so focused and so blessed to be on this journey. Every business has its challenges and the music business has been going through generational changes. At times, I think the industry can be overly focused on branding. So much so, that they want to put you in a “box”. I feel like there’s room for us to be more. Who you are as an artist is fluid and complex.