Interview By Suzanne Tripaldi
Photo Credit: Patrick Coates
Irene Michaels has been entertaining people throughout her life for over six decades. As a lifelong participant in the entertainment industry, she has danced, modeled, authored books, shared lifestyle and life-changing beauty secrets, and acted. She is renowned for her recurring role as a nurse in the celebrated soap opera “General Hospital” and has also appeared in movies, including the cult film “Killer Klowns From Outer Space,” “Home Alone 2,” and “Mahogany,” to name just a few.
Most recently, Irene has shifted her focus to singing, writing, and recording music, with a particular emphasis on House Music. Her song “I Like Rain,” released via the iconic record label Trax, has earned her a Josie Award, and her latest pop recording, “What the World Needs Now,” is under consideration for a Grammy. She is also on the Grammy Ballot for Best New Artist. Get Out reached out to Irene for a heartfelt conversation…
Photo Credit: Billy Hess / INTERVIEW:
Hi, Irene! What inspired you to begin your house music journey, and why never before this during your career?
The music scene has always been a huge part of my life. I enjoy writing my own songs and singing covers. A few years ago, my band, Our House, began performing live at some of the best known cabaret and jazz venues throughout Chicagoland. At some point, I was approached by Rachael Cain, owner of TRAX Records, with an intriguing opportunity to dip my toe in the House Music genre. While it was certainly not an obvious path for me, she was convinced that I would be great, so I took my best shot! And, to my happy surprise, I just love it! Sometimes life takes you down a different path than you expected, and I have found that if I am open to trying new things, life really is amazing, and I live every day to its fullest on and off the stage.
What is it that attracts you to house music?
Being a dancer my whole life, my body is in tune with the rhythm and beat of music. Performing house music makes me want to dance and brings me back to my younger years. I love being a woman my age and having the energy and flexibility to move and groove with the best of them.
What other genres of music are you exploring as a singer and why?
I am interested in a certain sound more than a genre per se. Lately, I’ve also been doing some detailed research on Stevie Nicks and why so many loved her sound…which is unusual. Also, Joni Mitchell. I love the earthy type!
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to baby Irene?
I was a very active and adventurous baby. Let’s just say I kept my mom very busy. My favorite place to play was in our pantry. I would put every single pot on my head and parade around the house, complete with a spoon and fork serving as my instrument.
My natural tendency to be a part of the social scene started around age six. I used to disappear out the front door and go for a walk by myself, talking to all the neighbors as if I was interviewing them and my mother would have to come and find me. And, If I wasn’t doing that, I was playing dress up or running my own lemonade stand. I craved adventure and exploring new things. I have remained that way my entire life. Sometimes, it means I want to do too much at the same time. That can be a good thing and a curse…So, my advice to my younger self would be to slow down just a tad and really focus on one thing at a time. Keep that love of adventure, but try to enjoy each minute a little more before moving onto the next.
Where do you hope your music career will take you?
I would love for the world to hear my music and share my love for this amazing form of expression. I plan to continue recording and performing for as long as I can. One day, my dream is to win a Grammy award!
Aside from music, you have other interests and careers. Please fill us in.
You may not know this, but I am an accomplished equestrian, having ridden and competed most of my life. Still to this day, spending a day at the barn with my horse is one of my greatest pleasures. I also enjoy working the red carpet, being a part of the social scene, and supporting many charitable organizations. Lastly, but certainly not least, I love to travel all over the world with my husband and experience the different cultures. Seeing new things and learning more about the world around me is extremely valuable to me.
What artist or artists are you currently influenced by musically?
There are many artists that have influenced me. Some you may not have even heard of; however, the top four are Judy Garland, Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, and Dolly Parton.
What do you admire most about the LGBTQ audience?
The freedom to be creative and have fun during a performance. The fact that nothing is off limits inspires me to really get into the music and connect with the crowd. And, of course, being an arbiter of style and fashion throughout my life, their personal flair and unique viewpoints are a valuable addition to the world of entertainment.
What is new on the horizon?
I have been nominated for awards for my cover of the iconic anthem, What the World Needs Now is Love, by Jackie DeShannon. I will be performing more shows nationally and even globally; shows are in the works for London in early 2024. I’d very much like to tour the gay clubs in NYC, LA and Chicago, perhaps judge a drag show in each of those cities–I have some plans for Pride 2024. There are some more things in the works that I am very excited about, but the details are still being ironed out, so stay tuned!