After years of singing Michelle Billingsley found that she had something to say. It was, she recalls, an epiphany that came direct from frustration “I remember walking down the street because the CTA rush hour buses come every 25 minutes, I was thinking about how hard it was to find something to sing in my range, and then this bubble burst in my head and I thought, ‘I can write songs and say whatever I want.’ ” And thus was her first album ‘Not the Marrying Kind‘ born – it’s out on June 12th on Western Myth Records.
The subjects of her songs are diverse – but she approaches them with a biting wit, which today’s premiere exemplifies. It’s something of a grandchild of ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ as, through a series of good and reasonable explanations Michelle Billingsley patiently explains to her partner how the things he is seeing are not what he thinks they are: “I did nothing wrong love I did nothing wrong / Well what you thought was his hand down my dress / It was innocent I swear, hey listen to this / His watch got caught in the loop of my belt / So you see Hun’ he was just trying to help.” It’s all in a tongue-in cheek gently honky-tonkin’ spirit.
Getting to ‘Not the Marrying Kind‘ was a tortuous route, in her early 20s, Michelle Billingsley explored musical- and street theatre, then took a detour to Los Angeles to try TV and film acting. It wasn’t for her: “I hated L.A., I had a miserable experience. My boobs weren’t big enough. Nothing was right. I saw the writing on the wall.” Shifting to Chicago and starting to sing in piano bars led her to stringed instruments “I never knew what to do with my hands,” she says. “There are only so many minutes you can hold onto the microphone stand or hide them behind your back. So I was like, ‘Screw this,’ and I got a guitar and marched over to the Old Town School of Folk Music and said, “I’m gonna stand behind something bigger than a microphone”.” After learning how to play guitar, she also picked up mandolin and fiddle, which is how she met ‘Not the Marrying Kind‘ ‘s producer Matt Brown. He’d been a teacher and a friend – and he also plays fiddle, banjo and guitar on the new record.
Photo: Lyndon French