UPDATE: B>U feature, Michelle Cirtin, recently gave a TED Talk at Columbia University on the power of being yourself. Perfect for B>U! Scroll down to watch the video and be inspired
“I want to be all that is there can be. I wanna solve all of the world’s great mysteries. Most of all, I want to be me,” so sings Michelle Citrin, the lil girl with a big sound from Brooklyn, NY. Since her first release in 2004, singer songwriter Michelle keeps being greater than herself one song at a time and one gig at a time.
And through her artistic journeys, Michelle is no sloth to her music. She may adore and hug them but they do not reflect her drive. Read below and you’ll see what I mean. Sloths? Really? Just on a second side note, while I’m writing this Michelle feature, her song popped up on my iTunes. I have 1500 songs on my select list and she of all people and at all times comes singing into my room reminding me why we asked her to be a part of the evolution. Oh, the hidden energies we are uniting.
From Tel Aviv, Israel to Melbourne, Australia to the rest of the world, Michelle sings her songs hoping to inspire others with her B>U philosophy. And I quote, “at the end of the day, I don’t want to say that I could of, should of, would of… Some day I’m gonna make it happen.”
Well, Michelle, you made it happen yesterday then today and you will again tomorrow.
What motivates you?
The notion of possibility is the most motivating thing for me. Possibility within the self, within communities and within the world at large.
How do you pick yourself up?
Sloths. Definitely Sloths. All I have to do is see a smiling sloth, and it’s instant happiness. This summer, my dream of hugging a sloth came true at the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. I can’t explain it…just try it yourself – look on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. My other ‘pick me up’ activity is discovering new music on vinyl records. Since people have traded in most physical devices for iPods, there are tons of vinyl records just laying around, often in the streets! I highly enjoy spelunking through the treasure chest of vinyl, plucking one by one out based on their artwork. It’s a thrill I get to enjoy because of the decline in people valuing the pristine quality of vinyl music. As of late, this one record I’ve found of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 is perfect for almost any given time of day.
Favorite sayings or mantras?
I keep a collection of them at home in a journal and some of my favs are, “If not now, then when”, “Don’t dream it, Be it”, “Life is not a Dress-Rehearsal”.
Who do you want to inspire?
Everyone! I have a strong belief that if we only understood ourselves and others better, we’d have a more peaceful planet. So I feel driven to inspire people to be kinder. One of the ways I hope to be able to encourage this, is by taking ancient wisdom and finding a way to make it relevant to today’s society. There is an interconnectedness in the world that’s just begging to be understood more now than ever. I don’t claim to understand it, but I certainly do sense and respect it and I think music has the ability to take us there.
What do you do every day to try to be a greater person?
On the daily level, I think it is really important to make a conscious decision of how to start the day. In Judaism, there is a prayer called ‘Modeh Ani’ – which means thank you for returning my soul back to me to live this day. I don’t take this lightly, so I like the first thing I do when I wake up is meditate on an intention for the day, (which works wonders especially when I have a great cup of coffee nearby!). I try to consciously approach life situations and characters with an open mind and instead of running away from problems, I cling to the question of ‘what can be learned from this”. On a bigger scale, I have a ‘life list’ that incorporates different areas – personal, career, and learning. So, whether it is learning a new language, or a new recording technique, I try to commit myself to making sure I’m always learning new things everyday. I think the key to being ‘greater than ourselves’ lies in the belief that we actually can be greater than who we already are today. Growing means raising consciousness, which in turn ultimately can help us live a much fuller life than we could’ve ever imagined!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a performing songwriter?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned with my journey as a performing songwriter, is that it’s good to say ‘yes’ to things even if they seem totally out of left field and never were a part of your ‘dream’. Saying ‘yes’, paves a path for a journey that you never knew you could take. Not only that, but each time you say ‘yes’, it’s like you learn how to trust yourself and the universe just a little bit better every time. For me personally, I’ve learned so much by saying ‘yes’ to collaborations and opportunities such as working on a Broadway musical. It was never a goal I set out to do, but because I said ‘yes’, I was able to learn an important skill of writing songs to express another character’s point of view, rather than a personal one – which inevitably led to strengthening my songwriting abilities to become more universal. Another example of saying ‘yes’ led to writing a song about matzah leading to 1.8 million hits on YouTube , connecting me to people around the world!
Tell us about your songwriting/musician journey to this point.
Songwriting, for me began as an outlet for me to express myself. I was a shy kid and definitely felt as if I were on the outside looking in. It was in the blank pages of a journal and getting lost in melodies for hours, that I felt ‘home’. I wish I could jump back in time and tell myself as a child, ‘hey that ‘outside looking in’ issue is actually called being an artist and it’s a great gift! Because of this, I feel very committed as a musician to not just perform concerts, but also to do workshops with young adults focusing on developing creative expression with the intention to help them tap into their talents and to feel proud of their abilities. It’s an incredibly empowering thing to witness anyone experiencing the pride and joy of creating something, especially a child. While my journey with music has been really exciting and I have plenty of stories of characters and situations on tour, what is especially rewarding to me, is being able to offer young adults an opportunity to embrace and celebrate their individuality. So, whereas songwriting began as a means of self- expression, it has evolved into a means of connecting and inspiring others.
Tell us about your CD. How do you feel about it?
So excited!!! While I’ve put out a couple EPs, this is my first full length album called, “Left Brained, Right Hearted”. The album is a collection of songs that deal with the funny little struggle between heart and head that we all seem to experience. When is it that we decide to follow our heart? and vice versa? With this record, (do we still say record?) I hope to offer some answers through a bit of light sarcasm, humor & vulnerability via some catchy tunes mixed with a whole lotta arrangements including trombones, violins, clarinets, and even an optigon music maker. Working with producer, Tim Bright and the A-list players was amazing and they bring such an incredible energy and talent to these songs…it’s more than I could’ve ever asked for and I cannot wait to share it! Stay tuned to www.michellecitrin.com for release announcement!
Check out more B>U Inspirational Stories.