5. Ingrid Michaelson

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 5 is Ingrid Michaelson.


I have watched exactly one of the more than 240 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (the season three finale). While I knew next to nothing about the characters or the plot, that climactic scene of that dramatic episode featured a never-before-heard song, “Keep Breathing” by a then-unknown artist, Ingrid Michaelson. That episode aired on May 17, 2007. Although that was only 8 years ago, the world was clearly a much different place because I remember scouring the Internet unsuccessfully trying to find the song to download it.

Before I eventually found a low-quality recording of the song from the show, I stumbled on to Ingrid’s 2006 album Girls and Boys on MySpace and instantly knew she was more than a one hit wonder, at least to my ears. The Grey’s Anatomy spot was her first major breakthrough, but when “The Way I Am” was used in an Old Navy ad, Ingrid’s career really began to take off. Despite lacking a major music label, Michaelson was making the transition to mainstream success. “The Way I Am” is simple and short, but it’s so sweet and singable that it climbed as high as #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

A multi-talented singer/songwriter, Ingrid plays piano, guitar, and ukulele, but it is her voice that stands out as her most potent instrument. She has a beautiful voice and a tremendous way with melody that allows her to take simple song constructions and make them sound epic.

I have seen Ingrid perform live twice, in Pittsburgh on Nov. 11, 2007, and in Cleveland on October 30, 2009. In addition to showcasing her musical ability, the live shows allow Ingrid’s charming personality to shine through. Her banter between songs with the audience resonates with a warmth and humanity reflective of someone who clearly does not feel she is above her fans. Both shows had a very communal feel, as if those who were in attendance were in on a shared secret. I’m sure the size of her shows has grown since then, but the heart of her shows remains unchanged. Ingrid remains connected with her fans via social media, and she maintains that girl-next-door sweetness even though she is now a well-established performer.

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