Not for the first time, Michele ends an utterance with a laugh that suggests she’s as interested to hear what she’s about to say as the person asking her the question. Over a decade since The Magic Numbers landed in the top ten with their double-platinum-selling debut album, Michele has taken temporary leave of the band she formed with her brother Romeo, to release her second solo album. Released four years after her solo debut, ‘Wide-Eyed Crossing’, the nine songs that comprise ‘Pieces’ confirm that, almost by stealth, Michele has turned into an artist whose work bears strong comparison to some of the touchstone songwriters that helped shape her outlook.
“With your first album,” she explains, “It’s very much a matter of planting your flag in the ground, assembling the best songs you’ve got, and saying, ‘Here I am.’ With this one though, I could start thinking about putting together something that felt more narrated and focus on the storytelling a bit more.” For Michele, it was a matter of getting tone and texture right rather than rushing into anything. One of the earliest songs to take shape on the record was ‘Something About You’. In doing so, it set the emotional temperature for much of what followed. It’s impossible to miss the aching vulnerability in Michele’s delivery, as she tells her younger self that “life waits for no girl/Who fears the dance of letting go” over a breathtakingly ornate string arrangement. “I think surrendering to an emotion, letting go of reservations and morality, to really feel something intensely, is actually a strength,” Michele argues.
Here and elsewhere, the bedrock of Michele’s writing is a reliance on rock-solid melodies that always stop short of outstaying their welcome. Keen to ensure that the tunes earned their place on the record, Michele wrote most of the songs on ‘Pieces’ away from her guitar – only setting them to chord sequences when they refused to leave her head. That would certainly explain the southern soul languor of opener ‘Come Back Home’ and the similarly tender ‘Oh By and By’. As Michele explains, the latter song is a good example of the unexpectedly fruitful restrictions that parenthood places on the creative process. “That was written when my daughter Maisie was still a baby. I was putting her to sleep and sitting next to her writing this song, which obviously I had to do almost silently. But actually, that’s not a bad way to write. Because if a song can sound good without even a hint of amplification, you know it’ll sound good whatever you do with it.”