Performing under the name Michalangela (pronounced MY-kull-AN-juh-luh) with her own jazz combo and in multiple other bands and projects, her confidence grew. Then, while driving home from a gig in August 2017, she was the victim of a high-speed freeway hit-and-run accident.
While she didn’t suffer any major physical injuries, it soon became clear the collision had affected her voice.
In her new new-soul album “As I See It,” Wilson sings about her recovery in a song titled “Un-Mute Me.” The album is a collection of original music by her and her band.
A Moscow native, Wilson graduated from Logos School in 2002. She’ll release her album in her hometown Saturday night at John’s Alley Tavern. In an email interview, she talked to Inland 360 about the circumstances that brought her to this moment in time.
What is neo-soul and why do you feel drawn to this genre?
Neo-Soul, to me, is heavily inspired by the harmonies in jazz, with the groove, heart and backbeat of soul music.
I felt drawn to this because I have been a lover of jazz, starting in junior high via the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. My mom was the choir director at Logos and she wanted us to compete in the festival. I was drawn to Portland, not only because it’s close to Moscow, but because I heard good things about the jazz scene from a musician at the festival. I can’t remember his name, but it was Benny Green’s right-hand man.
What’s it like to be a musician in Portland?
It’s been a wonderful place for me to grow, and it’s not the same as the L.A. or Nashville scene. It’s less aggressive, so we have the chance to truly connect with other musicians, and I feel like the community is less competitive. I’ve been given some amazing opportunities there, singing with Liv Warfield (Prince), and opening for Robert Glasper.
While you weren’t physically injured by the hit-and-run accident, your voice suffered. How do you think the accident affected your voice?
The accident brought a lot of physical tension in my body, all the effects of whiplash. As a classically trained vocalist, tension is the enemy, and I had to retrain it out after the accident. I have had people tell me that they think I sound better than ever now, and maybe the accident had something to do with it. Maybe it woke me up to something else in my voice, or unlocked something, I don’t know. All I know is that I am so grateful to have it and use it.
Your album contains a song, “Un-muted,” about the desperation you felt. Where did that sense of desperation come from? What were you afraid of?
I always had control of my voice prior to the accident. Professional vocalists would ask me all the time how I had that control. After the accident, I felt out of control. I didn’t understand what had happened, and I didn’t know how to get it back. It took five months or so to fully understand what had happened.
What kind of exercises and work did you do to recover your voice?
I had a great vocal teacher, Dr. Sarah Maines. She helped me with tongue tension and jaw tension. I had to do this really cool vocal exercise where you sing while your tongue hangs out of your mouth. Not for the faint of heart, ha ha.
What’s it like to come back to premiere your work in your hometown at John’s Alley?
It is so exciting to come back to Moscow, to truly get to celebrate this here is really meaningful. So many memories of John’s Alley: Going to see live music there in college, singing jazz there with my friends on Sunday nights after I got off work. I am really excited to bring this full circle, and share it with my family and friends, and bring the love back to my hometown. I will always represent this city wherever I go.
IF YOU GO
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1
WHERE: John’s Alley Tavern, 114 E. Sixth St., Moscow
OF NOTE: Michalangela’s album “As I See It” is available on digital platforms and at michalangela.com.