Lea Michele knows exactly where her life is headed. “It’s just gonna be me in bed with gay people and I’m gonna be alone forever like Cher,” the powerhouse playfully foretells, “and that’s totally fine by me.” If you’re like Michele – theater kid-turned-Broadway queen, and then, with TV’s “Glee” and “Scream Queens,” the apple of Ryan Murphy’s eye – it’s a natural fit. And so be it. “That’s just the story of my fuckin’ life, all right.”
Not the whole story, though. The rest involves brainstorming the 30-year-old singer’s “dream girl” make-out sessions, her new bittersweet song remembering her relationship with late “Glee” co-star Cory Monteith, and one topic she prefers not to discuss (needless to say, not the gays).
I loved that you were drinking red wine while singing The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” when you reunited with your “Glee” co-star Darren Criss recently.
Listen, that’s just a typical night for me, let me tell you! I mean, we just wanted it to be casual, like a chill time, us hanging out. We didn’t want it to feel too performed. We just wanted it to be a little peek of what Darren and I do for fun together.
How much wine did you enjoy during the recording of your new album, “Places”?
(Laughs) No wine during the recording of “Places,” I’ll tell you that. It was too vocally challenging, so none in the recording studio!
This album is more intimate than your debut. You take it down a few notches, and it sounds like you’ve realized that you don’t need to be the pop artist that some people might think you should be.
Thank you. Can you do all of my press for me and tell everyone that? (Laughs)
Ha! Sure, I’m for hire. How did you apply what you’ve learned about yourself as a recording artist to “Places”?
I learned a lot from my first album (2014’s “Louder”). I definitely think a lot of things contributed to that album: I took a lot of people’s opinions into play, as well as just being a lover of pop music myself and also working on “Glee” at the same time, so I had a lot of factors kind of coming at me.
I worked on this new record over the past three years, and I really just took the time to be quiet and think about myself, and I was finished with “Glee,” so I was no longer in the recording studio for that. I just took the time to figure out really, truly who I am as an artist, what kind of music I want to make, and at the end of the day, I’m from Broadway, I’m a theatrical singer, there’s no way around that.
When I did this record, no one told me to change anything; no one told me to sound any different. And this is it, this is me. It’s a true representation of who I am, and all I can hope is that people like it. If they don’t, that’s OK for me now at this point in my life. You know, I’m 30 years old, and I know I can sing. I just hope that people like it and that’s all you can really do. At a certain point, you just have to let it go into the universe.
Did you feel differently making your first album? Did you feel like people were trying to put you in a box?
No, I just think that I was sort of influenced a little bit more personally. I was putting myself into a box! No one was really making me do anything – I was the one that was saying, “I want a song that sounds like Katy Perry” and “I want this song to sound like Kelly Clarkson.” But in the recording studio this time, I was like, “No. It can’t sound like anyone but me.”
“Hey You” is really beautiful and really haunting. It gives me the same feelings I got when I heard “If You Say So,” from your debut.
Well, that’s because it’s part two of “If You Say So.”
Can you tell me about “Hey You”? What kind of place were you in when you wrote it?
I wasn’t originally thinking of including that on the album. It’s sort of a sensitive subject for me that’s hard to talk about, and I didn’t want anything on the record that I couldn’t talk about. But it just felt so beautiful. It wasn’t about loss, it wasn’t about sadness. It was really about joy and love. I love it so much, and I really feel it represents who I am and everything that I’ve been through in my life. I don’t talk much more beyond that. When you come to my concert, that’s really when I open up and dive into what these songs personally mean to me. At the end of the day, the song is pretty specific, and people are gonna make of it what they want, but I wanted to make a song about loss that wasn’t necessarily sad. I wanted to show this beautiful moment and there’s a little bit more of a deeper story that goes with it that I talk about in my concert.
Has your BFF Jonathan Groff heard the album? What’s his favorite song?
Duh! He’s heard everything. He loves the album. I think he really loves “Anything’s Possible.” We were having a bunch of sleepovers, and he stayed with me in L.A. for a little while, and I just love him so much. I love having him with me. He’s my best friend in the whole world, and he supports me so much. I just think people get soulmates in their life and he’s my soulmate.
Your gay following obviously extends beyond Jonathan – when was the first time in your career that you knew you had a gay following?
(Laughs) I grew up in the gay community. I grew up on Broadway. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, and I feel so lucky to have been around the LGBT community for so long, and then to be on Broadway and have fans outside of the theater or working with incredible people. Then going onto “Glee” – that show was so important, and playing a young girl who was raised by two gay men in Ohio of all places, I feel really lucky to have been a part of important projects that talk about important things. To have been a part of the gay community and around it for so many years, it’s just really helped me develop who I am today. I love my following, and I love all of my fans, gay or straight. But you know, gotta give it up for my gays.
How has the gay community influenced you to become who you are?
Growing up on Broadway there was always this sense of being who you are – you just have to be true to yourself and be who you are, and I saw it. I saw people living their true lives and being their true selves, and for me that was such an incredible vibe to be around growing up. It really did develop me, and you have to really have a strong backbone and you have to have strength – and it comes with a lot of difficulties – and it was such an incredible way to grow up. Honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Will you finally get the lesbian role we’ve been waiting for you to get on this forthcoming ABC comedy that you’re about to be a part of?
(Laughs) Unfortunately, I am not a lesbian; however, I may get to make out with Brandon Micheal Hall, and I don’t know if you know what that boy looks like, but he’s so friggin’ cute. So, I am very excited about that. I wanted to go on “Looking” and I wanted to be a lesbian!
We’ll just have to live vicariously through your TV make-out session with Brandon now.
Yeah, sorry, it’s really working for me. (Laughs) But we have to think about who my dream girl make-out sessions would be!
Shall we ponder that?
You know what’s funny, because I was just talking to Brad Goreski who I love the most, and I was like, “Brad, if you were gonna be with a girl, who would you be with?” He said Scarlett Johansson, and I stopped for a minute and was like, “Oh my god, I think me too!” Also, Penelope Cruz, but I’ve been told that she kind of looks like me, so I don’t know what that says about me – that I’m narcissistic?!
You recently revealed you watch old episodes of “Glee,” and I think that surprised some people.
Yeah, I think that everyone is so shocked when I say that.
Are you shocked by people being shocked?
Yeah, yeah, I’m shocked at people being shocked. I’m so proud of the work that we did. And I get that some people would be embarrassed to watch their own material. I understand that. But sometimes it’s so fun. I’ll be like, “Remember when we did that number?” I think I watch it more because I can’t believe that we did it. It’s just to remind myself, “You did that. You did that! And that’s incredible. And you should be proud of it.” It’s sort of inspiring for me.
What episode of “Glee” have you revisited the most?
Probably the one when we went to New York in Season 2. That’s one of my most favorite episodes, and it was personally such a special episode for me because I had just left New York a year prior, and the next thing you know I was coming back one year later with this hugely successful show being followed by, I think, close to, like, 200 fans and paparazzi. So, for me, it was crazy to be in these places that I’d walked through hundreds of time in my life, but now in such a different way. So, that was such a pivotal episode for me.
Apparently, you and your co-star Naya Rivera were feuding on the show, according to her memoir. Do you have trouble watching episodes with you two in them?
(Laughs) Actually, I think we should – I don’t like to talk about that. There are so many more fun things to talk about.
Do you listen to the “Glee” music?
I listen to the music all the time. Actually, I was just listening to me and Naya do “Brave” – that awesome Sara Bareilles song – the other day. That song is so good. I remember that day like it was yesterday because we were so tired, but it’s funny, when I do my concerts I sing songs from “Glee” and I talk about what it was like in those moments and behind the scenes. That’s my opportunity to get really close with people.
Which songs from “Glee” are your favorite to perform live?
I love singing “My Man,” and I think I’m actually gonna include “Poker Face” soon, so I’m excited about that.
Going back to Brad, you shared a bed with him during your “Bed Series” on your Instagram.
How does it feel to steal the man of our dreams?
I mean, Brad is so friggin’ hot. I mean, do you see those pictures he posts on Instagram? My comment on one of them the other day was, like, “When you’re ready for a girl, let’s do this ’cause you’re so hot.” There was actually a rumor in the Enquirer the other day that I was going to have Brad’s baby, which I think is such an honor because he’s the best and he’s so handsome, but so kind too. I love that when I asked him to do the “Bed Series” with me he was like, “Yeah, sure, of course.”
Inquiring minds want to know: What does Brad smell like?
Like a shower after boot camp. Fresh, but still a little sweaty too.
Are you getting more attention from the ladies with your sexy “Bed Series” pics?
I’m not getting enough attention from the ladies, let me say that. I mean, what does a girl need to do?
I mean, yeah, you’ve taken your pants off, for God’s sake.
For God’s sake, come on! I need to think of someone else to do the “Bed Series” with me. I’m probably gonna do one with Jonathan soon. I’m always thinking of who I can get in bed with me next.
Lea Michele’s new album, “Places,” is out April 28.