For many people, Lea Michele will forever be Rachel Berry, the ambitious-though-neurotic main character in the beloved Fox musical series Glee. That show was, after all, a smash hit, that propelled Michele, as well as her co-stars, into the public eye.
Glee came to an end in 2015 and, in the two years since, Michele has been racking up acting and singing roles. Up until last year, she portrayed killer Hester Ulrich on the horror parody Scream Queens, and her pop debut Louder came out in 2014. She recently dropped her sophomore record, Places, that shows Michele returning to the Broadway style that she got her start in.
Ahead of her performance at the Palace of Fine Arts, we chatted with Michele about Glee, her new record, and which superhero she would like to be.
Lea Michele plays at 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 10, at the Palace of Fine Arts. More info here.
SF Weekly: Now that a couple of years have passed, what are your feelings on Glee?
Lea Michele: I look back on that with the greatest memories. That was such an incredible experience. We were all so blessed to have had that journey that we all got to go on together. I’m sure at the time it felt overwhelming, but I really tried to embrace it and stop all the time and go, “Wow, look at this. Look at how incredible this is.” I look back on it so fondly.
SFW: It seems like the rest of the cast is starring in superhero shows now. If you could play any superhero, who would you choose?
LM: Oh, my God. I’d be a superhero any day. I feel like all the good female superheroes are taken, so maybe I could just come and play like Supergirl’s super-powerful sister.
SFW: Did Glee prepare you for a life as a recording artist?
LM: I think Glee was an amazing experience and a really great education as far as what being a recording artist means. Coming from Broadway, that was also a really great education of what it’s like to be live on the stage. So I think everything that what I’ve done in my life has really helped me get to where I am today, and has really prepared me for this time in my life, as far as being a solo artist and being in the recording industry. It’s not an easy place to be in. It’s pretty cut-throat. But I really feel like I can hold my own, and I’m really honored to be able to be making my second record now.
SFW: How has your sound evolved from Louder to Places?
LM: This one is a little bit more theatrical — it’s more of a vocalist’s album. I learned a lot with my first record, and I wanted my sound for this album to be different. I feel like I’ve really achieved that. I feel like this album is a representation of who I am, where I am in my life right now, and who I am as a performer. It’s important as an actor in this business, or in anything that you do, that you really feel proud to say, “Yes, this is me and I stand by this.” I really do stand by this entire record. Not that I didn’t with my first, but it was such a hectic time for me, and I’ve really had time over these past three years of working on this record to make it my own.
SFW: You’ve dabbled in a lot of singing styles throughout your career. Is there any genre of music you wouldn’t sing to?
LM: I mean, some genres on Glee were more difficult for me than others. I would never say never, so you never know. I just know what works for me. I grew up listening to Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, and I’m so inspired by Adele. This is definitely where I am right now, and I sort of feel like this is what I was born to do.
SFW: How do you balance careers in music and acting, post Glee?
LM: It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of mental and physical strength. I do what I can to make sure that I take really good care of myself, and I balance my life so that I’m not over-exerting myself. It is challenging and I don’t want to spread myself too thin. But I really love singing and I love acting. I’m very grateful that I get to do both.
SFW: You’re heading to San Francisco soon. Are you excited?
LM: I love S.F. It’s one of my favorite places. I used to spend a lot of time up there — it’s incredible. I can’t wait to come and do the show there. I’ll try and catch Hamilton while I’m there too. I have some friends in the show. It should make for a really fun time.
SFW: What can we expect from the set at Palace of Fine Arts?
LM: I do a couple of songs from my first record, a bunch of songs from the new album, and then I do a great little medley of Glee songs. That’s really one of my favorite parts. For me, it’s such a great moment to reminisce on a time in my life that was really important and special to me. I tell little stories about what those songs mean to me, and each night I kind of switch it up. It’s really great because that was such an important time in my life and to get to have that personal one-on-one connection with my fans, and tell them what that was like for me, is really special.
SFW: After this tour, what’s next for you?
LM: Hopefully more shows. I’d like to tour and be on stage as much as possible. I’m also working on a new ABC comedy that I’m really excited about. We just shot the pilot, so hopefully it’ll continue and we’ll get to shoot some more. It’s a comedy about a young rapper who ends up running for town mayor and he wins. It has all original hip-hop and rap in it, so I’m excited to be on another television show with another musical element. I’ve got a lot on my plate but I’m really excited about everything.