"Listen, listen, listen."

The chorus to the title track of {{Michelle Tumes}}' debut project whispers, begs, entreats you to listen. Listen to the swirling, ethereal vocals; the moody, evocative piano; the soaring melodies; the verses and refrains that call to a deep, secret place within your soul.

Listen yet more closely. Do you hear the sea roaring its defiance? The beach, submitting humbly to the vagaries of the tide? The cry of a gull? The sigh of an ocean breeze. Listen, listen, listento the beat of a drum in you.

If you listen long enough to Michelle's music you will find a paradox; an enigma wrapped in a mystery - not unlike the woman, herself. At once delicate, fragile, beautiful yet strong and forceful, she embraces the dichotomy of wanting to be vulnerable with her audience, and yet needing to maintain a sanctuary within herself that is for her alone.

"I shouldn't have anything to hide," she says. "But there are certain parts of me thatwell, I've told you about that private part of me, but I haven't divulged anything within it. I don't have to change who I am to be with you, because I know that I have control over what I say and what I don't say."

Michelle admits to having few close friends that really know her. And even those who have known her for the longest are only just now beginning to understand her. She attributes her reticence to open up to a lot of people, to her youthful idealist romanticism. "I think when you are growing up, when you feel things really deeply, you don't want to express those things to just everyone. Because you don't want that idealism to be crushed."

While ==Listen==, Michelle's first album, contained the autobiographical song, "Life Is Beautiful," she insists most of that album was much more general. She says her upcoming release, ==Center Of My Universe==, which she co-produced along with David Leonard (Shawn Colvin, Indigo Girls) will be much more revealing of her as a person.

"We have just finished the new album, and I must say I've enjoyed the process immensely," she says. "There was a synergy between David and myself, musically and technically - he is obviously the technical guy - that made the process easy. The most challenging thing was just being in the studio twelve to thirteen hours a day. That and the fact that I am really tough on myself."

She recounts the time she spent in pre-production without David, when a song just wasn't coming together. "I won't tell you which song," she laughs. "I don't want to upset anyone. But I listened to it and thought, 'This is horrible! I can't stand that!' So we completely redid it, and I am so happy with the outcome. I think the fact that I am so hard on myself really helped."

"==Center Of My Universe== is more intimate than ==Listen==. Hopefully I've opened up a bit more. I want people to feel what I feel about things, because there are things I struggle with in life, and things that I feel passionately about."

"I have struggled a lot with fear in my life," she confesses. "Not fear that the sky is going to fall, but for instance, getting up in front of people. Performing. I mean, you saw me that night (at a local showcase). I was very nervous, and I have been doing this for a couple of years now. And I feel strongly about teenagers, especially teenage girls, growing up with a lack of self-esteem, because I believe that self-esteem comes from God. I'm not talking about a humanistic kind of thing, but the confidence that comes from having a relationship with God."


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