McKenna Michels is an Austin-based singer/songwriter, who can trace the origins of her vibrant imagination and love for music to her grandmother, who surrounded a young Michels with classical music, Broadway tunes and Disney musicals. Michels discovered her own musical talent when she would sing along to her personal favorites, like The Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin.
The Austin-based artist’s musical universe was expanded when she was introduced to Lady Gaga, Adele, and Japanese pop/Vocaloid, Against the backdrop of an abusive environment in her mother’s home, Michels began to formally study piano and voice, joining the choir in middle school — and building a foundation as a songwriter by spending hours each day experimenting with keyboard melodies and writing poetry that helped her make sense of the complicated emotions she felt at the time. When she was 16, she wrote her first song.
Interestingly, Michels developed a reputation as a talented opera singer, who performed at The Kennedy Center back in 2017. She wound up stepping away from music temporarily to study technology. But feeling overwhelmed and desperately in need of a way to come to terms with her childhood experiences, the Austin-based artist sought refuge in songwriting. The songs came pouring out. From that point onward, she stared writing vulnerable and earnest stories rooted in her own journey through heartbreak and abuse, and coming out of the other side resilient, hopeful and rediscovering the beauty and need for human connection. This is paired with a vocal delivery informed by pop, R&B and rock.
After performing her original songs at a local club, Michels fully committed herself to pursuing a career in music, and to using her music to continue to heal herself and others. Her debut single. the Jon Muq-produced, Lauren Michels co-written “Tired” appeared on her debut EP Renaissance. “Tired” debuted at #30 and peaked at #21 on the Mediabase chart.
Building upon a growing profile, the Austin-based released her full-length, Jon Muq-produced debut Enlightenment earlier this year. Enlightenment‘s lead single “Broken Like This” landed at #20 on the Adult Contemporary Charts. The album’s second single, the slow-burning and sultry, murder/revenge ballad “Born To Die” was released this past June and debuted at #25 on the Adult Contemporary Charts.
The Nick Peterson-directed video for “Born to Die” premiered as a short film on iHorror.com and amassed over 60,000 views during the first three days of its release, with the video eventually earning over one million views overall. The video was an official selection at this year’s Shockfest, Deep Focus Film Festival, and Screamfest. It won Best Music Video at this year’s California International Shorts Festival and landed a Best Music Video nomination nod at Filmquest.
The Austin-based artist celebrated the success of “Born to Die” with a Jason Nevins-produced remix of the song that pairs Michels’ sultry vocals with tweeter and woofer rattling, industrial-like thump, bluesy, reverb-drenched bursts of guitar, twinkling keys and bursts of soaring, cinematic strings. While retaining the brooding and eerie air of the original, the remix turns the song into a timeless, stormy psych soul bop that pulls out the bluesy elements into the forefront.
“My message in ‘Born to Die’ is for people to never give up because there is life at the end, no matter how many people it feels like are against you or don’t believe you,” explains Michels.
Directed by Nick Peterson, the accompanying lyric video deconstructs the imagery of the original and turns into a horror-themed bit of pop art, centered around the themes of the song and its original video.