By Bianca Silva
For Mikaelle Aimee Cartright, music is the vessel that gives her purpose. The Haitian-born singer was exposed to music from a young age through her parents, who are both ministers and encouraged her to learn to sing and pick up instruments. These days, she’s residing in Jersey City, New Jersey where she moonlights as a bartender at Harry’s Daughter when not performing.
Cartright speaks to The Haitian Times on the music that’s shaped her into the artist she is today and what to expect next.
What artists did you grow up listening to? What artists are you listening to now?
I grew up listening to a lot of classical music from Mozart to Liszt, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Chopin. We weren’t allowed to listen to secular music in my home so we heard a lot of jazz tunes and 60s music but it was all instrumental. The Beatles were a favorite [of mine]. I didn’t know it was them until much later. I would sneak a radio into the bed after bedtime and listen to Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, and Shania Twain. I knew every song. I also got into rock and pop. John Mayer, Coldplay and India Arie were some of my favorites too. I got into jazz vocal standards around the age of 19 and it was over. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitz, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington — they became everything to me.
I listen to classical music or jazz stations on the radio when I’m driving, at home or on YouTube’s deep, dark folk playlists. I don’t know many of the artists’ names but Billie Ellish, Bon Iver, Hozier are in there. Anything like Death Cab for Cutie or the Postal Service. I’m also going back and listening to Haitian Folklore songs because I dig rasin music. I’m super late, but I’m absorbing it.
You grew up in a musical household but did not pursue music full-time until after the 2010 earthquake. Why did you feel that the earthquake was the catalyst that led you to pursue a musical career?
I could have died so I felt like I had a purpose and a mission to accomplish. Honestly, I actually heard a voice in my head tell me: “Quit your job and go live your life’s purpose. You are of no use in this field. You have to live your purpose.”
Too many people died during the earthquake. My job at a telecommunications company was unfulfilling and totally serving the image of the company instead of people’s needs. People were turning to vices to deal with the pain. I wanted to heal people with music, the best of all vices.
At the time I thought it was specifically music but now I know I’m meant to work in film [and] documentaries creating educational content.
Do you have any new projects that could be released this year?
I have a lot of great music coming out this year. I’m trying to do it right. I have to get visual media content to support the song so even if it’s not a video, it will be some type of cover art.
What advice do you have for those who want to be musicians?
Be good at what you do. Actually study music. Join a choir or learn a lot of songs. Take lessons from people who know what they’re doing. And always follow your creativity. It will lead you somewhere. The point isn’t to be Beyonce or Rihanna. Success is living and getting paid for your mind, your knowledge and for what you bring to the table. Always bring something to the table, always bring a good attitude. Never be a superstar.