Singer and Songwriter, Michelle Bonilla has captured our hearts for over 5 years making music that not only glorifies God but remains relatable to our generation. The wife and mother is currently gearing up towards a new release and I got a chance to interview her. Enjoy it
YADA: It has been two years since you released “In Spite of Me”. How has the journey being for you?
MICHELLE: The Journey has been incredible and very challenging at the same time. It feels like for the first time in ten years of ministry I am really beginning to live out this calling to be a musician-ary. I have always felt that I was called to use my art form to keep promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to many who feel hopeless all over the world. So having had the opportunity to go to Africa and the UK in 2011 to continue sharing music from Phenomenal and In Spite of Me was a dream come true! It was a blessing seeing people’s hearts turn to God in worship. For me to be a part of that experience was truly humbling. I realized that I am just a small part of God’s big plan and if people get to experience HIM through my music then I am doing my job!
YADA: What does 2012 have in store for you?
MICHELLE: Since coming back from the tour in Africa and the UK, I have dived into creating new music. I was so inspired by the amazing sounds of Africa that I cannot wait to put it all in the new music. My heart is still in Africa and the people’s stories and life experiences have moved me deeply. I truly cannot wait to express their stories in my songs as well. While working on music, I am taking the time to continue studying to hopefully go to Law school. I am also working on a program for girls and trying to find a little bit of time to spend with my family and friends. As an artist, my schedule can become so cluttered it is difficult to see the people I love! But Family is super important to me so I’m making the time!
YADA: How has your music evolved from Phenomenal to In Spite of Me and to this very point?
MICHELLE: Musically, I am always looking to challenge myself and grow to the next level. So therefore, I am always placed in uncomfortable situations that cause me to have to dig deeper, pray harder and learn faster to really put out quality music. It is so important to me that I present the best project I can with the resources available to me. I realize that our generation needs to be inspired with words that are full of a hope not of this world but with hope that satisfies the soul and heals the spirit. I can only offer that through music that is Christ centered. In Spite of me was a great effort but I want to keep growing so that this new record will be better than the last. I want it to be a blessing and hopefully have it be a life-changing record for those who hear it.
YADA: How would you describe your sound?
MICHELLE: My music has been called many things; the latest is “Urban Contemporary”. I just call it good music (LAUGHS)! I am Puerto Rican & Dominican so my Caribbean/Latin roots are there, and I was born and raised in New York City so I was exposed to many different styles of music. I would like to think the music I do is eclectic yet current for our generation and timeless enough to effect a generation to come. Since I am a blend of cultures, my music reflects that and is a blend of Latin, Pop, Soul and Hip-Hop. I like my music to be fun and inspiring so that others will be encouraged and uplifted when they hear it!
YADA: Who were your musical influences growing up?
MICHELLE: I have so many! This is never a fair question! But here are some of my favorites: Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Ella Fitzgerald, Celia Cruz, Juan Luis Guerra, Hector Lavoe, U2, Steven Curtis Chapman, Toby Mac and the list can truly continue!
YADA: Can you describe your creative process?
MICHELLE: Writing a song for me can happen in a few ways. I can be inspired and hear the lyrics and the melody on the spot (that is what I call Divine inspiration). It feels like God literally dropped the entire song in my mind and heart! Other times, which happen most often I’m in the studio with my husband writing to a track that’s already been produced and we are coming up with concepts and melodies that I’m inspired by. I can also just be inspired by someone’s story and recall the emotion in which they told that story and I will put that to a melody and write around that melody. In any case, the creative process while fun is also taxing on me emotionally. I really leave my heart on a record and a lot of times I’m forced to be vulnerable before God, before my husband and before anyone else in the recording studio—It’s definitely not fun to cry in front of people I don’t know. Now you know the truth-I am very connected to all of my songs.
YADA: What would you say is the state of gospel music today
MICHELLE: This seems to be a loaded question, with probably many answers. However, if I were to just stick to the musicality piece of this question, I believe that just like with what is happening in the secular music industry, Gospel music is also changing. Gospel has more styles and is more diverse today than it has ever been. To be honest with you, I am glad for the diversity! I am a music lover and to me I am always excited to hear new artists with their own interpretations of music.
YADA: Describe a day in the life of Michelle.
MICHELLE: You don’t really want to know the answer that question do you?? (LAUGHS) My day can start at 6:30am most times and I do not get to bed until 12:30am most nights. What am I doing? WORKING! All day (LAUGHS)! I’m and independent artist and a wife!! I get up, pray, clean, shower, have my breakfast, get to work where I work with traumatized individuals who need counseling services, get to the gym, go straight to meetings for the ministry, work on new music for my new records and any other track people have contracted me to sing, hit the studio, rehearse for concerts, work on my girls program, prepare presentations to speak, answer interview questions for any publication, like I’m doing right now lol! Somewhere in there I try to make time for family and friends…whew!!! And that still isn’t everything!! ( I can’t imagine what life will be like with kids! Yikes!)
YADA: Any international tours coming soon? Probably a visit to Nigeria
MICHELLE: Not yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on any yet, I’m just really focusing on new music, but once the new record is done, I will definitely plan another tour and I truly hope Nigeria is on the map this next time around!
YADA: Final word for our readers
MICHELLE: I guess you can say that I am looking forward to 2013 and what it holds! I know that whatever God’s plan is I am praying for growth and the opportunity to keep sharing the Gospel through music to the nations! I am excited about getting to meet new friends in Nigeria and elsewhere. I am grateful for my husband-the love of my life, my family and close friends. I would not be anywhere without them. God is so amazing and He truly knows what He’s doing. His plans are greater than mine and His ways are not my own. I have learned to keep my trust in God no matter what I see. I could never have imagined my life going this far but I am so glad I’m right where God wants me to be.
Current songs on your playlist: Anything By Kierra Sheard and Kim Burrell. Anything by Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, The Beatles, Esperanza Spalding-I stay listening to classics from the Soul era! (1960s and 70s!) & Jazz! I love Jazz music!
Last movie you saw: “Courageous”, And I’m waiting to see “The Avengers” when it comes out! I love Marvel Comic book movies!
Last book you read: Ordering Your Private World By: Gordon MacDonald
TV series you watching now: I was trying to keep up with episodes of “The Voice”, but I kept missing them because I don’t have time to watch TV!
Mentor: I have a few people in my life that I look up to-my mom, and my two other spiritual moms
Favourite Pastime: Going running! I love running outdoors! It relaxes me and helps me to stay in shape!
Michelle is ready to release a new album but needs your help. Click the image below for more information.