When you’re in the middle of the dark cloud, it’s often hard to see the silver linings. But singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson — who has been making a name for herself since 2007 on the pop and adult contemporary charts with songs like “The Way I Am,” “Maybe,” and “Ghost” — managed to find the upside during a very down time in her life.
If silver linings had a musical equivalent, then you could hear them on Michaelson’s recently released fifth album, “Lights Out.” While there are, as always, plucky tunes laden with harmonies and melodies begging to be sung along with, like current single “Girls Chase Boys” and the driving “Warpath,” there are also darker turns that utilize more of her vocal and emotional range.
“This record is different from every other record in the past, where it was just me writing all the songs, one producer, very much in control of everything,” says Michaelson on the phone from the D.C. stop of her current tour, which comes to a close with two shows at the House of Blues Monday and Tuesday.
“I had a lot of health issues, my parents were ill, my dog died — last year was just a rough year and I needed a lot of help in every way,” says the New York native, who endured serious stomach and throat problems that threatened her voice. “And I let that bleed over into the recording process, and I thought, I’m just going to seek out people I trust and I’m going to write with them and work with them. And it turned out to be this amazing collaboration. I feel like the record feels like a real family affair, and I love that so much.”
Members of that extended family — which included six producers, 10 co-writers, and several duet partners — include longtime friends and collaborators like producers Dan Romer and Chris Kuffner and her husband, fellow singer-songwriter Greg Laswell. But Michaelson also picked up a slew of new names for the liner notes, including Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King, Nashville songwriters Trent Dabbs and Barry Dean, and producers Katie Herzig and Cason Cooley.
“I think having some fresh blood but also some old friends really invigorated her,” says Kuffner, who co-produced and plays on several tracks, and has known Michaelson since they were teenagers. “The more that you stretch out where you’re drawing inspiration from, the more inspiration you’ll draw.”
Kuffner says he also encouraged Michaelson to step out vocally on the tracks he produced. When she did, particularly on the deeply emotional “Handsome Hands,” he was gratified not only as her producer but also as her friend to watch her exorcise her pain.
“It was incredible, and I feel very thankful that I was able to be there for her in that time — not just as a friend who was listening and giving advice, but also as a musical channel to help her say what she wanted,” Kuffner says. “And to watch her access those emotions was very profound.”
That song also holds particular meaning for Michaelson.
“They’re whatever you think of God is,” she says of the “Handsome Hands” imagery. “I’m not a religious person. I really don’t know what I am. But when you go through a year as trying as I did, you can’t help but search for something larger than yourself.”
Michaelson knows the song — a moving ballad that begins coolly soft and builds to a boiling howl — isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
“There are some songs that you do for the audience and some songs you do just because you love to do them, and we love to do that song, so we have an awesome time onstage and I feel like that comes across,” says Michaelson of letting loose. “But I do feel like it perplexes some people. And I’m playing the Omnichord and it’s very dark. It was a song that a lot of people said, ‘We love this song, but does it fit on the record?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really care,’” she says with a laugh. “I do listen to my team and to other people, because I can’t live in a vacuum. But this one song is too important in my evolution as a person and as an artist to not put [it on the album.]”
Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, who constitute the group A Great Big World, appear on another emotional track, “Over You,” and have looked to their buddy Michaelson as their own career begins to take off.
“Ingrid’s inspired us more than anything, just seeing how she’s gotten to where she’s gotten,” says Vaccarino. “It’s so amazing to see that you can do it independently.” The pair hope to perform the tune with her when they share the House of Blues stage on Tuesday.
‘I had a lot of health issues, my parents were ill, my dog died — last year was just a rough year.’
“I know it was lightning in a bottle but I want to do the exact same thing again,” says Michaelson of the collaborative process that resulted in “Lights Out.”
“It was very frightening to not be able to sing,” she says of her illness. “But I am on the mend, and I feel better emotionally. Life is very difficult, and there are moments where it can sink you, and if you can surround yourself with great energy and good people you can get through it. You can get through anything with help.”Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman