Growing up in Merlin, Ontario, a small Canadian farming community near Chatham, Michelle heard the rhythm & blues and Motown hits coming out of Detroit, just forty‐five minutes away. But especially she heard the strains of country music, since her parents were both country performers. “My earliest memories of music are singing in the car, or spending the weekend with my father after my parents separated and watching him put on a rhinestone‐studded suit to perform in.” As a young girl, she tagged along on countless jobs. “We never were a family band, but I got a lot of inspiration and encouragement from my mother. That’s where my love of country music really began.” After a year of college, studying counseling for the mentally disadvantaged, Michelle set off to tour North America. By 1988, she had released an album in Canada, Do Right By Me, on Savannah Records. Do Right By Me was a major hit in her homeland, with 7 chart singles and sales well over 40,000 copies, and it opened many doors in the United States. The American country music world was impressed, and the new Arista/Nashville label made Michelle one of its flagship artists.
Signing with Arista/Nashville in 1990 , Michelle released her first U.S. album, Michelle Wright, that same year. American audiences responded immediately and enthusiastically to “that girl singer from up North with the snow in her videos,” and her first single, New Kind Of Love, became her first Top Thirty American hit. As she started work on her follow‐up CD for Arista, however, it became increasingly apparent that Michelle needed to spend much more time in Nashville to advance her career, so, in 1991, she relocated to Music City. She continues to reside in Tennessee today. In 1992 Michelle released Now & Then, which spawned the U.S. Top Ten hit at country radio and Number One video at CMT, Take It Like A Man.
The Academy of Country Music named Michelle its Top New Female Vocalist in May, 1993. Michelle catapulted to superstardom in Canada the same year, receiving a total of twelve music industry awards, including the Canadian Country Music Association’s Fans’ Choice Entertainer Of The Year award and double platinum honours for Now & Then. The momentum generated by her next release, The Reasons Why (1994), enabled Michelle to headline a triumphant forty‐city Canadian concert tour during the first quarter of 1995, at that time the most extensive tour in the history of the country music business in Canada. She hosted the 1995 Canadian Country Music Awards and finished the evening in grand style, receiving her second award as the CCMA’s Fans’ Choice Entertainer Of The Year.
In 1996 Michelle released her next Arista/Nashville project, For Me It’s You. Perhaps her most personal album, it reminds Michelle of the important relationship she enjoys with her fans. “For me it is them, because when I get on that stage every night, no matter what’s going on in my world, the audience makes me feel like, for right now, I’m okay, for right now, I’m full of joy.” And Michelle shares that joy. Her devotion to her fans and her love of performing have made her a headline attraction, not only for the public but at major corporate events as well. She has performed at conventions across North America for over forty major corporations, including General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Ford, McDonald’s, Toyota, Cable & Wireless, Bombardier, and Cracker Barrel.
Michelle started to explore her diverse talents and broke new ground along the way. For Me It’s You marked the first time one of Michelle’s own songs, the stirring What Love Looks Like, was made available to her American fans. After co‐hosting the TNN/Music City News Awards show in 1994, and hosting the CCMA Awards in 1995, her ease in front of the camera led to her guest appearance on the syndicated series “Due South.” In 1997 she became the first artist to appear on the cover of the Sears catalog in Canada. At the CCMAs later that year she delivered a show‐stopping, gospel‐tinged rendition of the Curtis Mayfield hit, People Get Ready, accompanied by a fifty‐voice choir. A personal career highlight for Michelle, she reflects, “I still get goose bumps whenever I hear that version.”
Shortly thereafter Michelle had the opportunity to participate in a history‐making project when veteran record producer Michael Blakey invited her to lend her voice to volume one of the Patsy Cline Duets. The album features both legendary and new talent teamed with Cline on some of her most memorable songs. Produced by weaving the contemporary voices into the classic Cline recordings, Michelle duets with Cline on the classic Walkin’ After Midnight. This opportunity continued an association with Cline that began in 1993 when she read letters Patsy had composed on camera in “Remembering Patsy,” the A&E television special commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Cline’s death.
1998 heard Michelle collaborating with pianist Jim Brickman, performing the hit Your Love for release in Canada. The video for Your Love topped the CMT Canada charts, and the CCMA named the single its Vocal/Instrumental Collaboration of the Year. The success of Your Love did not go unnoticed by Brickman’s label, New York‐based Windham Hill Records. The collaboration was included on Brickman’s CD, Destiny, and released to U.S. adult contemporary radio in October, 1999. Your Love became a Top Twenty AC hit in early 2000, Michelle’s best‐performing single in the U.S. since Take It Like A Man.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Michelle marked her ten‐year association with Arista Nashville with the international release of her latest American album, Michelle Wright: The Greatest Hits Collection. The album contained eleven of the songs that shaped Michelle’s career since she signed with Arista. They appeared in near‐chronological order, rolling out the soundtrack of Michelle’s life: New Kind Of Love, All You Really Wanna Do, Take It Like A Man, He Would Be Sixteen, Guitar Talk, Now & Then, One Good Man, Safe In The Arms Of Love, Nobody’s Girl, What Love Looks Like, and The Answer Is Yes. The album also contained five songs never before found on a Michelle Wright album: two new songs co‐written by Michelle, When I Found You and I Surrender, plus Your Love, her gospel version of People Get Ready, and her Walkin’ After Midnight duet with Patsy Cline.
Michelle Wright: The Greatest Hits Collection offered listeners a sonic overview of ten magical years punctuated by highlight after memorable highlight. Michelle is proud of the achievement her Greatest Hits Collection represents. “It felt great to be at that point in my career. Very early on, when I first hit the road with a bunch of guys, crisscrossing North America in an old van, sleeping in the back on top of a couple of Peavey guitar amps, I could only dream about having enough hits to make a greatest hits package. And then there we were.” But the collection is not simply a measure of dreams fulfilled for Michelle: it also chronicles her growth as an artist. “When I listen to the album from start to finish, I can hear my development as a vocalist, and I’m happy with how I’ve grown and how I sound today. And I’m excited by the fact that these days I’m writing most of my new material: in some ways, ironic as this may seem, it makes me feel like I’m just getting started.”
The demands and pressures of stardom have not prevented Michelle from giving back generously to the community. In 1997 the Canadian Country Music Association honored her with its prestigious C.F. Martin Humanitarian Award for her international work on behalf of the Special Olympics movement, her successful fundraising efforts for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chatham, Ontario (the hospital where she was born), and her support for the Province of Manitoba’s flood relief fund. In her hometown region, the Chatham Kent Community Foundation named Michelle its 1997 Honoree, citing her achievements as a major international performing artist and her accomplishments in community service: at a special fundraising dinner, the Foundation unveiled the Michelle Wright rose (a specially‐developed floribunda hybrid) and announced a new street in Chatham named after the smoky‐voiced singer ‐ “Michelle Wright Way.” Michelle traveled to Zambia in June, 2002 to learn firsthand about World Vision’s good works in that aids‐ravaged country; since returning from Africa, she has been an active World Vision artist affiliate, and the loving sponsor of a Zambian family. The 2003 Christmas season saw Michelle visiting eleven Canadian cities as one of the headliners of the Huron Carole tour, a successful endeavor to raise money and groceries for local food banks. In June, 2004 Michelle went to Honduras on her second World Vision mission, and she now sponsors a Honduran family as well.
From her professional beginnings as a teenager to the present day, Michelle has steadily grown into an entertainer of the highest rank and has collected a trophy room full of awards to prove it. Her career is such that opportunity continually blesses her.
Highlights of her touring calendar in the new millennium include her first Australian concerts in 2004, a trip to Afghanistan in 2006 to perform for the Canadian and NATO troops serving there, an annual Christmas tour (I’m Dreaming of a Wright Christmas, now in its ninth year) that is becoming a North American seasonal tradition, performances during 2009 in the United Kingdom and France, and in 2010, the Canada‐wide unveiling of her “WrightSongs” touring concept, which presents Michelle in an intimate acoustic setting.
Michelle’s songwriting activity continues to grow: she signed her first writer’s deal with BMG Music Publishing in Los Angeles in 2001; that same year she received her first songwriting award, presented by SOCAN to mark the multi‐format Canadian radio success of her single, I Surrender. Since then she has co‐written many of her recent hits and her catalogue is currently represented for the world by Casablanca Media in Toronto.
The twenty‐first century has seen five CDs from Michelle generating more sales and more hits: Shut Up and Kiss Me, released by Sony/BMG in 2002; her first Christmas album, A Wright Christmas, released in Canada in 2005 and around the rest of the world on Savannah Music at Christmas time, 2008; her first full album of country material in ten years, Everything And More, released in Canada in July, 2006, and around the rest of the world on Savannah Music in late 2008; the Savannah Music reissue of a remastered and repackaged edition of Do Right By Me across North America in August, 2010 and internationally the following October; and her latest project for Savannah Music, The Wright Songs: An Acoustic Evening with Michelle Wright, a 17‐song collection of many of her hits performed on acoustic instruments and recorded live in Alberta at select venues during 2009 and 2010, released in Canada in late 2011 and internationally in early 2012.
Michelle has also begun to establish herself as a radio personality, launching her first syndicated radio show, The Women of Country with Michelle Wright, in 2005, and as an author, releasing her first book, A Year In The Life: The Journals of Michelle Wright, later the same year.
These days Michelle is happily enjoying her Hall of Fame stature as one of Canada’s great vocalists. But characteristically Michelle is not content to rest on her Hall of Fame laurels: 2012 saw her hard at work writing and recording a new album forworldwide release in 2013. Entitled Strong, the new album features eleven new songs, ten of which are Michelle’s own co‐writes. Michelle also recently treated her fans to a special twenty‐eight date commemorative concert tour, Michelle Wright: Songs From The Halls Tour 2012, which rolled out just after Canadian Thanksgiving. The full‐band presentation featured many of Michelle’s award winning Greatest Hits plus a spectacular collection of world class songs from members of various Halls of Fame whose music – country, pop, soul and rock – has inspired Michelle throughout her career.
During a tour filled with highlights, one particular event stood out: on Friday, November 16, during a sold‐out concert at home in Chatham, Michelle was presented the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her contributions to Canadian culture and civic life. (The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada.) On behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, acknowledged Michelle’s award: “In granting you this honour, I thank you for your dedicated service to your peers, to your community and to Canada. The contributions you have made to our nation are most commendable and deserve our praise and admiration. “I wish to convey to you the heartfelt congratulations of your fellow Canadians, to which I add my own.”
The unquestionable highlight of 2013 for Michelle was the release of her latest album, Strong. Capturing better than ever her distinctive style and expressive voice, Strong showcases Michelle’s remarkable growth as a singer and songwriter ‐ inspired by the perseverance and strength that she has witnessed in friends, family and strangers over the years. Recorded in Ontario and Nashville, the album was produced by Jason Barry (Dean Brody, Terri Clark, Jason Blaine), Eric Silver (Neal McCoy, Ricochet) and Danick Dupelle (Emerson Drive). Michelle’s passion for songwriting has grown with this newest project, for which she co‐wrote 10 of its 11 songs.
“I created this record with a group of friends I admire as writers, singers and producers. We had a lot of fun,” says Michelle. “The songs are a collection of my observations about life and the people around me and how we’re all just stumbling through it. At times there is laughter and joy; at other times, pain and disappointment. Overall, I hope this record is inspiring and relatable to my fans.”
Michelle’s renewed career vigor has not gone unnoticed by her peers, who in 2012 and 2013 nominated her for consideration as the Canadian Country Music Association’s Female Artist of the Year(an award she has won five times previously). She travelled to Saskatchewan to participate in the 2012 CCMA Awards celebration which aired live from Saskatoon on CBC on Sunday, September 9, and helped kick off the Awards Show telecast live from Edmonton in 2013.
Joining Michelle for a welcome trip to the 2012 CCMAs was her proud hubby of eleven years, Marco Convertino. Since marrying Marco in April, 2002 (the first marriage for both), Michelle’s personal life is as satisfying as her professional career, and the future continues to look unquestionably “Wright.”