Born into a family headed by two Haitian ministers, Mikaelle was exposed to music at an early age. From years of home-schooling where classical music was played throughout the day, to singing in church choir, music was always there.
Encouraged by her family to sing and play guitar, Mikaelle headed a school band and performed in theatrical groups throughout her teenage years. Her voracious appetite for music pushed her to pursue music classes, and join a musical troupe that performed Show Tunes and Jazz standards during her university years in Florida. Upon her return to Haiti after completing a degree in International Affairs, she would return to find work but soon turned to music as her side gig.
In 2010, everything would change as the earth shook for those 30 seconds. Surviving the earthquake would rouse her musicians’ soul and prompt her to make music her fulltime commitment. She formed a band called “Kayel” in the summer of 2010 and soon they had steady gigs around Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their style ranged from Jazz and Bossa Nova standards, to Soft Rock and Funky versions of popular songs.
In 2012, a new door opened when Tele Metropole, a local Haitian TV station, invited her to host a show that would cover cultural events and the vivid nightlife of Port-au-Prince. During the two years that followed, she made important contacts and her popularity soared as the show became one of the countries’ top rated weekly shows.
During her time in television, her music career suffered and in 2014 she had to choose between the two. She chose to leave television and rekindle her passion for music. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Mikaelle travelled to New York in the summer of 2015 and decided to stay to pursue her musical career in the city that never sleeps.
Her EP of Folk and World music is in the works, as she continues to perform and make a name for herself.
When you see Mikaelle Aimée Cartright perform, you will instantly fall in love with her. Her voice, style and the joyful spirit she invests in each song.
Haitianbeatz had the opportunity to have a small chat with the young songstress:
HB- When and why did you start playing music?
MC- I grew up in a very musical family, plus there was church and being home schooled which played a big role in forming my musical tastes. I would listen to the radio and learn all the popular songs by Mariah, Whitney, Shania Twain, KC and Jojo and Boys to Men.
I took Piano lessons for a few years, never cared for it, picked up the guitar at 16.
Music was something I could understand, I felt connected to it naturally. And with the encouragement from the family, it was just always part of my life. I didn’t decide to be a fulltime musician till after the 2010 earthquake. I was 22/23 years old by then. I heard a very clear voice in my head a few days after the quake… it came on like a light. I was basically told by “Above” that I would not be effective in living my soul purpose if I kept working “regular” jobs, doing the 9-5. So I dropped everything to start a band and started using my talents to forge my way through life. Since then I've found that my life is about so much more than music, but music is the key that will open all other doors.
HB- Which instruments do you play besides singing?
MC-The guitar and I'm working on the accordion.
HB- What was the first song you performed in front of an audience?
MC- “Mon seule abri cest toi” a beautiful church song sung in a round. My dad played and sang it with me one Sunday at church when I was about 10. We’d practiced at home weeks before but I didn’t know we were going to be able to do it that day. He called me up and I was freaking out. I felt unprepared, but it ended up being better than expecting it the whole time… People liked it, next thing I knew, I was in the choir and the rest is history.
HB- Is your family musical?
MC- Very. Growing up, we were homeschooled so there was a lot of classical music and instrumental 60’s tunes being played from vinyl records in the house, all day. My parents are Protestant ministers. My mother directed the choir in the church and my dad played guitar. At 14 my sister started singing opera; she went on to receive a degree in classical music for voice and Music Education. It goes back to my mom’s dad though who would play lots of music in the home and sung in a choir for years. My mom says that she would’ve loved to be a jazz singer, she loves to sing. She has a very pretty voice and is great at arranging music. She feels like shes getting to live vicariously through me. I have a younger brother who is a writer, he used to play guitar; he got to be really good. His songs are amazing.
HB- Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
MC- Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion: They can sing anything.
John Mayer: have you hear the man play the guitar? And his songs, omg!
Coldplay: have you heard their music. Its just so beautiful.
India Arie: Her songs say everything that matters in life. The guitar work is so soulful.
Sarah Mclaughlin/Corinne Bailey Rae: their songs. Go listen and tell me they aren’t life changing.
The Great Jazz Songstresses Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Astrud Gilberto: The songs they sang, the struggles they came up from, their enduring influence… I wanted to be them, I learned many of the vocal standards and now I can sing what they sang. A wonderful challenge.
HB- Which famous musicians have you learned from?
MC- All of the ones that I mentioned above
HB- How would you describe your musical style for someone who have never heard your music before?
My musical style is Folk with Jazz influences. Beautiful melodies over simple chords.
HB- What are your fondest musical memories?
MC- -Playing the International Jazz fest of port au prince…
University Choir Medieval show.
-The singing troupe I was a part of in college that performed Valentine’s Day, Winter/Christmas, Show tunes, and 40’s Jazz themed shows.
-My band in Haiti playing every Wednesday at a beautiful restaurant in Port-au-Prince.
- Making the Video for “Before and After” with Kreyol La.
HB- Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
MC- Not all the time, but I do get nervous sometimes. Example: when there’s a big crowd or a very educated musical crowd. I get super nervous singing in front of seasoned musicians.
I’ll get very anxious the day of a show especially if the event is poorly planned and I don’t have all the details, but mostly I’ll get nervous if I don’t feel completely comfortable with the material I’ll be performing. Sometimes I have a really hard time functioning if something big is coming up. If it’s a small place and I have two hours to do my thing I'm good. When I only have one song or two to make my mark and there are other performers present, I feel very intimidated and nervous.
HB- How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
MC- I stay calm and keep going, I close my “inside eyes”, block out the crowd and get back on track.
HB- What is a typical day like for you?
MC- I sleep late normally so I get up late (after 10am), get online and check social media, answer emails, send emails. Some days are for doing laundry, cleaning my room, etc. On a practice day, I’ll spend hours printing and building song lists, memorizing lyrics, and guitar chords.
Some days I walk to the store and get groceries. I cook often. That’s one of my favorite things to do. That and the eating part of course.
HB- I know you had relocated to Haiti, do you still live in Haiti? If yes why did you move back?
MC- Let me clarify… I grew up in Port-au-Prince. I moved back because Haiti after four years of university because Haiti is home. It will always be. Went straight back because I didn’t want what the U.S. or anywhere else had to offer. I wanted to be a responsible adult in my country. I wanted to experience the realities as an adult and not a child under my parents’ wings. I wanted to live the reality so that I could become an effective leader. So, in essence, I moved back because that’s what I wanted.
I am in New York for now to expand my horizons, take on new challenges, and get some things together so that I can go back home and make a difference. I know exactly what I want to do now, well, I think I know what I should do, what I can do to lead and bring about positive change in the country.
HB- Is Cartright your married name or family name?
MC- (I don’t appreciate the way this question is phrased… If you want to know if I'm married or not you should just ask that. You’d never ask a man that question) Bref…
Cartright is my family name. Some Englishmen long ago left England and landed in the Turk and Caicos and later the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti. Let's just say they created a pretty big family tree along the way.
HB- LOL...the reason for asking the question is because I've never met a Haitian with that last name, so I thought, it could me a married name. You attended school in the States, what did you study?
MC- Fortunately my parents never expected us to walk the beaten path. My older sister, younger brother and I were free to choose our careers. Their only guideline was that we try to find God’s will for our lives and that we live to His Glory.
I ended up going in for Civil Engineering then switching to International Affairs. Calculus whooped my butt, so I quit. Good thing too cause the degree in International Affairs gave me a vast understanding of World Systems. It brought out the activist I was born to be.
HB- What is your definition of success?
MC- Doing what you planned on doing even if you didn’t do it how you thought you were going to do it. Success is also feeling fulfilled and happy in life, at peace with yourself and others.
HB- Do you think you are successful?
MC- Sure, I'm doing my thing. It’s happening. I'm thriving as I follow my passion so, yes, I feel very successful.
HB- What are your plans for the future?
MC- Record lots of music, play music for many different types of people in many different places, stay healthy and active, inspire young people to find their true purpose, make a change in Haiti by creating volunteer-based tutoring, gardening, and environmental protection programs with points and incentives to get kids involved in helping others.
HB- If someone wants to follow you, where should they go?
MC- Instagram/Twitter: Mikaelle_Aimee
FB Pages/Youtube/Soundcloud: Mikaelle Aimee Cartright : )
HB- Any final words?
MC- My final word or words are: “Don’t stop, get it get it.”