INTERVIEW: Demi Michelle Discusses The Release Of Her Own Take On “If I Die Young”!

Singer-songwriter, producer & podcast host Demi Michelle shares her own riveting version of “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry.

Marking her second cover version following the success of the heartfelt take on “Homecoming Queen” by Kelsea Ballerini. Demi unveils a rendition of “If I Die Young” that carries a unique connection & fills a void of anticipation between the highly acclaimed ‘It Is What It Is’ EP & her next exciting project.

Demi has kindly taken the time to speak with Fierce & Fabulous Revolution regarding the release of her take on “If I Die Young” & the creative journey that led to its release. You can find the full interview below.

Hi Demi. Thank you for this interview. Can you start by introducing yourself to readers unfamiliar with your music? 

Demi: Hi, everyone! I’m a songwriter and recording artist from Pittsburgh, PA. My primary genres are pop and country, and I enjoy exploring new styles and genre flavours in my music. As a songwriter, I believe authenticity is extremely important, so all my songs are rooted in my emotions and personal experiences. 

Along with my music, I’m the host of Write on Track: A Songwriting Podcast. This show turns two years old on May 30, which is my birthday as well. When I’m not creating music or having amazing conversations with guests on my podcast, I’m chasing my other dream as an author, currently seeking literary representation by an agent for my young adult fiction. So, all in all, I’m a super creative person and love everything I do. 

How would you currently describe your musical style? 

Demi: I’m a pop and country songwriter for the most part, so my music typically hits somewhere along that spectrum, sometimes leaning country, sitting right in the middle with pop-country, or going full contemporary pop. Right now, I’m returning to my pop roots with the new songs I’m recording. My next project will be pop, like Dear Diary, but obviously a step beyond since I’ve changed a lot over the past two years. 

My new music is more direct, fierce, and unapologetic. Songwriting is my way of processing my emotions and experiences, and lately, I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone and writing about topics I’ve never explored in my music before. So, no matter what genre my music falls into, the common thread is my story and authenticity. It’s my hope that writing about deeper universal concepts and situations will give a voice to those who need to be seen and heard. 

You just released your own version of “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry. How did the idea to perform your own version come together? 

Demi: Wow, this is quite the story. When I was in my sophomore year of undergrad, I took a voice class focusing on singing different genres. When we got to country, I was nervous because this was during the time when I wasn’t a huge country music fan. I had to choose a country song to perform, and I honestly had no clue which to do. 

While I was in another class, music theory, my friends were tossing out different ideas, and I was eavesdropping on their conversation to see if I recognized any. One of them mentioned “If I Die Young,” and a lightbulb went off in my head. I pulled the song up on YouTube before class started, and as soon as it started playing, I knew that was the song I wanted to do. 

Since this was also at the time when I wasn’t the best at guitar, I performed “If I Die Young” with the instrumental track during my voice class. The positive response I received gave me a lot of confidence and made me start to wonder if my voice was suited for country music. 

The story continues when the Music Therapy Club hosted an open mic toward the end of October, not long after I sang “If I Die Young” in my class. My friends encouraged me to perform at the open mic, and since it was near Halloween, I wore a white dress and angel wings. Even though I wasn’t super confident with guitar at this time, I gained the courage to accompany myself, and “If I Die Young” became the first country song I ever played live with guitar. 

Once I started my artist journey, “If I Die Young” quickly became one of my favorite songs to cover during live shows. Over the years, I’ve naturally developed my own way of singing it. So, when I decided to release another cover song, “If I Die Young” was a solid choice. 

Did you always plan to release your own version of “If I Die Young” to the world? 

Demi: No, as a songwriter, it’s rare for me to release a cover song at all. “If I Die Young” is my second. Still, since I’m working on music for my next project, I wanted something to release late in the spring to carry into summer. I won’t be releasing a single off my next project until the fall most likely, so I didn’t want to go too long without new music. Since “Homecoming Queen” performed so well last year, I thought sharing another cover song would be a good idea to fill in the space between my projects and also mix things up a bit while I finish what I’m hoping will be a new album. 

This marks your second cover following the success of your rendition of “Homecoming Queen” by Kelsea Ballerini. What are some of the creative differences you found while working on this new release? 

Demi: I love this question! Since I’m a songwriter first, I feel I’m in a unique position while doing covers. Instead of only approaching the song from an artist standpoint, I have a songwriter perspective. With both “Homecoming Queen” and “If I Die Young,” I imagined how I wanted the song to be if I was the songwriter. For “Homecoming Queen,” that meant writing my own bridge, since if you know me, I love bridges and the original doesn’t have one. Aside from that, I performed it in a style that felt authentic to me, from melodic choices to the arrangement. Since “Homecoming Queen” is a newer song, I didn’t feel as much pressure with that one. “If I Die Young” is a whole other story. 

“If I Die Young” is one of the most popular country songs in my opinion. It’s been covered so many times, so it was even more important for me to make it my own. I put more thought into the arrangement than I did for “Homecoming Queen,” and I had a ton of conversations with my musicians and producer to bring it to life in the way we did. 

I’m so proud of how my rendition turned out, and it feels natural for me, since I brought it to the studio the way I would’ve if it had been one of my songs. I made many changes that mark it as a unique rendition. First, I changed the key and added a modulation before the last chorus. Key changes are so powerful and effective when used well, and I felt adding one in this song would work extremely nicely. Also, I slowed the tempo just a bit, tweaked the chord progression in places, and obviously made melodic and harmonic choices that fit my artistic style. 

One of my favourite things about my version is how it opens with only piano and my voice before layering the other instruments. It was so much fun composing my original accompaniment for the song, and it brings a personal flavour from the start. Piano is my main instrument, so it’s always special recording live piano in the studio. I had a blast arranging my rendition of “If I Die Young,” and I’m so excited to have gotten the chance to give my own spin to such an incredible country favourite. 

What does this song personally mean to you? 

Demi: As I shared earlier, “If I Die Young” was the first country song I performed live with guitar, so it holds a special place in my heart in terms of how far I’ve come since the open mic. Beyond that, I feel this song has a beautiful message, if you look beneath the sad story Kimberly wrote about. This song does something that all great songs do; it makes you think and reflect. In that reflection, there’s the truth that we never know what tomorrow holds. Making every day meaningful and living life to the fullest is all we can really do. That’s a choice we have to make because there’s no way of knowing when the sun will set for us. “If I Die Young” speaks about this reality in a way that resonates with country music fans worldwide and hopefully serves as a reminder to celebrate every day and make the most of every moment.  

Do you have any new musical releases or gigs planned in the near future that you can currently share with us? 

Demi: I’m working hard to finish my next project. Four of the songs are recorded, and I’m hoping to have seven. I can’t give specifics at the moment because things are in the early stages, but you can definitely expect new original music when the time is right and the full project in 2024. 

As for gigs, I’m excited to be scheduled for four dates this summer at the farmers market where I live. I was part of the market last year, and it was a ton of fun. I’m hoping to book more performances as well. 

Also, I’ll be doing some travelling this year too for music awards. I’m a finalist in five categories for the ISSA Awards taking place in Atlanta this August, and I received three nominations for the Josie Music Awards being held at the Grand Ole Opry House in October. 

What advice would you offer to someone who was looking to pursue a career in the music industry? 

Demi: Be authentic! I say this all the time. It’s so, so important. Whether you’re pursuing songwriting, a role on the business side, or anything in between, being authentic and staying true to who you are couldn’t be more essential. The best way to stand out is to be unapologetically you. There is a lot of chatter in the industry. You’ll have people try to change you and tell you they know what’s best for your journey. Through all of this, listen to your heart and follow it. 

Finally, is there a message that you would like to share with readers of Fierce & Fabulous Revolution? 

Demi: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this interview. I loved talking about “If I Die Young” and more. I truly appreciate you taking time to listen to my story, and I hope you’ll follow my journey to see what’s next. Sending lots of love! 

You can check out “If I Die Young” on Spotify below or on more platforms here.

Demi Michelle: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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