Ingrid Michaelson turns tragedy into lyrics

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson performs in concert at the Electric Factory on Friday, May 30, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

When Ingrid Michaelson was recording what has become one of her biggest hits, "Girls Chase Boys," with its video homage to Robert Palmer, she was pulling herself out of a pit of despair.

"I never stopped because I knew if I stopped for a minute I would be laid out," Michaelson told CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason.

The 34-year-old singer said she wrote the song while she was crying in a bathroom because she was in pain and battling Graves' disease. In the end, however, she said "it worked out alright."

"At the end of the session, I remember doing the demo, and as soon as we finished I burst into tears," Michaelson said.

Her 6th album "Lights Out" debuted at No. 5 and has received some of her best reviews ever. But while working on the album, her dog died and both her parents became seriously ill. In August, Michaelson's mother, who had undergone a bone marrow transplant, lost her battle with cancer.

When Mason met her, not long after Michaelson had tattooed a tribute to her parents on her arm, she was still grieving.

"This interview, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I said, 'I'm not going to say no,'" Michaelson said. "You feel like a different human."

Her perspective on "everything" changed.

"So in my first show after she passed, in Nashville, which was only a week later, every word that came out of my mouth, I was like, 'This song means something completely different.' My voice sounded different. The way I looked at people in the audience felt not bad, not good, just different," Michaelson said.

"It's very tragic," she added. "But there is a beauty in the metamorphosis of losing a parent, especially with the bond that she and I had. I was like a mini her. She looked at me as like a little her, you know."

Her mother, Elizabeth Egbert, was a sculptor and museum president. When Michaelson was admitted to New York University to study acting, she told her mother, "It's too much money. We don't have this money. And she said, 'We'll turn the heat down in winters.' That's what she says to me."

The lyrics on "Lights Out" on songs like "Wonderful Unknown" wrestle with mortality.

The album, Michaelson said, is all about her mom.

"And I have a feeling the next one's going to be, too," she said, laughing. "So thanks for the inspiration."

The latest song from "Lights Out" is called "Afterlife."

"Living like your dying isn't living at all," the lyrics say. "Give me your cold hands. Put them on my heart."

Michaelson is finding an afterlife without her mother.

"So, I think there's something really beautiful about living in her honor and choosing to do things with her always in my heart and always sort of on my shoulder," Michaelson said. "Yeah, that's what I'm trying to do."