Mikky Ekko has got it going on in both senses of the words: he racks up plaudits from in-the-know critics, working with producers like Clams Casino, and gets to sing with megastars like Rihanna. The Louisiana boy lets us onto the ride.
Your real name’s John Stephen Sudduth, so where does Mikky Ekko come from?
I wanted a name that was phonetically simple to start. It’s a pretty long story so, to chalk it up, I’ll say there is a duality in the name, for me, that is present in my own life. I like the idea of building something as a reflection to help me understand my self and the world around me. When I travel I spend a lot of time contemplating my life, but I also try not to take myself too seriously. I think the name(and the music) shares that sentiment.
Your dad’s a preacher. Was church music a big influence on you growing up?
For sure. My parents both sing and were a big part of the music in the smaller churches. In many ways, growing up in church taught me how reverent music can be. When you grow up around anything, it can be difficult to process it all until you are able to broaden your perspective. I feel like I’ve only just begun to revisit those memories and I’m learning to weave experiences into my music in my own way.
How is work on your album going? What can we expect from it?
The album is coming along! I’ve learned tons from the guys I’ve been working with. Mostly trying not to squander the opportunity I’ve got. The album will be pretty diverse when it’s all said and done. I think that was the idea behind using a few different people/personalities. I’m into a lot of different stuff, so I use those guys as sounding boards for my ideas and creative storyboarding. It’s lovely getting to make art with producers this talented.
How did your collaboration with Rihanna come about? What is she like to work with?
Haha. It’s pretty wild. Still no one knows how Rihanna heard the song. She did, though, and here we are a few months later. She is great, though! I met her in LA and we spoke for a little while. Her schedule is insane! I thought I was busy, and the whole experience has put a lot of things in perspective. I gained some serious respect for her work ethic. I mean, 7 albums in 7 years? Who does that? Anyway, she was super cool, super sweet.
Are you ready for the attention that doing a song with Rihanna will inevitably bring?
I suppose I’m honored to be receiving any attention. It’s an interesting new headspace. At the moment I’m really focused on my own record, so I haven’t had a ton of time for it to sink in. I sort of feel lucky for that, as it’s kept me grounded along the way. Still a ton of work to do.
She did a SNL performance of the track on her own, do you have any plans to perform the song together live?
You work a lot with producer Clams Casino, what’s your relationship with him like?
He and I have become good friends. He’s a great guy, really down to earth and crazy talented. I love working with friends. I love collaborating. In the same way we check up on each other to hear new tracks etc, I was calling him up the day after the superstorm hit NY to make sure he was alright.
How do you feel about the label hipster R&B, which has been attached to your work?
Haha umm… I wouldn’t ever call it that, but people need labels to describe things, so that doesn’t bother me. My goal ultimately is to create a sound that is uniquely mine. As my influences drift in and out I imagine there will be a few different genre/labels before it’s all said and done. Either way I’ll keep doing my thing and then I’ll leave it to the people to call it what they want. The ones who are really listening will make it their own. As I see it, that’s sort of all I can do right now.
Words: Siobhan Frew