From his gospel choir roots and his love of acapella music – newcomer Mikky Ekko’s debut LP is a diverse and eclectic take on ‘pop’ music. We caught up with the Nashville Native on the eve of its UK release.
“I’ve been laboring over this child for ages and I’m not saying I know what childbirth feels like but I do know what it feels like to finally get this album off my back” so says Louisana newcomer Mikky Ekko of his debut LP Time – which is set to hit the UK’s not so sunny shores this week.
And whilst the comparisons of debut albums and a first-born might cause some to dismissively shrug their shoulders – what can’t be argued is the quality of the final result.
As bold debuts go, Time is up there with the best of 2015. An eclectic collection of 15 tracks that sit somewhere on the ‘pop music’ spectrum or in the words of Mikky; “If I had to label it, it would probably be ‘Experimental Pop’ because I was experimenting with a lot of different things and a lot of different genres on this album.”
And it’s this diverse mix of sounds – whittled down from around 250 tracks – that make the 15-track debut so impressive. Flexing his proverbial muscles in the musical sense, Mikky’s background is as diverse as one would expect.
Growing up in rural America, he spent much of his youth singing in churches with his preacher father. Something that resulted in a love for acapella music; “That’s actually how I taught myself to write because I couldn’t really play an instrument and I liked the way I did things. A lot of what I did on the front end would be stomps and claps, and then I would sing the bass line and sing what I thought should be the guitar line or the string line. Eventually, I realised there was a style I had there that I really liked.”
Having release a string of critically acclaimed EPs, the choice to take a different approach on his most recent offering was an important one; “I was trying to push myself to the edge of every spectrum and just see how far I could go – it was pretty intense.”
And like all good creative minds, this trip to the edge of the precipice brought about changes both in his approach and in his mindset: “With my previous EPs, it was all very comfortable. I was still very much focused on how it sounded and what kind of world I wanted to create. I wasn’t as focused on reaching people with lyrics so much. With the album though, I was really focused on writing and developing both as an artist and as an individual so that when I look back on these lyrics – I’m able to see where I was on my journey as an artist.”
A real ‘coming of age’ album in that sense, the LP oozes prose and confidence – no more so than in the diverse range of tracks it offers. Something Mikky had to balance in the latter stages of the day: “Some of the last songs I put on there are a bit lighter and but more playful. Because I was like ‘Man – this album is so fucking heavy.’”
Realising it wasn’t a true reflection of his own nature, he chose to add more playful tracks like ‘Love You Crazy’ and ‘Smile’. And this sense of reflection is something that the Louisiana native has carried with him throughout the album writing process: “I think it many ways, the album is both a mirror and a parallel universe. I know I can look in the mirror and see who I see and I know I walk down the street and you see who you see. And in all those ways, I worked to challenge every day the face I saw in the mirror. To try to wrap my head around what I hate about that person, and I need to try and nurture.”
Written over three or so years, the debut journey for Mikky has been somewhat of a tumultuous one but one that’s allowed for growth in massive spurts: “I just feel like I’ve lived 100 lives over the last three years and that was really important for me and my own artistic growth. For any artist, what’s important is the pursuit of growth. And I think part of that is testing your own personal boundaries – both in life and in the creative process.”
So was the album writing process a therapeutic one?
“Definitely. Music is my therapist” says Mikky.
Mikky’s debut album Time is out on September 4th via RCA Records. It will be followed up by a string of UK shows –information on all of which can be found here (link: http://www.mikkyekko.com/)
Words: Max Sanderson