Misty Miller arrived in Manchester on the final date of her tour in support of latest record, Sweet Nothing. It’s a release that really bares it’s soul and AMBY caught up with the twenty year old artist from South London to discuss the record as well as that infamous festival appearance at The Great Escape when Misty turned it up to eleven!
AMBY: Welcome back to Manchester. Tonight’s the last show of the current tour. Any particular highlights?
MM: I think to be honest the highlight was probably the first gig we did in London because it was the biggest crowd I’ve had in just for me… we were all really excited, we had a lot of energy, I hadn’t played for almost five months I think so there was just something magic about that.
AMBY: What do you most enjoy about touring?
MM: My favourite thing is performing. That’s just the best part. My problem with touring is there’s a lot of waiting around and there’s a lot of sitting in buses so the actual half an hour you get on stage is what it’s all for. That’s why I’m a musician. It’s purely to perform. It’s my favourite part of the job.
AMBY: And any pet peeves when you’re on tour?
MM: Waiting! It sounds awful and really dull but you just do a lot of waiting. Like when you get to the venue at 4pm and you’re not playing until 10pm. When it’s nice weather it’s alright because you get to wander around the city.
AMBY: I saw you at The Magic Loungeabout festival in 2011. What do you remember about the festival?
MM: Unfortunately, all the festivals I’ve been to, we’ve never stayed at them. We’ve always had to go and do something else.
AMBY: It seems like an obvious question, but how has your music changed in the last four years?
MM: First of all, anyone changes from fifteen years old to twenty. Let alone as a musician, you change as a person but I realized when I did my first album, I’d never played gigs so I didn’t know what it felt like to be on stage and to be this person and then once I started touring and I started seeing other bands doing stuff that was really them I thought ‘shit, what I’m doing isn’t really me, this isn’t what I want to give off on stage’ and so then I started playing guitar and I met some people and they started playing music for me and I got quite involved in the South London music scene and so my music just naturally progressed and it’s not so much that I went for a style, its more that it just took me a while to figure out what I liked. When I was fifteen I was into so many different styles and I had these songs and we went to the studio and it just happened to turn out quite folky, but I was still listening to The Stooges and Nirvana and all these other bands as well. I didn’t know who I was yet so yeah, it just took me a couple of years.
AMBY: Have things like your voice changed?
MM: Yeah, but it’s frustrating tonight because my voice is really raspy so I know tonight I’ll probably kill it.
AMBY: It might be like the scene in Friends where Pheobe loves her ill sound.
MM: Yeah, she likes it doesn’t she. The funny thing is when I first started singing when I was ten I had quite a loud voice but when I picked up the ukulele, it’s a quiet instrument so I actually toned my voice down, when in fact as soon as I got back on the guitar it was great because I could sing loudly again!
AMBY: Can you remember obsessing over certain songs when you were first getting into music and can you see an imprint of these songs in your material now?
MM: Actually it doesn’t really fit, but Karen Dalton, vocally and also Patti Smith as well. Also things in Lou Reed’s voice when some of it’s spoken, you know, knowing when to hold back a bit… and my brother Rufus, he’s a singer and in fact he influenced me a lot in general with my style.
AMBY: I’ve noticed that you don’t include old material in your set lists. Are you comfortable telling me how you feel about the old album now?
MM: I don’t personally like it very much, but I’m proud of it because I was so young and to have an album of twelve songs… I’m proud of it but it’s not my kind of thing and if I was trying to sell myself or explain myself to someone I wouldn’t play them that music. It’s like if you’re a writer and you used to write horror stories and know you’re a romantic novelist and you want people to read your romance novels you wouldn’t really want them to read your horror stories. But now that I’ve got this new stuff out I’m much more comfortable with it, because when I didn’t have anything new out I was really uncomfortable because no one could see what I was doing, but now it’s quite obvious who I am, it’s okay, so that was old but people still go to youtube and see something and not look at the date. They wouldn’t realise it’s four years old! They just think ‘that’s Misty Miller!’ and I’m like ‘No! I play guitar!’
AMBY: A lot of our readers are in up and coming bands. What advice would you give to fans of yours who want to pursue a career in music?
MM: My biggest thing… you just need to find out what you really enjoy. I know quite a few people who do it and sweat blood over it but they don’t actually really enjoy it and it’s quite sad. I didn’t either at the beginning. I would go on tour and I’d be like ‘I don’t really wanna go!’ but I just figured out exactly what I like and when you’re doing something you enjoy then it should just be easy, because even if you’re playing a shit gig, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing on stage that doesn’t matter and if you’re doing well and you’re still enjoying it then great, you’ve succeeded. But it’s hard to find out what you really enjoy. You have to do a lot of things you don’t to find it out, so you’ve got to be brave.
AMBY: You’ve supported some huge artists in the last couple of years. What did you learn from guys like Jake Bugg?
MM: The thing about Jake Bugg, we’ve played together before, before he became successful. He just had a better team around him that understood what he was doing, whereas my team just did not get what I was doing. But I didn’t necessarily learn so much from the people because ever since I was a kid I was around big tours. My dad’s a musician so that wasn’t really the learning curve, it was more just playing every night and finding the right band.
AMBY: Your summer last year seemed to be chock full of festival appearances, as well as a dash of controversy. Tell our readers what happened during The Great Escape.
MM: It was so stupid… we just turned up, we put all of our gear on stage and I remember thinking that because the band on before us were really quiet and a bit folky, I remember thinking, this is a bit of a weird one but the tent was packed so it was like, it doesn’t matter. I got on this tiny stage and set up with our big amps and big kit and everything and because it was at a festival we just did a line check and as soon as we started playing the guys were saying ‘it’s too loud, it’s too loud!’ so we turned it all down, and we turned it down again and he says ‘it’s too loud!’ and I’m like ‘Mate, my amp is on 1!’ so we just thought, fuck this, we started playing the set and we did two songs then he came up on stage and said look, you’ve got to cut the set and everyone started booing in the crowd and we were like, fuck this, just turn it up because it wasn’t too loud. People’s ears weren’t bleeding! So we played this song called ‘Next to You’, which is our loudest song and as we were playing the sound guy just came up and turned all of our amps off and everyone’s booing and I was pissed off and kind of went off on one but then we left. It’s just basically poorly booked. Whoever booked me for that gig didn’t obviously listen to what I sound like. They should have realised I’m not a folk musician. We’re a loud band!
AMBY: Reading and Leeds have been lambasted due to a lack of female artists this year. What are your thoughts about this?
MM: Yeah, there are seven female bands across the whole lineup, which is mental. I think it’s awful and the sad thing is there are a lot of females doing a lot of good, interesting music out there but it’s just so hard for people to accept it, the labels… audiences are totally down for it. Audiences want to see it, other musicians want to see it, it’s just that labels are so scared to push a female that isn’t gorgeous or isn’t doing something that someones done before. You know, the new Laura Marling, the next Jessie J. females always have to be something else, whereas guys will come out with something new and wacky and they’re like, Wow! So it’s difficult so I can understand why a lot of girls might be just so put off by it. I was for a while.
AMBY: And what have you got lined up this summer?
MM: We’ve got some but I’m not sure of all of them yet because we might be doing some extra recording and tour supports but definitely some festivals.
AMBY: Your latest record ‘Sweet Nothing’ is released today and is great. Tell me a bit about the making of it.
MM: Well the one song on there, ‘Best Friend’ is with the full band but the other four tracks are just me on the electric guitar and I guess I’d been doing a lot of solo gigs and me and my label thought it would be nice way to start the year by introducing myself purely as just what I am, a singer-songwriter who plays the electric guitar so we thought let’s just do like a live EP, so literally I just went to the studio, I was there for about three hours, we actually did a few more songs, but these were the ones that came out the best and it’s just me and my guitar.
AMBY: You currently have a penchant for the EP format. Is there a reason for that and can we expect an album in the near future?
MM: Well, I don’t like releasing EPs constantly. the first EP, there was meant to be an album after that and the second EP I released, the same thing, but you know what labels are like. It’s really difficult, that’s when you don’t have control over stuff and a lot of artists can get quite pissed off and I’m one of them, but it’s just an industry thing, it’s just they way it is, but hopefully next it will be singles and then the album, definitely this year, it’s all finished.
AMBY: On the record you do a great stripped down version of The Only Ones Another Girl Another Planet. Is there a musical era you have a particular affinity for?
MM: Seventies probably. I love a lot of the New York rock and roll scene. The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Lou Reed, Television. A lot of surf punk as well.
AMBY: Which song that you’ve written are you most proud of and why?
MM: Just for the lyrical content, a song called ‘Devil’ because it’s so close to the bone and every gig I do, even if I’m not feeling it, I get to play that song and release some demons. Today, I’m not in the brightest of moods but I’m looking forward to playing that song because it’s like therapy. I’m glad that I wrote that just for my sanity.
AMBY: Lastly, any secrets about Misty Miller that nobody knows yet?
MM: Wow, there are some. It’s not easy living in my head but I guess that’s why we do what we do isn’t it.
AMBY: I guess the big secret that you want people to realize, is that you’re not fifteen anymore!
MM: Exactly! Also, a lot of people are like, oh my god, you’ve dyed your hair black, why aren’t you blonde anymore. I wasn’t blonde anyway, that was bleach! I’ve got dark brown hair! And when I was younger and I had that album out I was like, this isn’t really representing me so that’s why I’ve fought so hard for the last three years to do what represents me and I guess I want people to know that. This is actually the real me. It’s not that I’ve suddenly changed. This was what was there all along, but as a fifteen year old girl in the industry I didn’t know how to deliver that to people. Over the past three years I’ve tried to convince my label to accept me as who I am and this is me, and that’s why it’s taken so long because it’s really hard to get a major label to accept, especially a young female’s vision. It’s just difficult.
Thank you Misty Miller, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Iain Fox | @iainafoxphoto