Pop music can be very uplifting. Rarely will you ever find a darker side of pop music unless you consider the darker side of pop-rock music. This is not the case for artist Micky Blue. Blue is currently on the rise, having already recorded three previous EP releases, then not being able to release them due to unforeseen circumstances. But 2015 is her year. She's finally releasing her EP, Dark & Stormy, which will be available this fall.
I had the wonderful opportunity to sit and talk with Blue for awhile recently. We talked about everything from the creation of the EP, her collaborations with various producers in the EDM world, and about what the biggest reward of being a musician really is.
First things first, let’s talk about the EP! I’m really excited to hear Wild Things when it comes out later this year, particularly after I heard “Dark and Stormy”. Tonally, will the EP be going in that kind of direction, or did you kind of mix it up with different types of songs and different genres, I guess?
That’s a really good question! You know actually, there is one song that is kind of in the same vein as “Dark and Stormy”, which is “Wild Things”. But the other three songs are actually a little bit more up-tempo. But I still like to call the whole genre “haunted pop” because I try to keep the lyrics a little more…it’s not super light-hearted. I guess some of the up-tempo things sound light hearted but if you read the lyrics, it’s like “oh, okay, those are some deeper thoughts”. At least I try to convey that. I hope people think they’re deep thoughts!
There’s definitely a feeling of vulnerability that I was experiencing when listening to the lyrics, and that combined with the tone of the song. I feel like I have an idea about this, but what kind of place were you specifically coming from when you were writing this song?
Well, it was a dark place. (laughs). It was definitely not a light place. I kind of just hit this really low point. I met the producer Mickey Valen. It’s funny, we joke that we’re like “Team Mickey/Mickey, M&M for Life” (laughs). We’re super nerdy like that. We met through another mutual friend in the industry. We got together and we started writing with no intention of writing an EP. We just met and we’re hanging out, I said “let me just make some Dark & Stormies (editor’s note, Dark & Stormy is a drink!), we’ll have some drinks together, get to know each other, and write some music. I was kind of venting to him about all of the things I’d been through over the last year. Honestly, over the last three years, I’ve written about four EPs or albums of music, and this is the first one to really see the light of day and come out, just because it had a lot of roadblocks ahead.
Last summer, I was supposed to release a whole other album of music, but a lot of roadblocks got in the way to where I wasn’t able to release my music. Some messed up things. It was really hard on me. I was like, oh my god, what am I going to do? I’ve written three albums at this point, I don’t know what to do. So when I met Mickey, I was confiding in him about just kind of all the crap that I had been through with the industry and how people were trying to make me sing differently, or how people weren’t always approving of the kind of music I wanted to write, so they would make me change my tone or the way I say things, or the subject matter. I was just in a really dark, bad, bad place. Really bad. It was just kind of therapeutic to write everything down, and just channel my inner child. I was trying to be fearless again, trying to channel that inner-fearlessness that children have, because they’re so innocent. They can face anything head on, and I think that’s amazing. That’s kind of how it started, and where we came from (laughs).
That was actually one of the things I was going to ask you, did that song help you get through that? But it sounds like you answered it. (laughs)
Yeah! It’s funny, I say that the bridge lyrics “you’re nobody until you know somebody” is kind of the theme for the entire EP, which is so true for the music industry. I’m not signed, I’m indie, I don’t have a whole label backing me or anything. It’s really hard….god what was my point again? (laughs)
(laughs) We were talking about the bridge lyrics and how they are the theme of the EP.
Right! Exactly. The whole theme of everything that’s going on. “Dark & Stormy” is kind of this summary of the entire EP. You’ll see in a future song called “Champagne Reign”, we use the same lyrics in that bridge as well. They’re kind of like the Ying and Yang, the light and the dark. They kind of go back and forth with each other. I did that on purpose. I love classical music, and how it has movements and themes, and little melodies that come in and out of movements over and over again, so I wanted to incorporate [that]. I have a classical background in my music education. I kind of wanted to incorporate that idea, to have a motif throughout the EP. So that theme is kind of my motif, in a way!
When you said that it was kind of like the Ying and Yang, and how that was intentional, I kind of thought about American Idiot, by Green Day, and how that whole album is structured where there is song called “Jesus of Suburbia.” It’s this big nine-minute track. Lines are taken from that album, and placed throughout the songs that were kind of the overall themes of the record. It just reminded me of that.
Well thank you for comparing me to Green Day, that’s awesome! (laughs). I love them, who doesn’t?
I listened to two tracks that you did with Tritonal & Juventa, and Baggi Begovic. I loved them. What drew you towards the electronic music world when you were looking at different projects to take on?
You know, it’s really funny. I never thought that I would be singing EDM tracks, but I kind of fell into a couple of years ago. I started writing and demoing EDM tracks for DJs in Italy, actually! I did it under different names and such because I hadn’t released my own music, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with that. But it was really fun. I got asked to do it more and more, and I got hit up by DJs more and more.
The DJ world is very cool. Most DJs are very approachable. When they hit you up, it’s not their manager. It’s them. They want to have a personal relationship with you, which I think is so cool. And DJs are really supportive of each other, from what I’ve seen, more than pop artists usually are. I think the DJ/EDM community is really amazing. I’m thankful to them that they’ve been so supportive of me. I’m working on three other tracks with some big DJs, and I’m really excited that they reached out to me and asked for some acapellas. I just fell into it through a friend. I met Tritonal. I got like a pitch from their old management through a mutual friend, I wrote it with my best buddies (laughs). I write a lot with these two guys from Holland. We didn’t think we’d necessarily get picked when we wrote “Lost” for Tritonal, but they said ‘we love your pitch, we want to do this’.
With Baggi, I got hit up through mutual people. I was just really lucky that they found me, and that they liked the song. If they didn’t like the song, they wouldn’t have taken it. It’s not like I’m important or anything (laughs). It’s not like I’m a celebrity, it’s not like they felt like they had to take it. They took it because they liked it, which if anything, feels like a really big compliment. I’m grateful that they’re onboard.
Absolutely. I’ve noticed that too with the EDM world. I discovered all of that about four years ago. Everything is really tight-knit. There’s always the people that will bash it, but everyone essentially wants to work together.
And that’s so cool! I’ve just had good experiences, and they’ve all been very cool people. I love how they like to collaborate with each other. I would love to collaborate with other pop artists and other producers. I wish that there was more of a forum for that. Also, other genres would be lost without EDM, because EDM is like driving the music industry right now. If you don’t have remixes of your songs, it’s like, ‘uhh, nobody cares.’ (laughs)
It’s just very interesting to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future. On another note, when you were working on these particular tracks, were you in the studio as they were being recorded? How involved were you with the writing process?
Oh, very involved. So Mickey and I wrote everything together. He’s a producer. He would give me melody ideas, production ideas, so we were very interwoven in the whole process. We brought in our friend Lyon Hart. He’s had some great features with Elephante and some other cool DJs and producers out there right now. He’s an incredible writer and singer, so we brought him in on a couple of songs to work on parts that we got stuck on, as that happens.
Joren, the Dutch friend of mine, was actually in town during some of our writing process. He ended up writing “Champagne Reign” with me. So basically, when all of the songs were written and finished, Mickey Valen went back and tweaked some production here and there, gave me the track, and then I recorded everything at home.
We wrote everything in my apartment. I have a little setup in my apartment, and a little ghetto-looking vocal booth that I built into the wall. (laughs) I don’t know if my landlords are going to be happy, I glued foam everywhere!
We wrote everything at my place, and then I recorded. Whenver I’m doing a big song for myself, I have to be cost efficient, and really get a whole skeleton of the song. You know, eight hours in a studio is maybe enough to do one song. And not even, really. It’s really expensive, so to be cost efficient, I recorded everything and every single background vocal, and mapped out exactly how much of everything I wanted. I Melodyne-ed everything, edited it, sent it to Mickey, and we kind of did a rough mix to say ‘okay, this is what we have, and when we go into the studio, this is exactly what we need to do’. I was trying to figure out what studio I was going to go to.
I was talking with Joren one day, and he was like ‘you know what? I’m gonna vocal produce your project. Fly to Amsterdam, come live with me for two weeks in my studio (he built this incredible studio), and let’s get this EP done.’ So honestly, it was just cheaper for me to buy a plane ticket. (laughs) But honestly, it was the best situation. When you go to a studio, you have to arrive there, there’s strangers that you’re working with. Sometimes there’s other people running the board because studios have to insure all of their equipment, and they don’t want you messing with it. Totally understandable. It’s kind of like a nerve-wracking process. It’s stressful. You have to make sure you pack up in time. What if I’m not feeling well one day, and you have to cancel the studio session? So this way, it was great. We knew we had two weeks to do everything. We recorded for ten hours a day and edited everything. When I came back to the states, we spent a few months passing files back and forth, editing, tweaking things, and then got it mixed and mastered. A year later, it’s done! (laughs)
The process can definitely encompass a full year! I know of people who have spent two and a half years making an EP or an album. It’s a long process from start to finish.
I’m just so lucky that I had Joren to help me on this project, and Mickey, and Lyon Hart. I just had the best team helping me, so I knew that this project was going to come out from the time that we finished it. All of pieces finally fell into the right place. I knew it was going to be a hard road, but I finally got it. I got some amazing mixers on the project. I got Phil Tan. He actually mixed “Dark & Stormy”. He’s done “Diamonds” for Rihanna. He only took the project because he liked it. I really didn’t think he was going to say yes to mixing my track. I was really, really lucky when he got onboard. Damien Lewis, also, who is also an incredible mixer. Ryan West also mixed one of the tracks.
Everything fell into the right place for the first time, honestly.
I think the best thing that you can do is stay as true to yourself as you can possibly be. Just from that first track alone, it sounds like you’re staying true to yourself. If you keep doing that, everything will come. Of course there will challenges, but as long as you keep doing your thing, I think you’ll be able to get everything that you want.
Thank you so much, that’s so nice of you! I’m lucky that I have an amazing family. My parents and my sister keep me super grounded, and I’m just very lucky to have such a great family and friends here in New York. My friends are awesome. My friends are all musicians and Broadway singers and stuff, so I’m very lucky to have such a great group of support here.
So these last two questions I ask to every artist I interview, as a way to close out the interview. The first question: what kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
It’s kind of what you were saying: stay true to yourself. That kind of ties in with the theme of “you’re nobody until you know somebody.” I mean, that sounds kind of depressing, but it’s like, once I realized that, it kind of set me free, in a way. I was like, you know, I need to be myself. I need to be my creative self. I need to start trusting my gut instincts. I don’t know if it’s a message really for other people, because it’s just kind of my inner thoughts and what I was going through, but I hope more than anything that it makes people feel something, feel connected, and feel therapeutic for them as they listen to my journey. I hope it helps other people with their journey of whatever they’re trying to do, whatever goals they’re trying to achieve. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a thesis statement message, but I mostly just want people to feel. If they want to feel sad, then feel sad, then the tracks that make them feel good and empowered will make them feel good and empowered. I want them to feel like they’re not alone. Everyone has struggles, and you’re not the only one, but in a good way. You feel your feelings? You’re not the only one. People are here for you. You’re gonna make it, and you’re gonna pull through. Because I did. (laughs). And I didn’t think I would.
What does music mean to you?
Music is everything. Honestly, I didn’t really talk until the age of four, but I was singing before then. I was singing in gibberish, but I was really singing. (laughs) I mean, my family always knew that I would be a musician. It wasn’t a question of ‘what’s she going to be when she grows up?’ It was more of ‘oh, now she’s doing piano, and this and that.’ Music is everything, it’s like food for the soul. It’s my therapy, it’s what keeps me going. It’s what brings me pride and meaning to my life. It’s a gift that I feel very grateful to share with other people. It connects me to other people. And that’s one of the coolest things, just connecting with random people.
Even on SoundCloud! Sorry if I’m going on a tangent, but even some of the messages I’ve been getting on SoundCloud for the “Dark & Stormy” release…one person wrote me this beautiful email, and told me they were going through a really hard time. They kind of stopped listening to music altogether, because it wasn’t really making them feel better or helping them with their life. And then they heard my song, and they said it really brought them back into helping them want to explore music and be connected with music. I was like, whoa. I can’t believe that my song made someone feel that way. The fact that my song made even one person feel that way made me feel so happy and so much pride. I just was blown away, and was so grateful that I made someone feel good. That was the coolest thing ever. Someone I’m totally unconnected with, unrelated to, we have no mutual friends or anything. That was just the coolest thing.
I feel like moments like that are really what this whole… you can have the business side of it, where people are trying to make as much money as possible and not know a thing about art, and then you can have people that can get lost in all of that. And then there’s moments like that, that you just described, where no matter who that happens to, everyone has that feeling of ‘this is why I got into this in the first place.’ This is the greatest part of the gig.
Oh absolutely! And that is the success of the art. You know, all of the other things, sure you want your music to make money and have tons of fans. All that stuff is nice, but that is my success. The fact that I just reached one person in such a deep way…that to me is like ‘whoa, I did it!’ That’s my success right there. That was what I was trying to accomplish. I did it with one person, and that felt like enough. Of course, you always want to keep making more music. Because I may never be anything big. Who knows if people will like your music or not? You’ll never know. Even just having a small amount of people who are touched, made me feel, ‘cool, my work here is done!’ (laughs)
This has been another Shameless Promotion.