Interview by Cher Dunn
Mikky Ekko has been busy the past couple of years, and this year is no different. After writing 250 songs and narrowing it down to a cool 14, Mikky Ekko released his debut record Time. Each song on the record is raw, real, unapologetic and true only to the unique sound of Mikky Ekko. The talented singer, songwriter and producer has been touring the album, and we caught up with him over the phone to discuss his writing process, his first headlining tour, love for his fans, and his first taste of what it feels like to be Justin Bieber on stage.
How has the tour been so far?
“It’s been absolutely amazing. We approach it like a band, so everything from the album has been reworked to really make sure it feels like a live show. Like you’re going to see a band and you are going to see something which is as dynamic as the album, but has that kind of intimacy and rawness that you want to get at a live show.”
Do any songs take you by surprise when you perform it live?
“It creates an entirely new bond with the audience, with my fans. I think that for me is special about playing these songs. It doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same show every night. It’s just four guys on stage going for it.”
What’s your writing process like?
“I write a lot. I push myself to write even when I don’t really feel like writing. Sometimes it’s faster than others. Sometimes it takes a process of not getting the production right or bringing in other people. So I just really try to capture that lightning strike.”
How did you choose who to collaborate with on the new album?
“My goal when I set out was to write the absolute best songs I could write. To keep the album and the verses the music I listen to. So it’s everything from R&B style to punk rock and then to keep it vulnerable. That for me meant finding the best producers and writers I could for all the styles and that was a big part of me accomplishing what I wanted to do because I do like to do so many styles. So I worked with everybody from Dave Sitek who’s done Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, to Benny Blanco at Stargate, to underground hip hop guys like Clams Casino.”
Where did you write and record the new album?
He laughs, “Everywhere. I wrote about 250 songs for the debut. It was a process and elimination for me and keeping what was most important. But the songs that were on the album were written in everywhere from Stockholm to LA, a few were written on tour buses, just while we were literally on the road. Then, Nashville and New York.”
Did all the places you wrote have any influence on the songs?
“Wherever I am I’ll wind up being influenced by that culture a little bit or that sound. I did a lot of the early writing in London and it was my first time spending time in London and I was there alone a lot. So a lot of the songs kind of reflect a melancholy and a desire to connect.”
Do you have a favorite song from the album, either to play live or just based on where you were in your life when you wrote it?
“Honestly, I am so happy with all the songs it’s hard for me to pick one. But if I had to pin one down, it would probably be “Time.” Just because it’s the simplest song on the album. For me, it was- I was in a place where I really wanted to write a song that felt classic and I think that song really embodies the push and pull of the album.”
What are you looking forward to most with this tour?
“It’s all about connecting with the fans for me. I love my fans and I love creating a moment with them that we can all remember forever, you know? For all the people coming out to these shows, it’s only going to get better.”
Is there a particular place you are excited to play?
“We are in Minneapolis right now and Mini is always pretty crazy!” He laughs, “It was crazy we played a Salt Lake City…it’s crazy I don’t even know what day it is. We played Salt Lake City three or four nights ago and I had no idea what to expect because the only other time I’ve played there was with Broods and when we hit the stage,” he laughs before continuing,”it was almost like being at a Justin Bieber concert I mean it was like everything we did people were just screaming, going crazy. It was so unique and city to city it’s just exciting for me. This is my first headlining tour. So I’m getting to see how all these cities are reacting to the music in their own way and that’s really special.”
Do you have any free time to explore the cities you are playing on tour?
“Sometimes. You know, I’ll throw a tweet out just asking for a park because we like to kick a soccer ball around while we’re in town. Then sometimes I’ll go for a run and just put on music while I’m running and that’s how I’ll explore cities. Or I’ll just Yelp stuff,” he laughs.
What can fans look forward to from you for the rest of the year? Mainly touring? Will you be releasing any new music?
“I’ll be touring up until November, but I don’t know…I don’t like to talk too much about what I’m doing,” he says apologetically before continuing, “Right now there’s definitely new music in the works, just because I’m always working on music. We’re out here touring an album I’m super proud of and I’m already working on what’s next.”
What are some musicians or bands you love that you think everyone should listen to?
“I really drew from the heartache of Elliot Smith, so pretty much any Elliot Smith record, but my favorite is From a Basement on the Hill. Then Jeff Buckley’s Grace and maybe Bjork’s Vespertine.”
THU / OCT 22
ALLSTON, MA / BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL
FRI / OCT 23
PHILADELPHIA, PA / UNDERGROUND ARTS
SAT / OCT 24
WASHINGTON, DC / U STREET MUSIC HALL
MON / OCT 26
CHAPEL HILL, NC / CAT’S CRADLE – BACK ROOM
TUE / OCT 27
ATLANTA, GA / CENTER STAGE
THU / OCT 29
NASHVILLE, TN / MERCY LOUNGE
Reviewed by b3