Interview: Mikky Ekko- Playing @ The Loft with Jessie Ware, 10/22

Photo By Sandy Kim
Photo By Sandy Kim
By: Lindsey Borders

Mikky Ekko is having quite the year, and the opportunities just keep rolling in. With his passionate and attractive voice, Ekko has been an in-demand songwriter and producer, who decided to pursue his own goals of singing and performing. He’s one of the fastest rising stars today, and this year alone has co-wrote a top-10 hit that also doubled as a duet with Rihanna titled “Stay”, opened for Justin Timberlake during the iTunes Festival held in London, has a new single on the upcoming soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and is looking forward to debuting his first album.

Mikky is one of my favorite new artists and hasn’t lost his humility. Being from the South keeps him grounded and appreciative for all things. Growing up with a nomadic preacher for a father, traveling from place to place, living and settling there for awhile, Mikky experienced all kinds of cultures from different areas in the East, West, Midwest and mostly the Southeast. Being around southern roots and its gospel obviously impacted Mikky on his musical and career endeavors, and later on his move to Nashville. He still makes his home in Nashville, continuing to collaborate, write and produce music.

We had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Mikky about his musical experiences, his songwriting and collaborations, his southern gospel influences, what keeps him grounded and more!

Did any of your experiences being in the collective singer and songwriter group, Ten out of Tenn, shape your songwriting and its influences?

Mikky: First of all, I think that for me collaboration is really important, and that was the first time I’d ever gone out with a group of people where we were all playing each other’s songs and singing together. That was the first time I had done anything like that, so it definitely had an impact on the way that I saw how music could come together live. Obviously, that can seem like a silly thing to say, but I just always did it myself, and moving forward, it pushed me to want to write better songs. It’s a fun thing to do because it also makes you a little bit competitive with the other people. It pushed me to really want to set my game up, and figure out how to write better songs, and to continue to grow as an artist, producer and songwriter.

I think you did pretty well!

Mikky: Thank you!

To me, you’re one of the better and refreshing artists there is. I think you’re trying to reach a new level with each song that you sing…I could be wrong, but that’s my take on it.

Mikky: In my mind, it’s about being able to go in and sing with somebody like Rihanna or Christina Aguilera, or work on a song for them, write a song for them, or produce songs for them, and also to be able to go in with some of my personal heroes like Marnie Stern and Grimes; just a lot of people who are doing interesting stuff on the edge too; the fringes that can crossover. That’s always been really important to me.

Growing up, you were surrounded by Southern Gospel and other hymns, etc. Are there any particular hymns that influenced your musical endeavors?

Mikky: Probably like, uh, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,”…Let’s see, what else…It’s been so long since I was in that sort of traditional church, because my dad’s a Methodist preacher. I haven’t been in that kind of church in a while…that and like “Amazing Grace.” The songs that are a little bit sad, but they’re sort of a sweetness in the sorrow. I like a lot of that kind of stuff.

Yep, you’re a kindred spirit, I can tell!

Mikky: [laughs]

What can fans and music lovers expect from your forthcoming debut?

Mikky: I think they can expect a really eclectic album. It will feel like one thing, but I’m experimenting with a lot of different characters. For me, this is the first chance to really make a statement with my art, to really try to say, “Hey, this is what I’m really capable of doing, can you be willing to go with me?” Right now, a big part of the reason to pull back and really work harder as a songwriter is because I want to write songs that are able to work on a mainstream level, and give more people access. I want to also have my art-side of stuff, and to be able to fund other people who are able to invest in other people making art. When I think about this first record, I think there will be an interesting collage of all the things that I’ve been and want to show people for the debut…it’ll be an interesting collage.

How are you handling all of the recent attention with all of your projects; has it changed, are you still rooted?

Mikky: I feel fortunate…you know, being from the South I always have my boys {laughs] who keep me grounded. They’ll always know me by my real name, and as soon as I show up, they’ll be calling me my old nickname, and you know, I can still go out with them, and nothing changes. That, for me, when you have family (and I work really hard to set-up family wherever I am); I have people who feel like family in London, New York and L.A., so when I go there, I know I can count on those people to feel like a sanctuary, which always reminds me of home. Ironically, similar to growing up in the church, where it’s all kind of potlucks, and getting to know people; I sort of carry a lot of that with me now, in the way that I sort of like to hang out with people and get to know them. The hype comes and goes, but family and blood is thicker than water.

Absolutely! They’ll be there when no one else is.

Mikky: Exactly! You know, they were there before the music happened, and they’ll be there when it’s gone.

Now, what are you most looking forward to on your tour with Jessie [Ware], what do you want come out of it, and where are you most looking forward to playing?

Mikky: I’m looking forward to that girl’s (Jessie) voice. She can sing like crazy! I’m looking forward to sitting back and watching her deliver. This will really be my first tour with anybody, so I’m excited to get up there. You know, it’s always a little bit competitive for me. I was out with the OneRepublic guys recently; I was writing with Tedder, and to see them live at night; it’s been awhile since I’ve seen that style of just going for it, you know? It’s just never really been my style. I’ve always preferred to keep it chill and low-key; make it artsy and hide behind that. It’s interesting as I’m growing, to be able to branch out and hang with someone like Jessie. I’d really love to try and write while we’re out on the road, even though she’s super busy, I’m super busy, but just continuing to grow and shape who I am as an artist, and make that family happen. I’m looking forward to playing Atlanta, really! I lived in Macon, GA for a little while, so when we were going through Atlanta as a kid, I was always like, “Woo, we’re going to Atlanta.” Just being from Mississippi and the South, every time we’re driving through the South, I’m just like “I’m home.” Even coming into New Orleans, I was like “Ahh, Southern accent” [laughs].

Do you have a guilty musical pleasure?

Mikky: It’s got to be between Michael Bolton and Michael McDonald. It’s a battle of the Michaels. I could just listen to those old-school crooners just go for it all day long. As much as you want to hate on Michael Bolton, the guy threw down in the 90s. He was untouchable in the 90s.

What do you see in your future with Mikky Ekko and music?

Mikky: Ooh, I try not to think about it too much. I just go hard all the time. I’m just constantly trying to grow. So, for me, it’s about adapting and trying to stay one step ahead. If I’m slipping, I’ll just try to bunker down and dig in again, and be sure I’m showing up every day; that I’m not just going through the motions, but that I’m pushing myself better as an artist. That’s all that’s really important to me.

Mikky will be opening for Jessie Ware TONIGHT at The Loft Tuesday, October 22. Tickets are $20 at the door.



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