Interviews

How Nicole Millar filled the void during lockdown

nicole miller

Some of us emerged from lockdown with beautifully tended gardens or a wealth of knowledge on bread-making. Nicole Millar, on the other hand, emerged with a career-defining collection of singles and collaborations.

Nicole Millar really made lockdown her bitch. We know because we’re reaping the benefits in the form of perfectly-crafted, electro-pop bangers.

Returning from the halls of new-found hobbies and downtime with a catalogue of visionary new material at her fingertips, Millar has well and truly proven herself as a force to be reckoned with. We caught up singer to find out more.

nicole millar

HAPPY: Can I just start by saying your Twitter is amazing and I live for it. I was wondering if you could unpack a few of your iconic tweets to start off with?

NICOLE: That’s so funny! Yeah, I forget that people follow me there sometimes. Today I got hand sanitiser on my shirt and I was like, I’m going to tweet about it before I even tell anyone else about just how annoyed I am that it’s bleaching my shirt. I didn’t really think much of it, but I tweeted “the music industry sucks balls” and I went into my label’s office, my manager’s office, and he’s printed it out and framed it on the wall because he thinks it’s about him! And on his phone as well, the little screen that shows the time, it’s there as well and I don’t know how he put it there. I’m pretty sure it was in the Music Industry Observer or something.

HAPPY: There you go! Everyone loves the Twitter! *laughs*

NICOLE: Apparently, everyone likes it because I’m just ranting all the time. I don’t know, I just tell literally everything that I’m doing.

HAPPY: How long ago was “the music industry sucks balls” one?

NICOLE: So embarrassing! Maybe three years ago? 

HAPPY: Three years? Yeah, okay. I feel like it’s very pertinent now.

NICOLE: Yeah, so my manager thought it was about him because he had sent me an email just before I tweeted it, he didn’t like one of my demos. Maybe it is? I don’t remember! *laughs* But he chose to print it off and frame it! It’s in his office.

HAPPY: *laughs* I love that!

NICOLE: So good! I’m trying to think if there’s anything else in there. I feel like people always call me up on it. Definitely have gotten myself in trouble before. I tweeted something about Chris Brown once. I think it was “why is the radio still playing Chris Brown?” and all these people came at me!

HAPPY: Oh my god, I mean you’re very right!

NICOLE: But how did they find my tweet though? Did you just search Chris Brown? How?

HAPPY: Yeah! They’re just looking for people shitting on him and waiting to attack.

NICOLE: So, don’t tweet about Chris Brown!

HAPPY: A good life lesson! Well, you recently tweeted, which was potentially one of my favourite ones, you were like “I’ve been watching lectures online about the human microbiome all morning.” Can you explain that a little bit? *laughs*

NICOLE: *Laughs* Was that yesterday?

nicole millar

HAPPY: I think so, yeah! *laughs*. I saw that, and I was like, “fuck yes! I’m asking her about that!”

NICOLE: I’ve just been really busy, with my music career, just watching lectures *laughs*. I just love reading about nutrition and stuff but then I go and eat a cheeseburger or something! It was pretty interesting. So, the tube that starts in your mouth to your butt is the size of a tennis court! And then they were saying that the first three years of your life are the most important for your microbiome, so you can blame your parents or whoever raised you if you have a bad tummy. Apparently, there’s microbiomes everywhere and if you know someone that has a healthy gut, you should just hang out with them every day. I’m probably wrong!

HAPPY: I mean, you know more than me. You’ve been watching lectures. You’re all over it! 

NICOLE: I just had to feel smart for a second, you know? 

HAPPY: I feel that! 

NICOLE: It’s just like a massive hole and you keep going and going and going.

HAPPY: Just fill the void!

NICOLE: My recommended YouTube’s now are just that! 

HAPPY: *laughs* Well going onto your music… Congrats on your upcoming single by the way. Amazing! Could you unpack the song a little bit for us?

NICOLE: Thank you! Yeah, so I wrote it during Covid lockdown, probably at the end of it because at the start of it I was just playing Sims and doing nothing *laughs*. I finally got some inspiration, who would’ve thought from sitting on a couch all day. I just needed an escape really. I think that’s what the song was inspired by, just thinking about holidays and then I obviously bring my sassy lyrics into it because I can’t help it.

My song Gimme a Break, one of the second versions of that, 2.0 I guess you would say. Yeah, just something fun. I never really know what I’m singing about when I write songs, I’m just humming along to the beat. Because it was so bouncy it kind of needs to have that sassy like “are you kidding?” I say that every day as well, Are you kidding? It’s just a fun song but then plays into the relationship vibes of getting away and escaping. I’m still in my relationship so it’s not really about my relationship *laughs*. So, you could say I’m escaping Covid *laughs*.

HAPPY: Well, yeah it makes a lot of sense *laughs*. There’s so much music that’s come out about escaping during the past year, even if it’s been written before it! It’s really weird how it lined up.

NICOLE: Yeah! That happened with my song Boring as well. That was pretty much already written, and it just made sense with Covid. With songs you have to relate them to a relationship, so it makes more sense. So, if I was writing about Covid I would be like “I’m sitting on the couch…”

nicole millar

HAPPY: “…playing sims…” *laughs*. You had a few collabs on that track! Who did you bring on to produce? 

NICOLE: So, actually my boyfriend, we live together, and it was just easy because we couldn’t have anyone over so the poor thing is probably sick of my voice. I just annoy him, “can you please record me?” So, I wrote all the lyrics and then sat in the studio with him which is good because he basically created the chorus. He was just joking around and then it became the chorus which was cool.

HAPPY: So, was it right in the heat of lockdown last year? 

NICOLE: Yeah! I think I really just wanted to go on a holiday, and I was like Rio never was there! And Rio also rhymed with what I was saying so that works *laughs*

HAPPY: *laughs* Love that! What is, do you think, drives your music? Is it what you’re feeling in the moment or?

NICOLE: I don’t know how to explain it because I don’t necessarily write about, well sometimes I do, normally I just write off of feelings. So, if I’m a little bit annoyed about something I kind of extend that feeling in a song and so even if you listen to my song and it sounds like I’ve had a really messy breakup or something, my boyfriend or someone probably just annoyed me for five minutes. Yeah, even sometimes managers, I mean I manage myself at the moment, but having managers kind of pissing you off. I don’t know why that is. It’s always been like that though. When I started, when I was a kid, it would be like my mum’s pissed me off or something and I’ll just lock myself in a room and write about wanting to be alone *laughs*. That’s like kid music! But it always just triggers off an emotion and then I finally figure out what it is and kind of just improvising words. Writing music is so weird!

HAPPY: Yeah, it is!

NICOLE: Normally, you have a beat and go “la la la” and sing all these melodies and then eventually you can hear what it’s about. It’s strange!

HAPPY: So, you feel that finally figuring out what’s spurring that emotion is your point of inspiration?

NICOLE: Yeah, I think so! I know that I’m feeling pissed off but I’m not going to point it out exactly what it is. If someone’s annoyed about some sort of text message or something I’m not going to be like “you said this, and I said this.” I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s such a weird way to work. I used to work with just titles of songs but now it’s just a feeling. I’m not always annoyed, by the way, but that sometimes triggers it and then I’ll write a nice song. If I’m just in the studio then it would just sing words and then be like oh it’s a love song or something like that. 

HAPPY: It probably makes it easier because you’re feeling it in the heat of the moment and it just all comes out. So, I’m guessing that you found lockdown pretty fruitful for creativity? 

NICOLE: Yeah, at the start I was like “this is great opportunity to do nothing” *laughs*. I remember reading all these quotes being like, “don’t feel bad if you’re not writing music! This is your time to just chill.” I took that a bit too literally! I was just gaming and then went into baking; you know how everyone was baking banana bread and bread? I didn’t do sourdough, I wasn’t that clever. 

nicole millar

HAPPY: It’s just intimidating, aye? You’ve got to ferment that shit. I’m not about that.

NICOLE: That would freak me out, I think. It’s like kombucha. I don’t want to make my own.

HAPPY: I would definitely somehow poison myself *laughs*.

NICOLE: Yeah, I’ll just buy it! Then I started this routine of writing eight lines a day. I don’t care what it is. Just do it, record it. Then I started writing songs about house DJs. I took a break from my music at the start. Even though I was releasing all those songs that were already written so that was lucky. Then towards the end, I got in a good routine when you could finally leave the house.

HAPPY: Tell us a bit about the house DJ project. How did that play out?

NICOLE: Yeah, it was fun! It’s nice to write something and not care as much because I feel sometimes with lyrics, I can get a bit stubborn. Even though I’ll say I go with the flow when it comes to the end of it, you’re like “oh this is shit” but if you’re writing a house song, generally you’ll write the song in 20 minutes. So, I just get sent beats basically from a lot of producers and I just sit there and write some stuff and then voice memo it. One of them did come out recently as a dubstep song. It’s actually doing quite well. So that’s a vibe, quite different. I don’t know how I’ll perform a dubstep song in my set but maybe I’ll just change my whole career and be a house singer *laughs*.

HAPPY: *laughs* How are you making the connections with these different DJs? Have you known them before and they just approach you?

NICOLE: Sometimes! I’ve got a group of guys that I always just send top lines too. These guys are called Duke and Jones, they’re from the UK and I’ve never met them. Their manager just reached out randomly. I wrote the song in about half an hour and then recorded it and then sent it over and they were like, “yeah sick we love it! Just maybe change this one line.” It was so easy! It was a nice process actually. It’s kind of better sometimes doing that then sitting in a studio for hours and not doing anything. I’ve got some exciting ones that will come out as well. 

HAPPY: Awesome! Well, it must be refreshing too playing around with different genres and getting to try them all out.

NICOLE: Yeah, it’s nice! I’m just always writing for myself and writing pop music and I love it, but I don’t know, it can get quite draining or you just kind of get writing for yourself sometimes especially during covid. I just wanted to write for other people. 

HAPPY: Yeah, take the pressure off yourself

nicole millar

NICOLE: Yeah, exactly! It becomes more fun, and you end up liking it. That’s something that I’ve learned now that I’ll do with my music as well which I did on Are You Kidding? Which is just let it happen. Don’t overthink it. 

HAPPY: Did you find the song came out easier because of that?

NICOLE: Yeah, definitely. That really happened fast as well which is always a good sign. I hate sitting in the studio for hours going, ‘what is this line about?’ That happens a lot in pop sessions. We just sit there going, what are we talking about?’ My attention span will not last. My attention span is like ten minutes! 

HAPPY: Are these singles leading up to an album potentially?

NICOLE: Yeah, an EP. The same title as the single. It should be coming out in June, I think. We’ll see!

HAPPY: Oh sick! Thank you so much for that chat!

NICOLE: Thanks! 

 

Are You Kidding is out now on all platforms. Grab your copy here.

Photos by Charlie Hardy