Interview: T. Mills
Fri, 16 May 2014 11:18:59
"This album is about me etching my sound into stone," proclaims T. Mills. "I’m solidifying my lane and the types of songs I want to make. I want to be consistent. This year is all about consistency and making great songs."
His new EP All I Wanna Do [iTunes link] embodies that cohesion. The set sees T. Mills artfully weaving together hip-hop, pop, and even a little alternative and yielding something undeniably fresh in the process. Mills comes into his own as both a songwriter and storyteller here, and it makes for his best work to date. It also hints at much bigger things to come when his album drops later this year, and you should be on the lookout for him to blow up...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, T. Mills talks All I Wanna Do, the future, and so much more.
What ties All I Wanna Do together for you?
It's only four songs, but none of the songs sound the same. Each one gives off a different vibe. "All I Wanna Do" is the upbeat summer anthem. "Somebody to Miss You" is more like my sweet side. It's my romantic and flirty side. There's a Motown and old school pop feel to it, which I really dug. That song doesn't really have a hook either. I've never written a song like that. It really relies on the in-between. I like the structure of it a lot. I've had "Go For It All" for a while. It's a big vocal showcase. It has the old school boom beat drums. There's a nostalgic feel. I got to work with Soulshock. He's produced for Tupac Shakur, and he's made some amazing records. He's been in the game forever. "Riverside Girl" would probably be my favorite song off the EP. It's where I'm from. I got to work with Malay who produced Channel Orange with Frank Ocean and my friend James Fauntleroy. It's just incredible. We had an amazing couple of days in the studio. The imagery in "Riverside Girl" pays homage to where I'm from. I really wanted that to close out the EP. It's a short body of work to drop, but it's filling. It's a good way to start off the year, and it leaves a good impression. It's my first release in a while. I had never done a national headlining tour before so it was a great to start 2014 like this.
Was it important for you to incorporate different sounds and styles here?
I've always had a knack for writing really catchy hooks. I've always had a knack for pop music. I feel like the hook for "Vans On" is very pop, if you listen to it. My vocals are very stacked. There's a big chorus. It's high. I wanted to prove a point. I like to write really catchy and big songs. In my opinion, these were the catchiest and most fun. I had these last year, but I didn't want to put it out while it was winter. In February, I was like, "The sun's starting to come out. Summer is coming. I want to get this music out there and give people this side of me". I put out a song on my Soundcloud in winter. It was slower and had a darker feel. I want to show everyone how versatile I am. I'm not stuck in a box. I don't just sing or rap one type of way. My beat selection isn't narrow-minded. I want to work with people who have made amazing music and records that I vibe with dynamically in the studio. I got to do that. I had the opportunity to work with four really dope producers on the EP, and they all produced different songs. That's a testament to the different sounds on each of the songs.
It all still fits within the framework of one vision though.
Thank you! If you listen to it in one setting, it makes sense. However, there are so many sounds, and the approach differs.
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
I think it's subconscious. I don't really think about that when I'm in the studio. When I heard "All I Wanna Do", I closed my eyes, and I already saw a music video. I could envision a jeans campaign in the summertime with cute models in a cool car. It was one of the first songs where I could visualize something. As far as painting pictures goes, I wrote the songs about things I was really going through and experiencing. Or, it's things I did experience when I had the time to really party a couple of years ago [Laughs]. I channel that.
How did "Riverside Girl" come together?
It started with Malay, James Fauntleroy, and I. I was really intimidated to work with Malay because he had just gotten done doing channel ORANGE. He played me some records. He also produced John Legend and André 3000's "Green Light", which is one of my favorite songs. The dude is just crazy talented. I have a song off “Leaving Home”. I felt like it was one of a kind so I wanted to take that, mature it, and make it sexy. We started talking about Riverside and what girls are like from Riverside. As soon as we heard the words “Riverside Girl”, we went for it. Once we heard it, I knew it had to be the last song on the project. We did the song in like an hour-and-a-half. It came together really fast.
Had Malay ever been to Riverside?
[Laughs] I’m not sure! Everybody from L.A. has passed through Riverside on the way to Coachella. People have driven by it. They definitely didn’t grow up in Riverside though.
Do you feel like this builds a bridge to the album?
Definitely, I’m working on my album. I just got home, and I’m back in the studio for a month or so. I’ll be recording and working on it. This EP showed me people are responsive and appreciative of my pop-leaning songs. They appreciate my melodies and the hooks. I hadn’t put out any pop music out in a while, and I didn’t know if the fans will be weirded out. There’s always that little voice of doubt in the back of your head. I’ve learned to tune it out and go with my gut. To have it reinforced was very reassuring and comforting. I spent two months on the road and experienced so much. A lot of things have changed for me in the last year as a person and as an artist. I want to get back in and start writing about those experiences. I brought a studio with me on this last tour. I’ve already demo-ed out seven to ten songs. I don’t know if they’ll make the album, but I’ll definitely go in, rework them, and expand on what I’ve started with.
If All I Wanna Do were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Oh shit! I’d say Wet Hot American Summer. It’s one of my favorites. I feel like it’s lighthearted. It’s super funny. At the same time, you really feel like you’re at camp, and it gives you a summer vibe. There are dope parts throughout the movie. It’s super quotable. After I saw the movie, I tried to go out and buy jeans like the ones the main character was wearing [Laughs]. There’s a love story in there. It has all of these elements tied in there. It’s a classic. There are really dope actors in the movie too like Janeane Garofalo. I got to work with some super awesome producers on this EP.
What have you been listening to lately?
Asher Roth has a new song called “Tangerine Girl”. I’ve been playing that every single day. I got SZA’s new album. I got the new ScHoolboy Q. I’ve been listening to a lot of Party Next Door and The 1975. Then, there’s Kacey Musgraves and Chet Faker. It’s a bunch of random shit. The Smiths were played a lot on this tour. We were listening to a lot of Chance the Rapper after shows. I try to pull from experiences in my life and talking to the fans. I love it when they come to the meet-and-greets. That’s when I get to connect with them. They tell me their stories. I heard "Go For It All" helped some of them through a bunch of shit. That’s what I feel really good about. It inspired me to go make more songs.
What's your favorite T. Mills song?