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Interview: Nicole Millar

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on August 1, 2014

You may know Nicole Millar more for her collaborations than her solo work, but that’s all about to change. After coming to attention on the Cosmo’s Midnight track Phantasm, she recorded with Rufus, Emoh Instead and Peking Duck, with whom she set hearts and dancing feet alight with their blistering single High.

Now, she’s getting busy writing and recording more solo work, and getting ready to storm Australian airwaves with her unique and beautiful electronic beats. We had a lovely chat at the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Splendour in the Grass shortly before she went on stage last Saturday.

So how are you finding the festival so far?

Pretty cool! I came straight from Bali, I arrived on Thursday morning and came straight to Brisbane.

Where do you live normally?

Cronulla, in Sydney. It’s pretty out of the way from the city.

And you’re Canadian originally, right?

Yeah, I was born in Canada, My mum’s Swiss, it’s pretty awesome – three passports.

Oh really? I thought we were only allowed two.

That’s the thing – it’s really confusing. I bet one’s expired or something.

So you’ve done some pretty incredible collaborations – Peking Duck, Rufus, Emoh Instead. How did they all happen?

It’s pretty random. I had a song out by myself, it wasn’t really that great but my friend set up a studio session with Cosmo’s Midnight. We were both just starting out and that kind of launched it. I was just looking for different ways to get into the industry and finding people on the internet – Golden Features contacted me, Peking Duck commented on my Instagram, haha – It’s so random, I don’t even know what I’d do without the internet! Music wise, it’s so hard to get out there.

Even here it’s been pretty tough not having proper phone or internet reception…

Oh god, it’s the worst. Coming from Bali and now here, I feel so disconnected. It’s kind of good in a way but at the same time it’s so bad.

So how did you first get into making music?

I’ve been singing for a while, but I was always so shy. I took acting classes, and that kind of brought me out of my shell. It was pretty scary! And then I started collaborating with people, I guess that’s the only way I knew how to get into the industry.

What kind of music were you singing at first?

I was writing alternative pop I guess, more down tempo stuff. I almost went more R n B, which influenced my style now. I’m trying to do electronic R ‘n B I guess. It’s all about the beat for me. If I’m on the beat, that’s all that matters, and I can get the lyrics out really easily.

How did you then get started in the industry?

I’ve always recorded music, but nothing seriously. It all started from the Cosmo’s Midnight track. I was in Melbourne with a friend, listening to all these artists there, and I thought, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ And then I went back to Sydney and wrote and recorded a song, and it helped me form my style, and it went from there. I recorded two songs at the end of last year and decided it was time to start performing.  So I organised a gig at The Standard, and it wasn’t the best gig but I got a booking agent and kind of went from there. Select Music came to my gig, so I was just really lucky.

How did you get involved with Red Bull Music Academy?

Martin Novosel, my manager, set it up for me. I think he’s got some friends at Red Bull, and a lot of my friends are playing here. It’s pretty incredible here, I think this is my favourite festival.

Who else have you seen at Splendour so far?

Some of my friends played at the mix up stage yesterday – Kilter, Indian Summer and Kite String Tangle.

Which are some of your favourite female vocalists at the moment?

FKA Twiggs, and a girl called MØ, she’s from Denmark. And I’m really into Drake, but I know he’s a not a female, haha. A lot of people don’t like him but I’m just pumping it in my room! He just hits the right beats, it doesn’t matter what he’s saying. There’s a girl called SZA too.

I LOVE her!

She’s so good. They’re all so sick, even though a lot of it is more down tempo, their vocals are so amazing.  I always love finding new music, I always listen to the same things. I saw a guy called Esta at Oxford Arts Factory recently, he was good. SOHN, too. They’ve all got such weird names, I kinda wish I had a cooler name.

Haha. What would your cooler name be?

I have no idea! I guess you need to pronounce it. I feel like everyone has X’s in their name.

So what else have you got planned for the year?

I’ve got around ten rough tracks, we’re going to narrow it down for an EP hopefully. Not sure when it’ll be released but there’ll definitely be a single out before the end of the year. Just trying to get my own stuff out, rather than collabs at the moment.

How does the process work – if you have ten tracks, how do you get that down to four or five?

I’m not really sure how it’s gonna work, we’re just gonna record them all and see how good we can make each track. And then I guess we’ll sit and listen and choose, probably starting with two singles to come out first.

What happens to the other tracks, do they get scrapped?

I don’t wanna scrap them, they all mean something to you. Maybe I’ll eventually make an album, hopefully next year. I really didn’t think I’d already be making an EP, let alone an album!

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