WRSU’s General Manager Dante Intindola sat down to chat with singer Mikky Ekko at Governors Ball 2018 in New York City in advance of his performance.
DI: How do you like this festival so far?
ME: I’ve been here for approximately 47 minutes and counting, and so far, so good.
DI: Have you been to Gov Ball before?
ME: This is my first time, actually.
DI: How are you going to set the stage for the whole day tomorrow, you’re on first.
ME: A lot of energy, we’ll be in the crowd. I mean, for me, if I’m the opener, the way I like to see that: I’m there to open people up, so I gotta get people ready and bring it for the rest of the day. That’s the way I view that.
DI: So, you worked with Rihanna, and that got you a ton of visibility. Then you had a lot of individual success. What’s life in the studio for you like right now?
ME: Life in the studio for me right now is almost nonexistent because we’re doing a lot of touring right now– really, really heavy touring. But I will be back in July and August going into a headline tour this fall. When I’m there, honestly, it’s like I got a s***load of toys. I mean, it’s really just get back and experiment. I’ve got some new tracks I’m working on, but I bring in a lot of friends and a lot of other artists just to come hang and play for the day and drink and do whatever until you kinda find that rhythm, you know?
DI: What’s your favorite thing about living and working in Nashville?
ME: Oh, God, Nashville’s the best! My favorite thing about Nashville is the people, first and foremost. I think that’s why so many people move to Nashville. What I tell everybody I meet, if you come to Nashville for a week, and you hang with me for three nights, by the fourth night my work will be done, because I’ll be like “Hey, what you up to?” And you won’t be texting me back because you’ll be having dinner with all my friends. You’ll already have that scheduled for the rest of the week. It’s literally like that!
DI: That sounds like a great way to live.
ME: It is a great way to live.
DI: Not many guys like you working with hip-hop artists have a gospel background. How has that shaped you musically?
ME: I think growing up in the church, you learn a reverence for music, and learn how to appreciate community. Regardless of what you believe or if you’re religious or not, what’s interesting about that kind of community is there’s something about music like that that’s asking you to say something important. Which, I think translates into a lot of what I write lyrically, because I’m not writing that kind of stuff. I think what I learned from my time in that community was you want to say something that makes people feel something. Because, when people are all there really having a moment, there’s something special about that.
DI: I agree, the feeling of being in a church and having really good music hit you when you’re getting a really good message, that translates well to the general public. It’s a good type of mindset to be in. Small world, it turns out Clams Casino is from my town and went to my high school.
ME: No way! He’s amazing. He’s one of the most down-to-earth human beings you’ll ever meet. The very first time, I was like “Damn, this motherf***er’s music is really cool.” When he put out the Rainforest EP, there was stuff before that even, but that was the first s*** I really dug into, and like Gorilla on that one always stuck with me. When we were meeting for the first time, I was really nervous that he might just be like immediately like, “this dude is not cool”. What I enjoy about being in the room with people is, you get to know their true selves within about the first ten seconds. Within the first ten seconds, I was like, “This dude is amazing”. He’s like so down-to-earth, super humble, really chill. He’ll just be slightly bobbing his head to the craziest beats I’ve ever heard.
DI: Was it tough at first to work as a singer with hip-hop people?
ME: What I think was interesting about that whole situation was the amount of time that i was able to spend with Clams. I’ve got a lot of old instrumentals that I’ve done, that’s very similar to what Clams does– in a way that’s very DIY and backwards and “wrong”. But you don’t know it’s wrong until you learn how to do stuff the right way. Then, you basically wind up saying, “thank God I know how to do it the wrong way”, because I don’t know how I would sound like myself if I didn’t know how to do it that way. So, my big thing with Clams has always been, as a vocalist and as somebody who like maybe their songs are slightly more traditionally formatted than hip-hop, was just looking for a way to combine our powers to create something that’s accessible in a different way than hip-hop is.