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"Those types of comparisons just feel a bit lazy”- In Conversation with Pip Millett

Pip Millett talks debut album, shifting songwriting processes and frequent “lazy” comparisons to Jorja Smith.

Pip Millett portrait © Cal McIntyre 2022

by Oscar Ross, Music Editor

Dialling in from her hometown of Manchester, soulful R&B trailblazer Pip Millett took the time to speak to Epigram about her upcoming debut album, shifting songwriting processes and frequent “lazy” comparisons to Jorja Smith.

For those who don’t know (but should), Pip Millett is one of the most exciting artists in the UK. Her songs come from a mix of influences, leaning heavily on classic soul and blues with inflections of reggae and pop, more recently moving towards hip/hop and sampled sounds. Here we have a Neo-soul artist that isn’t a showcase of soul revival or r&b, but in fact real soul and r&b come true, driven by Millett’s intensely personal, poignant and frank lyrics and undeniably brilliant vocals.

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“Sometimes I’m actually scared I write too much sad stuff” commented Millett, when asked about how her musical process has shifted in recent years. ‘In lockdown we all had to sit down with ourselves, and for me I took the time understand more about my sadness and myself” continued Millett, also speaking on how lockdown gave her more space to write her style of music. Chuckling, Millett noted that the importance of evaluating our mental health and wellbeing in lockdown was “handy for my writing process, but probably wasn’t handy for lots of other people”.

Millett’s tunes, while having overarching features of heartbreak and mental health issues, do not fit into recent popular trends of strictly “depressing” and downer music, instead making bittersweet, soulful tunes. When I told her this was my take on her music Millett laughed and said “I do just go off of what I’m feeling, but I like for them to feel a little bit light, and I feel that none of them end too depressing, at least I hope not”.

Having recently signed to Dream Life Records, a label launched in 2020 as part of Sony Music, Millett spoke about new responsibilities and schedules that come with a label signing: “It used to be that I would be like: I’m just going to put this out and go from there, since we had less budget for videos and stuff like that” saying how now her new, “much bigger”, schedule can be “more frustrating”.

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When Everything is Better - I’ll Let You Know will be Pip Millett’s first full length album, having dropped a series of E.P’s and singles since her hit debut single “Make Me Cry” back in 2018. Releasing on the 21st of October, When Everything is Better is Millett’s biggest project yet: “I tried to whittle it down, but it was difficult” commented Millett, laughing as she spoke about struggling to keep songs on the album and convincing her management by saying “Well, five of them are interludes, but I think one of them is like two and a half minutes long so”. Millett’s fans will have nothing to complain about as the album is a full length realisation of soulful, deeply personal songwriting over groovy, gritting Neo-soul and hip/hop beats.

When asked to compare When Everything is Better - I’ll Let You Know to a film, Millett started by simply saying “Well it would be a really good f****n film”. “It wouldn’t be set in the UK” Millett continued, despite the sound of me choking on my coffee from laughter down the phone, “and it would be dramatic, but heartwarming you know”. To finish off her answer (which has to be said is the all time best response I have ever had to this question), Millett laughed that the album is almost like a comedian in that: “You know how great comedians are usually the most depressed people ever? Yeah that’s the album”.

Now, I usually try to steer clear of pointed or provocative questions in interviews, especially over the phone. I’m a firm believer that you should never say something to someone that you wouldn’t also say if they were in punching distance of your face. However I broke this rule and described the common comparisons I had heard, and frequently made myself, grouping Millett’s music with that of UK r&b and soul singer, Jorja Smith. After a short silence that will haunt me until I somehow have it professionally removed from my brain, Millett said, obviously fairly (and rightly) pissed off: “Okay, at the start I liked you, but now...”

I have never apologised quicker in my life. Thankfully Millett took the question really well and really helped me understand why comparisons like these can shallow and frustrating for both artists involved. “Those types of comparisons just feel a bit lazy, I think”, commented Millett, “ because when you actually listen to our stuff next to each other, they don’t sound alike!”. Millett went on to address the root of the problem, identifying that there are some basic similarities between her and smith, but not necessarily their music: “I think we’re just two women of a similar age, same colour, making soulful music that’s emotional.”

“I completely respect what Jorja makes, she makes beautiful stuff, but for me it actually gets me because my actual name is Georgia, so I’m like for FFS its too much!” Millett continued, half laughing half exasperated at the obviously common comparison she faces with her music.

“I get frustrated because we work so hard on our sounds and stuff but people like to put you in groups because it’s the only way they can try to understand you. But in reality we’re all different, I get compared to different mixed race figures all the time, so it’s not new, I hope it fades, I don’t know if it will.”

"It's okay I forgive you" Millett mercifully joked as we then went on to speak more hopefully about the future of the UK music scene. Millett said she was “really excited for The KTNA...they just have the most amazing voices ever. It’s absolutely insane and I’m just so excited to see what they do”.

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The KTNA, consisting of twin sisters Hope and Millie Katana raised and based in Manchester, are indeed making musical waves with charismatic soulful r&b tunes fuelled with Neo-soul instrumentation and hip/hop production. All this, tied together in bow with the duo’s luscious vocals, I would follow Millett’s advice, the KTNA are one to watch.

Pip Millett’s debut album When Everything Is Better - I’ll Let You Know will release on the 21st October, and it will be one not to miss.

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Millett will also be bringing her live show to Bristol, playing at SWX on Monday the 7th of November, so get your tickets here.

Listen to both Pip Millett and The KTNA’s tunes here:

Will you be going to Pip Millett's SWX show?