Following the release of her debut EP at the end of last month, 15-year-old Misty Miller has succeeded in charming listeners with the combination of her gentle voice and inviting ukulele. Having been brought up in an innately musical family, the singer and songwriter has worked to carve her own path, writing semi-autobiographical tracks that succeed in maintaining a soft simplicity that work to appeal to listeners of any age. The 405 had a chance to catch up with the young musician about her affinity for the stringed instrument, her song writing strategies and whether she’d align herself with the UK’s folk scene. You play the ukulele primarily. Why do you think there seems to have been a return to simplicity in music – where it’s not so much over-the-top? I think over the past couple of years, there’s been this big electric vibe going on – with La Roux and all these female electro artists. It’s all very technical now, [with] bass beats, and nothing sounds very real. And I think that’s why now people want to go back to the real raw stuff again. There’s a lot of folky artists coming in now – like Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, and I think people just want to hear that a bit more now. Initially, what drew you to the ukulele? Was this a transition or did you naturally take an inkling to it at a young age? Well I’d been singing from a young age, and then I just started [playing] songs with my older brothers, and I sort of got into writing then – lyrics and melodies. But I’d always had songs in my head, though, primarily as a singer, and I literally got the ukulele as a gift when I was about 13. It was quite easy to play, it was small, so I used it as an accompaniment, and then I actually started writing on it. I still sort of see myself as a singer and not necessarily as a ukulele player, but it’s a tool I use to write music and to play. Do you find your songs span different subjects and ideas or do you primarily touch on the same ones? Well most of my songs are autobiographical – I’ll have a feeling or I’ll see something and I’ll write it down. Saying that, a couple of songs on the album [out] in January – like “Bones” and “Home” – are kind of inspired by an idea. I’m also into rockabilly music as well, and I wanted to write something that I could perform quite aggressively because all my other songs are quite gentle. So I think it depends on the mood I’m in when I write it. Would you align yourself with the “folk scene” in the UK? I guess you could say that, and I guess probably people will, but I don’t personally. Maybe if I was completely into folk, then I would, but because my inspiration and what I feel I write has its own genre going on, I don’t feel I click into folk necessarily. But saying that, I’m probably closest to folk than any other genre. Do you think the music that you play – folk, for lack of a better word – can get overshadowed in the UK by the focus on electronic? Or listeners outside tend to align electro with the UK? Yeah, I mean I definitely think that when a fan or someone listens to music and really likes something it’s not normally the very mainstream stuff anyway. There’s all the electronic mainstream [songs] you hear on the radio and you enjoy and you sing along to, but the stuff people see at gigs – I think it’s the kind of scene I’m into. I get asked a lot about the music I like, and it’s hard to say because I literally like every kind of music: I like rap and I like folk and I like country and pop and everything, so I guess I kind of try to do that with the music I play. But saying that, what I’ve learned is that there’s a big difference between music I like and music I play and write. And so people will say, ‘do you like folk music?’ and actually I really like every kind of music. I was brought up with three older brothers and in a very music family, so I was introduced to many different styles. What was it about this particular style of music that appealed to you as an artist? I think to be honest it’s the instrument I’m using – the ukulele. You can’t really write a very loud, poppy song. I personally love singing very showy music and I’ve got this little part of me that loves musicals and dramatizing my voice, but because I’m on a ukulele, I can’t really do that, so I have to say it’s definitely the instrument. Do you see yourself evolving with another type of instrument or into another genre as your career goes on? I see myself still writing on the ukulele, but I see also working with other people . . . but I noticed that I change the kind of things I do quite frequently, so I wouldn’t say it’s not going to happen. I love singing in general, and writing, and if I can share it with people and they like it, then wicked.
You can visit Misty Miller by heading to http://www.myspace.com/mistymillermusic Header image by Nick Dorey