With Pemberton Music Festival fast approaching, I wanted to reach out to one of the fine-print acts on the lineup to see what tomorrow’s future headliners have to say about their introduction to the festival circuit.
Enter: Mickey Blue. Mickey is a Toronto-born R&B singer with love in his heart and women on the mind. I caught up with him via telephone to ask about pre-festival anticipation, his crew, and the philosophy of performance.
James: So you’ve got Pemberton Music Festival coming up this week, just a few days away. Can you discuss what it means to be sharing the same bill with some pretty major acts (Pearl Jam, The Killers, J. Cole)?
Mickey: It’s a long time coming, it’s a huge opportunity. I feel like everything has lead to this moment and I’m just extremely excited, extremely honoured, and extremely privileged to be in such…damn…some legends on that list: such legendary company and people with such impressive résumés. I’m very, very privileged and very honoured and hella excited.
J: Is there any set we can catch you at in the audience after your performance
M: Hmmmm, I don’t want to make any guarantees! I mean, I’d love to see Snoop, the guy’s a living legend. He’s been around forever and there’s so much history, you know, growing up with that music. I’ve never been to a music festival so I’m not going to anticipate anything other than just me going up when I have to go up.
J: You just released your first EP, “A Man In Love”, which seems to be equal parts losing love as being in love. Would you say its inspiration was more the former or the latter?
M: I’d say it’s both. I mean, anyone who has been in love and taken a relationship seriously will tell you that love is pain, firsthand. You have really, really good moments but it’s emotional and…I’m an artist and I imagine things how they should work out and if they don’t, it gets frustrating. Learning to be in a relationship with another person, two different perspectives, it’s a lot of ups and downs. I try to address all of it. I don’t try to address just the initial meeting, or the butterflies, or the heartbreak; I kind of try to make it come together into one life-form.
J: Your music does have a little tongue-in-cheek humour to it as well, like asking a woman to “be my Lois Griffin…be my Margery Simpson”. Is that just your personality shining through? Should we take your music seriously or is it more lighthearted?
M: I write from the heart but I also try to write mathematically, strategically, and almost calculated. So those two characters, although they do come from humorous animated t.v. shows, I feel like in music the more people you can bring on-board with universal references – things that people know – the more likely people are to take a liking to a song. The music should absolutely be taken seriously but there’s always room for a little laughter. Sometimes it freaks me out how serious I take this stuff but I feel like it’s a calculated decision as much as it’s a bit of hokeyness.
J: Speaking of calculated, it seems like you have quite a team behind you. Could you tell me a bit about W.A.T.S. (We Are The School)?
M: W.A.T.S. is a creative collective, we’re about four years in since this entire project’s inception. I came home from university and I had no idea what I was doing and I asked people: “Yo, can you send me some beats, I’m starting to write and sing.” And people laughed at me, and rightfully so, they had no idea that I could write or sing. [W.A.T.S.] is essentially the people that weren’t laughing at me, the people that agreed to work with me – whether they’re directly involved in the music or it’s just a matter of feeling like we’re a part of a team. I can’t thank these people enough for doing that for me.
We Are The School is togetherness. It’s Peace. It’s Friendship. It’s Family. It’s Love. Hopefully it all makes sense in a year or two.
J: Where do you see yourself in a year or two? Or ten?
M: Hopefully playing – or headlining – a lot more “Pembertons”.
J: Is the spotlight for you or are you move of a behind-the-scenes guy?
M: Haven’t decided. The spotlight is for me at times. If I had to model my career after someone, I really like what Frank Ocean does. He does a lot of writing for other artists and puts out music sparingly but puts it out at such a quality where when he goes away, everyone asks [“where is Frank?”].
J: Toronto has the biggest spotlight it’s ever had on it right now thanks to The Weeknd, Drake, and Bieber being, arguably, the biggest names in pop music – is this a help or hindrance on your career right now?
M: I think it’s going to be tough, at times, to avoid comparisons with those artists because they are so prominent but I absolutely think it’s a huge advantage to be coming from Toronto right now. At the end of the day it’s a very competitive market and it’s a very competitive industry; it’s who’s going to make the better song, the better song out-rules everything. There’s a lot of talent from this city, so we’re just getting started. Those guys definitely opened the floodgates for us but there’s plenty more coming.
J: What can we expect from you on Friday when you take the stage?
M: Energy man, energy. With a live performance, your priority should be bringing people together to have a really good time; take them out of their heads and into their bodies. The ultimate party is a dance party. I’m not necessarily saying all of my music is danceable, some of it is slow, but you just want people to feel. You don’t want them to think so much for that forty-five minutes that I have up there. That’s my priority.
J: Good answer. Thank you Mickey!
Mickey Blue will take the Whistler Blackcomb Stage at 5:30pm this Friday at Pemberton Music Festival.