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Artist Spotlight: Milky Day introduces his new era with ‘Losing My Grip’; talks artistic journey and creative process

Korean-New Zealander artist Milky Day is introducing a new era of music today with his latest single. Known for his R&B and indie melodies, “Losing My Grip” takes him into darker, more experimental territory prior to the release of his upcoming EP. We spoke with Milky about this new song, his journey into music full time and providing comfort to his listeners.

Atlas Artist Group: Can you tell us about how “Losing My Grip” came to be? What inspired this new single? 

Milky Day: It’s very different from my previous style of music. I basically wrote the song when I was going through a pretty low period of my life last year. In a nutshell, I got laid off from my job, I went through a breakup [and] I also moved countries because of visa issues. During that period, I just felt like I had no direction in my life- there was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of stress. I kind of felt like I was losing my grip on reality at times. I just channeled that energy into the song, which is what I often like to do when I’m feeling something, some kind of emotion, pretty strongly that I channel and vent it through music. So that’s how “Losing My Grip” came along. 

But, in a bigger context, I was actually trying to put together an EP and “Losing My Grip” happened to be one of the songs that fit really well into the theme of that EP. The recording process- as it goes for all of my songs, it was done in my room. All of the magic- the recording magic- happens in my room. The mixing and mastering process was done at the Platinum Studio  in New York City, which is a pretty reputable studio. 

Atlas: You’ve had an interesting journey from your education going into music. What really pushed you into pursuing music as your path and landing on the sound you have now? 

Milky Day: So originally, I thought I was gonna go down a more conventional pathway where I go to college, I get a math degree, I work for some reputable company somewhere. That obviously changed and I guess the trigger was when I went through that layoff last year. So what happened was, I was working for a startup and the startup basically failed and they ended up shutting down and laying off all of their workers, including me. So that was kind of an opportunity for me to reflect on what I really wanted in life and what I wanted to do next. Because COVID had happened right before that as well, like a few years ago, I had already been thinking- do I really want to be doing a day job for the rest of my life or do I want to do something I enjoy more like music? So I was already thinking about it for a while. I took that leap of faith. That’s how I ended up pursuing music. 

In terms of how I discovered my sound, it’s been an exploration over the past few years. When I first started off, it was more like lo-fi, chill stuff and then I started exploring a bit of K-indie and then more recently, over the past few years, R&B music. It’s an experimental process- just trying different genres, seeing what sticks, seeing what I like, seeing what my listeners like, and figuring it out.

Atlas: Are those genres what you most enjoy listening to or are they just what you enjoy creating?

Milky Day: Yeah, my music style is super closely tied with my music taste. It also does change depending on what I’ve been listening to recently.

Atlas: When you’re crafting songs, do you start with melody and then build the story? Or is it the opposite?

Milky Day: Before I even start making music, I try to think of a story. It doesn’t always have to be a story, but some kind of scene or some kind of moment that I picture in my head to inspire me and put me in the right mood. And then I start producing the beat first. Depending on what direction the production goes, I start coming up with a melody first and then the lyrics. Sometimes that order changes, depending on the song- some songs, I start writing first and I’m like, ooh this melody actually inspires this other new production idea. And then I start producing something different and I write on top of that. It’s a pretty flexible process.

Atlas: Since you’re an independent artist and you record everything yourself, how do you approach your own creative process? Do you have people around you or collaborators that you can bounce ideas off of during recording? 

Milky Day: I pretty much have full creative control. But when I need advice, I usually reach out to other artists that I’ve worked with before or people I know who have a good ear for music, and I’ll take their feedback and make adjustments. I also talk to my management company, Unbound Entertainment. They have a whole team with experienced people so Unbound often gives me advice as well. There’s also this creative collective in New York that I work quite closely with- they’re four guys who do music, but they’re also close friends of mine. I’ve worked on a lot of songs [and] a lot of video projects with them and I usually really trust their opinion as well. 

Atlas: One thing about artists is that they’re perfectionists when it comes to their own art. Do you think of yourself that way? When you’re making music, when do you reach the point where you know the song is done and ready for release? 

Milky Day: I think that is one of the biggest struggles of being an artist. I’ve seen so many talented musicians and artists around me who just don’t release music because they’re such perfectionists. They’re always like, no it’s not ready, I don’t feel ready, I’m still discovering my sound. I used to be like that as well, I think, to a certain extent but over time, I’ve learned that it will never be perfect, you know? I’m always discovering my sound so I’ll never feel like I’ve discovered my sound at any point. 

Now I’ve learned to just let go of a project [and] allow it to be released when it reaches a certain point. I’m still not sure how I know when it’s reached that point or not but it definitely helps to ask friends or family, hey, what do you think about the song? And they’re like, it sounds great and ready and stuff- then I think that’s pretty reassuring and a sign for me to release it. It’s all by feel- if I listen to a song and nothing catches my attention and I don’t really want to change anything too much or if I find myself just making super minor adjustments that normal people probably can’t even notice. That’s when I know it’s ready.

Atlas: Do you have a song in your catalog that you really resonate with more than the others? Is there one that you’ve noticed your fans really connecting with? 

Milky Day: I think I actually resonate a bit more with my more downtempo, sad kind of music to be honest. I’ve thought about why and I think it might be just because those emotions are a bit more memorable to me. The lows in life hit a bit different than the highs in life- at least for me. Songs like “Feeling Blue”, maybe, or- a slightly older song- “Kiss Me Slowly”. I think those songs really speak to me because it was when I was going through an emotional breakup and stuff. So there’s pretty strong feelings that are anchored to those songs. 

Actually, the songs that my listeners, I think, resonate with more…I mean, my top song is “You’ll Be Alright” so clearly that’s the one they resonate with the most. I think the reason why they resonate with that is because I wrote that song in the beginning of COVID and it’s actually kind of about COVID. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s about being in quarantine and being tired of working and stuff. And it also provides some reassurance to listeners, like you’re not the only one feeling this, everyone’s going through it and it’s going to pass. So I think that’s why people really felt that song because it was relevant and everyone was going through it, you know? 

Atlas: What do you hope your listeners will take away from your music as a whole? Which song would you recommend to someone who’s just starting to listen to you? 

Milky Day: In terms of what I want people to take away, I’ve realized that I think my purpose with music is for people to feel reassured or get a sense of comfort from listening to my music. I want my music to be a reminder that we all go through these different kinds of emotions in life. We all go through things like moments of heartbreak or excitement or stress. I want to write these songs about these topics in a way that people can relate to it and feel like there are other people out there experiencing the same thing. That’s my goal- reassurance [and] comfort. 

In terms of recommendations, I think that depends on what genre you’re into. I think if you’re into more K-indie stuff, my top tracks like “You’ll Be Alright” or “Fool” might be good. If you want something a bit more upbeat, something like “Take It Slow”. I think “Take It Slow” is also one of my personal favorites. Something more sad, downtempo, I’d probably recommend “Feeling Blue”. It really depends on your taste.

Atlas: How do you define your own success? Are you reaching for any goals specifically or are you just seeing where the journey takes you?

Milky Day: I think I am just seeing where the journey takes me. I don’t really set long term goals and I think the reason for that is because life is pretty unpredictable so you actually don’t really know. I could say in five years, I want to be performing on this type of stage with these types of numbers, but at the end of the day, I actually have no idea. Things change all the time. I like to focus more on short term goals, depending on what type of activities are happening. If there’s a lot of shows lined up, my goal would be to put on a really good show, impress my friends, sing really well. Whereas if I have a song coming up soon or an EP or something, then my goal might be to make sure the release is smooth. It really depends on what’s happening in my life or my music career. I guess the overarching goal is and will always be to just do what I enjoy, which is music so I’m chipping away at that goal.

Atlas: You mentioned live shows- do you have any planned? Are you hoping to tour at some point?

Milky Day: We actually do have a couple of plans for shows. In October I’ll also be performing at the 1MX Festival here in Sydney, which I’m very excited about. I’ve always wanted to do a local show. In terms of touring, nothing is completely set in stone at the moment, but I believe there are plans for a US tour in early 2024. We’ll be hitting a couple of cities there. A lot of stuff in the works and a lot of things to look forward to.

Atlas: Besides the new song coming out soon, what else is coming up for you? 

Milky Day: So this month, I have a pretty big music video coming out which I’m super excited about. I worked on it with that creative collective in New York called Soulace and it’s the biggest budget music video that I’ve filmed so far. I’m really excited to share it with my fans. And then next month, I have my EP coming out which is super exciting. I haven’t released an EP in years now. Without giving away too much, that EP is, as I said earlier, pretty different from my usual sound. It’s a little bit darker and it touches on themes related to mental health and things like that. Don’t expect my lovey, chill Milky sound for this next EP. I tried to be a bit more experimental with this one. 

Atlas: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or is there anything you’d like to talk about that people may not ask you? 

Milky Day: This isn’t directly about me, but it comes from my own experience. Just the message I want to say to people is if there’s something you’ve always wanted to pursue, or a hobby that you wanted to delve into deeper, don’t be afraid to chase it or try it out. I see too many people out there who have some hidden talent- whether it be music or some other thing- but they just don’t really show to the world or pursue it seriously, because they’re afraid of what might happen or they’re nervous about people judging them and things like that. I feel like you shouldn’t feel like that. If you enjoy it, you should just try it out. Especially with music- it’s more accessible than it’s ever been before and it’s so easy to just start making stuff in your room. That’s how I started.  I just hope people out there chase their dreams more.

“Losing My Grip” is out now! 

Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo courtesy of Milky Day