Mikky Ekko has come home. After recording in places as far-flung as London, Stockholm, and Los Angeles, Ekko returned to the city that has proved both a permanent address and the creative sanctuary for his new album, Fame. It’s said that people have lucky cities, a geographic location where they seem to flourish or feel they are their best selves. Born in Louisiana and raised in small southern towns, Ekko believes Nashville is magic.
Let’s start with the title of the album, why “Fame”?
Fame is dirty and beautiful...like a crackhead in a ball- room gown. I’ve felt that way for a while, but I knew if I was creating an album around such an abstract concept I had to get my yin and yang balanced...really be transparent. The bitter and the sweet and the in- between, it’s all me, it’s all there. Ultimately, Fame is the truest representation of my sound and my perspec- tive. It’s the sound of me not compromising. Never, not once.
Was there a specific inspiration behind the album?
I was NEVER who I thought you were. I was NEVER who I thought you were. I was NEVER who I THOUGHT you were...It’s really hard for me to verbalize the self-re- flection that took place...at least in a conversational way. The album is me finding my way through a labyrinth and the emotions I experienced along the way. Anyone can fake it...it’s easy to put on hats, show people one thing and mime the rest...but at the end of the day you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say this is who I am, and I wanted to give people access to who I am with this album. Make your own way clear and help will find you...or it won’t, but at least you’ll know which way you’re going.
To some, working with producer Jay Joyce might seem like an unlikely paring. Can you discuss the collaboration?
My gut just told me that Jay [Joyce] gets the beautiful shit and the noisy punk shit and the shit in between and that he would just get it. You can hear all that shit in his records. Also, I was hell-bent on NO Plan B. When my label asked me who I wanted to produce if Jay wouldn’t do it, I said “Jay Joyce...or Jay Joyce...if he won’t do it then I don’t really know who is gonna do it.” Having a Plan B feels like cheating on the future...you can’t have it both ways.
What songs came first when setting out to make the record?
“Bitter” was the first song I wrote for the album and “Fame” was the second. When I played them back to back I knew that’s how it needed to start and end...and that from there I had to take people on the journey that was my life in between those two points. If you are not happy with your situation GET THE F*CK. OUT. Then do it your-F**KING-SELF. Get happy in YOUR situation.
Did you feel pressure after the success and atten- tion “Stay” brought?
The whole fairy tale thing lasted almost a year before things finally got back to normal... whatever that was. A lot of people expected me to hit the road with Rih or do more collaborations with other pop people. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should...and I spent a lot of time trying to balance who I should be vs. who I am. It was like a weird induction into a new high-school or something...when you’re surround- ed by something it’s hard not to think...“is this... maybe... who I am?” The easiest way for me to answer that ques- tion now is... no...but I needed all of that to write Fame, so I’m thankful.
The new album is your first since your debut in 2015, Time. Did you approach making this album differently than previously?
With Time I cared a LOT about the man in the mirror...and who HE needed to be to make Time work. And I’m okay with that...I like peo- ple to know where I’ve been. But with Fame my focus was on self-reflection...on do-it-yourself... on my sound and my voice...because f*ck a mirror - I wanna know me when I press play.