Caturday with Pip Millett

Jake Millers
Jessica Gianelli

Amidst a global pandemic, and a necessary and inevitable uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, Pip Millett is doing her best to stay true, and to keep calm. Over the last few months, our collective notion of ‘normal’ has seen a drastic change, where the Mancunian singer songwriter notes the discomfort present in the wake of such a shift is one that has been a long time coming. Taking note of her affliction towards green spaces, and embodied tunes, we take a slight wade into her past, uncovering how Pip got to be the woman and musician that she is today. And in celebration of her new video for Heavenly Mother, she and I discuss the therapeutic benefits of music and nature, the “stupidity” that is racism, and how a heightened harmony and respect for our planet and its beings is desperately in need.

JG: It feels difficult to be going about our ‘normal’ lives as all of this unrest unfolds around us, about us.
PM: It’s almost like trying to create a new life over again, instead of going back to the way it was.
JG: Yeah, and I’m feeling that silence and reflection are really necessary — especially in the midst of all of the protests, and all the feelings that they can bring up — but it’s not always so easy to lean into that that.
PM: It’s difficult, it’s a weird time. I had to delete Instagram for a couple of days. I just needed to have some thinking space and time. It’s a lot.
JG: How are you coping? Is there anything you’ve been doing that’s been helping you to move through it?
PM: I actually started doing yoga in the past few weeks which has actually helped. I didn’t think it would do much, but it has. And I’ve been doing more exercise, which has also helped. I think just getting out, even if it’s bad weather, going outside and doing something has been a real lift. That’s probably been my main sort of go to.
JG: And what about this idea of getting back to normal, which we sort of touched on, how do you feel about that?
PM: I don’t think anything is going to go back to normal. I think everything is still in the midst of changing, and I don’t think anyone is going to feel completely comfortable probably until like the end of next year – until they’ve got this sort of pattern with life where they feel that they’re understanding it a bit better. I can’t see things feeling that routine again for quite awhile, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. There needs to be change to a lot of things, and it’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s something that had to come eventually.
JG: I’ve read that you’ve grown up outside of Manchester.
PM: So originally, I’m from Levenshulme, which is closer to Central Manchester. Then we moved out to Stockport, which is kind of… suburban. My house is quite close to the woods and walks and stuff like that, it’s got quite a different feel. It’s the only proper home I can really remember.
JG: And what about your roots?
PM: My dad’s from Jamaica, and my nan came over when she was in her 20s. She’d already had my dad in Jamaica, but she had to leave him behind with his grandparents. And then when he was 7, my nan sent money over for him to get a plane by himself, and he moved over to Manchester to live with her. My nan was orphaned really, at quite a young age. She kind of grew up with her grandparents, so there’s a bit of distance in terms of knowing about the Jamaican side of me. My sister has actually done one of those DNA tests. It’s quite interesting finding out like the proper roots. My mom is from Liverpool, and her dad’s side was Irish, it’s a nice mix.
JG: Your song ‘Like it Like That’ has such a relatable vibe. It feels like a subtle nod to a black woman’s experience, discussing expectations, afflictions, and acceptance.
PM: I’m glad you feel that way. I feel like this is one of the songs I’ve written that seems to come across the clearest, which is really nice. Often people can get a bit confused by the meaning of a song, but this one, it feels like a lot of people have really taken it on in the way it was meant be received.
JG: I feel like ‘Blackness’ is something that is inherently part of our story as black women, but it doesn’t necessarily need to define us or the work that we make. What sort of effect would you say that blackness, in terms of experience and culture, or even just energy has had on you and what you do?
PM: I think it plays actually a larger part in my life than I ever thought it did. I’ve grown up in a very white area, in a separate box to all these people that I’m surrounded by, and that has felt quite strange to sort of realise. And even now, so, my boyfriend is mixed Indian and white, and comparing our experiences at school, he suffered a bit of racism and I did too, but it always feels a bit deeper when you’re partly black, for some unknown reason. I don’t really get it.
But the effects its had are good in many ways. My inspirations in music have been black musicians mainly. All the stuff my mom and dad were listening to when they were together, like Bobby Womack, Lauryn Hill — artists along those lines have been a massive influence, and feel like a very big part of me. There are certain albums from those black musicians that are always going to be quite nostalgic. It’s quite a weird one to describe, but sometimes when you listen to certain songs, it can almost make you feel at home in your dark skin. And I think that’s also how I was trying to write ‘Like it Like that.’ It’s about me beginning to feel at home in my own skin, and with my own Afro hair.
JG: What are some aspects of you that have helped to characterise you, your way of life, your desires, your goals, your feelings?
PM: I try my best to be calm, and rational, peaceful, and forgiving. I think I have to live by those things just to keep my head together, because the world is pretty crazy. Especially when I’m writing, I can get so emotional with it, and I have to sort of step back from it and look at it as if I was someone from the outside looking in. I have to know how to explain, keeping on a certain level. I like to go deep, but then assess it all, and keep a certain frame of mind with it, and not become too overwhelmed. I try to be supportive of myself and the people around me.
JG: Yeah, there needs to be a bit of balance, I guess. Sometimes going too deep too much, yeah, you can get lost.
PM: Finding balance is what it is. I live my life trying to find the balance between everything.
JG: Even though there is no such thing as a perfect world, there are many things we can all do to strive for a better one. Which issues are those closest to your heart? And which areas do you think call for change?
PM: Race is my number one, but right now I feel much better about it than I have [previously]. It felt like this overwhelming thing that may never change, where there will always be this barrier that we’ll never break through, but it feels like maybe that’s not the case anymore. That’s a huge thing for me, especially coming from such a white area, seeing that area get more mixed is one of the nicest feelings. It’s something that needs to continue to change. It’s really stupid. It sounds like such a shit word to use describe it, but It’s so stupid when you bring it down to simple terms. It’s ridiculous, looking at just a colour. It’s like me not liking the colour green and being like ‘no nothing green, chop down all those trees, I don’t like it,’ it doesn’t make any sense. It’s so dumb.
And another thing I think needs to change is the green. The environment is such a huge part of what makes me feel good, and what should make a lot of people feel good. Like when you go for a walk and you think ‘that was great, that made me feel so much better.’ That’s nature, that’s the wild, why aren’t we trying to save that? We’re chopping away everything, and losing all these animals. And yeah, extinction is a part of life, but we’re making that speed up so much. It’s kind of wild, the horrible effect that we are having on the planet and on all the people in it. It makes you a bit fearful of humans I think. Those are two things that really need to change, and they need to change quickly.
JG: Amidst all of these, super prevalent issues, especially right now, it’s kind of a blessing to have the opportunity to sometimes escape into stillness, even if it’s just for a minute. Does music help you do that? What kind of role does it play in your life?
PM: Music is kind of like a therapy session for me. I think my lyrics are very honest, and a lot of musicians will go into a session and they can stay there 12 hours or something crazy. I like my sessions short and sweet because that’s the time that I give myself to get really emotional, and to really think about the things that are going on in my life and what links to it. I use those times and I use my music to assess my feelings, and what’s going on, and just to understand myself a bit better. Without it, I’d probably be a bit of a mess, more than I am already! I feel like I need it. And that’s not just my own music, if you’re in a sad mood you might put on a sad song just to fall within your feelings. And I need it in that way, to sort of be the soundtrack to my life.
JG: And what do you hope that your music gives to other people?
PM: I hope that my music can comfort people, that they get to use it in whatever way they want to. I don’t really mind. It doesn’t even have to do anything for you, you might just like the sound of it, and that’s fine with me.
JG: There’s much soul to be felt through your voice, in the cathartic riffs, it’s subtle but also feels really sincere. Your last ‘Lost in June’ EP — you wrote about your Grandmother— is that right?
PM: The title is linked to my nan, and the song June is about her.
JG: I’ve been listening to the album quite a bit lately, and it feels really honest. It reminds me of like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, these kind of soulful vibes that you can just sit into. I wondered, and you kind of answered this a bit before but, who and what inspires your sound and the honest depth that you’ve allowed it?
PM: Oh wow, high compliment! I think the honesty side to it has definitely come from a mix of Lauryn Hill and Joni Mitchell. They’re two people that [make] you feel like they’re writing about what is going on in their life at that time, it feels like they’re reading out exactly what’s happened and how they felt about it. It doesn’t feel like it’s exaggerated, it doesn’t feel like it’s a show. It’s really an in depth story. Even though a song is only a few minutes long, you feel like you’ve delved into such a deep story when you hear those lyrics, and I’ve always wanted to be able to do something that powerful. I still think I could pull more from my songs, I’m working on that. And I like that I get to keep getting better at writing.
JG: How would you describe your ideal environment — from colours, to textures, smells, and sounds?
PM: My ideal environment is light, and airy. Open, not clustered, and in nature. I like green, I like flowers. And scent, quite soft, not too strong.
JG: Have you been finding any of these things in your isolation time, especially now when everything’s starting to open up a bit?
PM: Yeah it’s been really nice. I’ve been going on a walk everyday, on a golf course where the grass is so neat. It’s so tidy, and that feels really peaceful to me actually. Just feeling the breeze, and being in the garden. My family has been planting a lot of fruit and veg, which has been nice too. There’s a lot of green, and I like it. I just love plants!
JG: Me too, I’m definitely finding that my love for plants is growing so much more in this time because its like, refuge.
PM: They’re really calming.
JG: Where in the world do you feel most confident? Who’s with you, what’s there?
PM: You know, I think I probably feel most confident on stage. Although I get super nervous, it does feel like I blur out a lot of stuff there. And the people around me when I’m feeling most confident are my family, and even when I’m talking about family they are also like my friends.
JG: In this moment, a lot of unexpected obstacles keep popping up left and right, making future plans feel anxious, and uncertain. Resilience and hope, though, can be allies for forward thinking. Are there new goals you’re fostering in this space? Which new dreams are looking for the light of day?
PM: I’ve been learning Spanish, which is not something that I had on my list of things to do until Coronavirus came along. And I’ve actually learned quite a lot so I’m happy with that. It’s got me thinking about moving Spain at some point, which I’d always thought of doing, but it was one of those things that was far away as well, so that’s a new sort of dream for me. I’d always thought that I’d stay in this country for a bit longer, whereas now I’m seeing it like, well, we’re gonna have this long pause of having to stay in the country, so once that is lifted I think I’m going to want to try somewhere new.

Click to listen to Pip Millet’s playlist