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A Dirty Dozen with MIKAYLA JOSEPH from MALLOW HILL – June 2024

Photo credit: Liz Pappas

According to a recent press release: “Baltimore quintet, Mallow Hill are set to release their debut song “Thinkin’ Bout My Baby” June 7, 2024.  Recorded at famed 3Sirens in Nashville, “Thinkin’ Bout My Baby” was produced by Grammy-nominated Dex Green (Elvis Costello, Margo Price, Nicole Atkins, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Shemekia Copeland) and engineered by Joe Costa (Ben Folds, Caitlin Rose, Amanda Palmer), the song also features some of Nashville’s best session players, including Jack Lawrence on bass (The Raconteurs, Dead Weather, Jack White), Meg Coleman on drums (Alison Russell, Brandi Carlisle, Jenny Lewis), and Ray Jacildo on keys, synth, mellotron (The Black Keys, Marcus King, Yola).  Mallow Hill’s debut album will be released later this year. The name, Mallow Hill pays homage to the street in Baltimore where the band’s origin story began. The street “Mallow Hill” has always served a purpose as a headquarters for music creation and collaboration, with an open door policy that has been established by band leader and founder, Danny Gwinn.  This hub of musical creativity and collaboration eventually led to his introduction to Mikayla, helping to gradually shape the musical sound and soul that is Mallow Hill. It was this framework that led to the emergence and establishment of the band.” We get Mikayla to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

“Thinkin’ Bout My Baby”, our first single off of our debut record, has been such a blast to play live since it came about almost two years ago. So, I had high expectations when going to record this track because it had already been such a hit with our audience, and our friend and producer Dex Green did not disappoint. From the fuzzy bass, to the hypnotic tremolo guitar, and mellotron bells, this song was an absolute blast to record. It was the first song we recorded when making this record and our first time really getting to play around with sounds that make this song, sonically, more interesting.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I have a very musical family. My parents always had their favorite album of the season on full blast when I was growing up.  Which is probably why I also like to play my music loud (lol).  My dad’s mom, Becky, was a musician and is definitely responsible for my interest in performing at a really young age.  Around the ages of three or four, she started dragging me to church with her and would throw me on stage to sing whenever she had the chance.  It wasn’t long before everyone, including myself, noticed that I didn’t seem to mind.  My grandfather, Lane, was also a fan of playing music for the whole neighborhood to hear. He had a massive vinyl collection that he eventually started to share with me.  He taught me the importance of buying music and listening to music (especially vinyl) from start to finish. This taught me to have an appreciation for the artistry that goes behind making an album.  I think it’s safe to say that I can credit him and my dad for my growing vinyl collection. All in all, I was probably five or six years old when I started walking around telling people that I was going to be a rockstar when I grow up.  I don’t remember the exact moment because that feeling was always in me.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I grew up on rock n’ roll. Lots of Stones and Zeppelin.  Led Zeppelin has always held a special place in my heart.  Not only did they make some of the best records of all time, they were also just complete rockstars on and off the stage.  I just love the feeling I got when I was a kid, and even now when I put on Led Zeppelin.  I adore Robert Plant’s showmanship and vocal style.  I’ve always thought that he was a bad ass.  It wasn’t until my later years that I fell in love with Amy Winehouse.  I was so inspired by her soulful vocals and incredible songwriting on her debut album, Frank.  After learning how young she was when she wrote that album, I was just amazed and extremely jealous of her talent.  She has and will continue to inspire me to be the most authentic version of myself, no matter where life takes me.  To always strive to be a better singer, performer and writer than I was yesterday.  I feel like I relate to Amy a lot in that way. Like I’m never really satisfied with myself, even on my best days.  Some people say that’s what makes you better artist, so I am going to hold onto that.  Also, an honorable mention to Bill Withers, I hope someday I can turn a story into a song like him.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I think it would be really difficult for me to pick one person to collaborate with.  Ideally, I think I’d just like to choose someone that I feel comfortable with. I want to work with people that inspire me to be the best version of myself as an artist and a person.  I want to work with people that push me out of my comfort zone and inspire me to keep digging inward to be the best I can be.  I want making music to be an experience that’s driven by love and creativity.  I want it to feel like a breath of fresh air.  I feel like that’s all you can really ask for.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

When I’m not working, spending time with family and nurturing my body and soul takes precedence. I feel like in order to write, you have to fuel your mind and soul with experiences.  You have to live a little bit to have something to write about.  So, traveling and connecting with nature is something that’s also very important to me. It’s not always easy but when you get to it, it’s always worth it.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Our debut album we’re putting out, Soul Candy, is exactly what I want our music to feel like.  There’s no better feeling than hearing a good song for the first time and riding in your car with the windows down and singing at the top of your lungs.  That’s what I want the music that we write to give to people, that sense of utter joy when you first discover something you like.  That is the best feeling in the world to me.  Since I started singing with my band, I’m constantly compared to other artists. Sometimes I don’t always agree right away, but once I sit and think on it for a while, I can’t help but feel grateful that people would compare me to some of the greatest to ever do it, even if I don’t see myself that way.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

I am so grateful to have the relationship that I do with my band members.  We spend a lot of time together and we get to do a lot of cool things together.  One of the best parts of being in a band, aside from writing music and sharing it with people, is the camaraderie.  We seriously never stop laughing.  Danny is always the driver, I’m always in the passenger seat with the directions, Chris, John and Mac are always in the back, bringing tears to everybody’s eyes from laughing so hard.  We are family and we make the best out of every situation together.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Danny and I traveled to Nashville together for the first time in February 2022.  It was the weekend that we would go and meet Dex, check out the studio, talk about our music, etc. and ultimately decide to work with him.  Conveniently, The Black Pumas were doing two nights at the Ryman.  We went to night one, then cancelled our flights and had to go back for night two.  We were lucky enough to actually meet both Eric and Adrian, (lead singer and guitar player) on different nights.   I was definitely star struck meeting Eric Burton, I didn’t expect myself to get that way but after getting to say hi and taking a picture, it just happened.  I just adore him, and I strive to put on a show as good as the Black Pumas do.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The music industry is so different these days.  There are so many reasons not to be a musician. It’s hard to make money, so your broke.  You have to work really hard every day just to have a chance to continue on your own course, which can lead you to be very busy that you tend to neglect other important things in your life.  You definitely get told no a lot and have to hear about why you’re not good enough thousands of times, in addition to other factors that can make you feel like everything is working against you.  But when you’re an artist and you have a calling, that just it.  The feeling that you get when you write a good song or when you have a performance that you feel good about, along with meeting someone after a show who has a great energy and lifts your mood.  Seeing the other side of the fence sometimes, which is the people who support you, love you and tell you that you just made their day is how we like to remember things here.  I’m young and I haven’t been doing this for very long, but I really don’t think there is another way for me.  The good days outweigh the bad every single time.  I haven’t really thought about what I else I would do, but if I had to , I would probably work with animals.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

To be honest I don’t have too much experience in doing interviews, so I really don’t know. I’m sure I’ll have a better answer to this question in the future.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I mean, not really. I feel like the chain of events that has brought me to where I am now has only made me better. I’m learning so much about myself. I’m learning that I’m capable of much more than I ever dreamed. I’m 26 years old and I’m really coming into who I am as a person and musician, and I feel like I’m someone my younger self would be proud of. This journey I’ve been on with Mallow Hill has been one of the most trying but most rewarding experiences of my life. I’m so grateful for this band and everything it’s given me so I wouldn’t change a thing. Except for maybe the time we played a gig, and I completely lost my voice and let Mac sing. But even then, it was really funny.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

This is a really hard question, but maybe Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones. It’s a true rock n’ roll record. Just Mick, Keith and the gang gathered in a basement in the South of France, following Keith’s lead. Writing and composing everything completely off the cuff, playing everything over and over until it felt just write. I mean that’s really how a lot of good music is made, especially with Mallow Hill. Most of anything good that’s come from us as band has revolved around friendship and a lot of time spent in a basement, just trying to figure things out. I think that’s why I’d love to go back in time and sit in on the making of Exile.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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