Very few artists score a chance to perform on the Grammys stage, but Mikky Ekkocan already cross that one off his bucket list — even without his debut album in stores.
The Louisiana native performed a duet of the Unapologetic single "Stay" with Rihanna at the Staples Center in February. He's released several EPs — including 2010's Reds and Blues and 2013's tracks — and is currently signed to RCA Records and he's at work recording his debut album.
Ekko, born John Sudduth, found some of his earliest musical influences in the church, as the son of a pastor, but he eventually moved to Nashville to pursue a career in singing and songwriting full time. He caught a big break when Rihanna heard his original track "Stay" and wanted to use it for her own album.
"It was crazy doing the Grammys because I had some of my original material out on the EPs, but the first live show I played outside of Nashville was the Grammys," Ekko told MTV News, expressing his disbelief. "At the Grammys was my first time wearing in-ear monitors and there were just a ton of factors...knowing it was coming whether I wanted it to or not [and thinking], 'This is your shot, you can either blow it or not.' "
Luckily, Rih knew just what to say in that moment of panic. "She walked over to me right before the curtains went up and she said, 'I'm so nervous.' And that, for me, was one of the most calming [things]. It made me feel like...[OK], it's totally natural. It reminded me of being in high school at a talent show...except it was a world stage."
Needless to say, Mikky Ekko survived his performance, and after that night he earned himself a new set of fans, including a few from Rihanna's very dedicated Navy.
Since then he's continued to work on his upcoming studio debut album with producers like Clams Casino (who produced "Pull Me Down") and new collaborators including Pharrell, Diplo and Ryan Hemsworth. But even tackling the Grammys stage didn't take away all of the nerves when it came time to record with a legend like Pharrell.
"Pharrell is pretty much how I imagined him — super cool, chill, mad style, super fast and the first thing I thought was, 'If I'm gonna go in with him I gotta try to do something to impress him. Even if I miss, I'm just gonna go for it," Mikky explained. "So I went in and tried a delivery style that I hadn't tried before and approached my lyrics in a different way."
He got the Pharrell stamp of approval, and now all that's left to do is complete his album, which has been difficult to work on while out on the road touring with artists like Jessie Ware.
The ultimate goal though, is always to improve his craft. "I try to write from a place that's pure and I work really hard to figure out what it is I'm trying to say if it's important," he noted. " 'Stay' would up being a song that resonated with somebody like Rihanna and it has been so surreal but it also gave me a real push to step up my songwriting. If it can resonate with someone like her who has such a massive platform, then how I can continue to elevate my game?"
Mikky Ekko's latest single is "Kids," which he hopes will serve as a transition into the album.