Mike Milosh doesn’t know what people are hearing. He doesn’t sing like a woman and never has. “I hear a pretty soft male voice,” said the Rhye frontman, whose tone is often compared to British-Nigerian songstress Sade. “I think there’s some disappointed men that come to the shows. Other than that, it’s kinda funny.”
On his new solo album, Jetlag, Milosh forgoes Rhye’s stripped-down soul for something edgier. It’s familiar enough for Rhye fans, yet far more percussive and electronic.
Hive caught up with the Toronto singer/producer who explained the wistful concept behind Jetlag, his indifferent attitude toward music critics, and why Thom Yorke hits notes that even he can’t.
What’s the premise behind the “Slow Down” video?
Actually, I have to give all the credit to my wife, Alexa. She came up with the music video idea and was confident that she could pull it off, so she just went and did it. Jetlag was created while I was flying back and forth all over the place. I was visiting Alexa, leaving Alexa, missing Alexa. “Slow Down” actually deals with that concept of constantly having to be separated from this person that you love — not because you want to, but because of circumstance.
There’s this idea of having to leave someone, but the video was supposed to be ambiguous. People, especially in North America, are inundated by their jobs. They’re spending more time with their colleagues than they are with family, ya know? Sometimes you just have to slow down and re-evaluate. I don’t wanna damage my important relationships because I’m trying to pursue financial gain.
Would you say that’s the theme for Jetlag?
The album doesn’t have one particular theme. On Jetlag, every song is different. Every song is dealing with something intimate, very mature and very telling. It happens to be a collection of songs that felt intuitively correct when putting them together.
The album deals with a spectrum of time, like a couple of months essentially. Thematically, there isn’t one specific thing that goes through the entire record. There are a lot of complex issues that I’m talking about and dealing with. Like, “Water” is pretty much about this idea of discovering yourself through someone, liking the person who you’re becoming, and wanting to be that person with them. There’s a wide gambit of topics on this record.
So is Jetlag a concept album about your wife?
Alexa was the inspiration behind me wanting to write these songs. On a technical level, she’s been there for every aspect of the music. She’s been recording lyrics, and I sent songs for her to listen to when I wasn’t in the same city. We’d talk about it and inspire each other. She was in the studio with me when I was mastering the record.
Did you feel creative pressure when creating Jetlag because of Rhye’s great success this past spring?
Well, I ignore those kinds of pressures. I’m driven by other kinds of pressures like, “Don’t be broke and have a roof over your head,” or whatever. Typically, I don’t get pressured because I really believe what I’m doing is what I wanna do. Like, I create the music I feel and I’m not as concerned with its commercial success.
I don’t wanna be a starving artist. I wanna feed myself and live an OK life, but I have a lot of conviction behind my music. And the songs that I create, I believe in them wholeheartedly. So there’s no pressure on it. You don’t have to like it. If you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter because I believe in it. I did it for a reason.
Were you surprised at all by Rhye’s sudden success?
It was certainly surprising, but at the same time, I don’t pay attention to positive or negative press. I have this theory that, if you put a lot of weight on the positive press, the negative press is gonna destroy you. You can’t just filter the good from the bad all the time. I don’t put too much stock into either because I don’t want it to influence I’m going to create.
I obviously felt happy it was successful, because it’s allowed me to try to mold people emotionally and help them feel things. I’ve had some very beautiful experiences on the road. I’ve traveled around the world like twice now in the past six to eight months. But I wouldn’t say that I’m swayed by negative or positive press. Nothing’s gonna stop me from making music anyway, so if I get negative press, I’m still gonna keep creating.
This is your fourth solo album. How is Jetlag different from your previous work?
I have a style or aesthetic that’s immediately recognizable. The Rhye stuff has a certain punch to it, and was definitely this other thing I was creating. Working on the Rhye stuff with Robin [Hannibal] is already a different language because we’re influencing each other. Robin is over here and I’m over there, and we’re gonna meet in the middle to create the sound that was Rhye.
My solo work has an aesthetic to it. I’m much more into the electronic part of production. It’s not totally experimental, but there’s an element to my solo stuff that’s more experimental because there’s no other person influencing me, who’s more interested in more rigid song structures. There have been a lot of changes in my life, so my solo work is unique in that way. Sonically, there’s a identifiable sound, voice and texture to the pieces. Lyrically, I’m leaning on personal experiences derived from real life. But I wanted to make sure Jetlag was more electronic-based.
How sick are you of people saying you sound like a woman when you sing?
[Laughs] It’s a bit funny to me. It’s not like I’m sick of it because so many people have said it. I don’t agree with it. I don’t hear it. Like, Thom Yorke is singing way higher than I can. I can’t even do the notes that Thom Yorke can do. I think I’m mistaken as a woman because of that gentile quality to it, but at the same time, it’s my voice so I hear a guy.
We laugh about it because I don’t hear a girl [laughs]. Music is subjective, everyone can have their own experience with it and if someone feels a certain way, they’re entitled to feel that.
Jetlag is out November 26 via Deadly/eONE Canada.