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Maxi Mills – Captions

  • Music
  • Interview
  • 15 minute read

Ahead of his new EP “Captions”, we sat down with West London Artist Maxi Mills to discuss life, music and LA.

So yeah West London, early life, what was it like growing up?

What was it like growing up early life, well I was, I was born in Mozart so I lived in Mozart until I was like 8 and then my dad became an actor, so like from like 8 onwards I was fucking like, in between, like bro we moved from Mozart to like a house in like a week bro so I went from like
just normal life to like quite like, a cool house and then like, we moved out to Baltimore on the East coast but we still had the house here so I like early life I was kind of everywhere I was like one of those weird like kids I was kind of at school but they let me work from home so I was like, in London, in new York, in Baltimore until about 11 or 12 and that’s when I kind of just, we settled, we decided cool I’m gonna be a London boy and then we settled in London in Kensal Rise and then erm, yeah just started growing up round there like west, north west London. Erm but yeah it was weird growing up as a kid really, I kind of, had like a weird little accent until I was like,

Yeah I bet

Yeah its cool though, but I guess its good you’ve got like such a mix of um, like cultures Mm that’s why west was good as well. Yeah that’s why you like west, yeah makes sense Cos everyone theres just fucking Filipino or Turkish or something. Bare Americans as well. But yeah that was my little childhood story. Bare people don’t know that, but yeah. I was definitely like a little American kid.

Was there a point when you realised, well I guess this question, what was the point you realised that you wanted to get into songwriting cos I know you had like a mad history of all different sorts of stuff

Yeah so when I was like, when I was younger it was my first passion, cos I did like West end stuff, I was like in Thriller Live, like I did little like, Oliver Twist.

Oh mad

All that shit when I was younger younger, and then before I did that stuff, I was always writing poetry and like coming up with little songs and just like writing them in my little book but then low-key going into theatre, that put me off it all, like after I did Thriller and all that shit I hated it cos I
was always pretending to be someone else and like, it was just trash. And then so my dream died but then after doing like something to hate on and like working with all the artists, and like going into sessions and a&r’ing different things, and like we started our own little record label and after
doing all of that stuff I realised I wanted to do it cos people like Jevon and Oscar Scheller were just like, around me kind of just like giving me the opportunity to fuck around and make mistakes, and like do all of that stuff. And also when we were younger bro, like singing was moist.

Yeah I hear you

Like singing was so moist, and I remember, cos I got a fucking scholarship to a private school, so not only was I in a private school but I was also singing and there was no way I was gonna be the black kid in ends, who was in a private school and singing like so it took me like ages to come to
terms with it but then when I had the people around me who certied my ting – and then obviously now you got like, I’ve seen west and I’ve seen [?] and I’ve seen like angel do their ting like its not seen as like, and obviously fucking Drake is like, the fucking moistest guy in the world init so now
everyone’s doing it, everyone’s singing so now I’m like, more comfortable with doing it cos before it was like, I was 14 years old writing songs about love like, couldn’t bring myself to actually say I did it. I was definitely a bit scared to come out and do the artist ting.

Its good though, I think it’s just a sign of the times init, also growing up in an age where you kind of, understand yourself more and the kind of, how you see as you said moist, it all kind of disappears init as you get older.
But also the world likes melodies more now bro even like, even mumble rappers have melodies and shit I feel like real music’s getting more appreciated now than ever, like look at Jorja Smith she’s doing like real fucking neo soul and jazz and the world is taking the time to take it in like
Mahalia is finally fucking getting her flowers, like Col3trains his ting, I feel like real musicians and real music is getting appreciated thanks to like James Blake and all the people pushing it in a way which is like, packaged cool as well. Its wavy.

So, music as a kid, what were you listening to growing up, cos I went through the maddest phases, like I went through every phase.

Yeah same

And still to this day I’ll go from my cloud rap to my indie to my heavy, gangsta rap to like fucking 60’s like Italian New York style, I couldn’t even say what my favourite music is, what was it growing up that you listened to?

Growing up, my dad’s African American and he’s super afro-centric so in my household it was only jazz and Motown music like BB King, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and then on my mums side it was like Aretha Franklin, Minnie Riperton, all the fucking musicians that paved the way really like Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, classics like obviously Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, probably the newest person my dad bothered putting me onto was Alicia Keys. Like he really wasn’t on me
listening to any like, oh he Ne-Yo as well cos Ne-Yo was writing bare, like Ne-Yo’s writing catalogue is ridiculous like fuck his music his writing catalogue’s crazy bro.

So he was just really putting me onto like songwriters and singers that he liked and then I, but like he was mad controlling he was like “you can’t listen to that” so I had to like sneak rap into my own world so I’d be yo I was showing my dad like he knew already I was like cool Nas I can get away
with a Nas CD, I can get away with a Jay CD I can get away with like Kanye West but fucking, other than that bro it was literally just, oh yeah I could get away with Wu-Tang but that was just because my old man like, knew Method Man so I could get away with it. So it was really just old
school hip hop and then like, jazz and Motown. And then as I got older and 13, 14 that’s when grime came into my life.

That’s when I realised I loved house parties, like that was really like the
London side of the influence on my life was like 13 14 15 16. That’s when I was fucking sending songs on Bluetooth on my little fucking Sony Ericson and shit. That’s when it branched out and I was like okay cool what’s this grime ting, what’s this jungle ting, what’s this garage ting, oh what’s
bassline, oh what’s a rave. Like that’s when I got into fucking like, D Double, JME and fucking President T and all them man. Obviously Wiley and shit, fucking ice kid when them man did that fire in the booth. But I’ve always just liked melodies more. My love from grime comes more from
throwing a party side of things, organising events and going to those boiler rooms back in the da when all the ‘culture’ was actually a thing like, my love for that type of music comes from the
partying side.

But if I’m actually sitting down to listen to some music its usually gonna have melodies.

So I guess in a way your Mum and Dad pushing you to listen to them old songwriters has like impacted you a lot today? They were like real, true artists.

It wasn’t even like they pushed, I was definitely like a nerd with it, I was like oh I could this person wrote this song and like this person did that and like I loved it bro, and I love like trying to see how many harmonies I can do on one note, I was just like a little music neek when I was a kid, I loved
that shit. Michael Jackson was my god, but I understood where his shit came from, I listened to the whole of Stevie’s discography and then once I deeped there wouldn’t be Michael Jackson without Stevie Wonder I was like well who influenced Stevie, who did Stevie copy on the piano and then,
so from like 13-15 I like had brainstorms in my head of basically how music started. Oh the Rolling stones, well they just copied BB King and then Frank Sinatra, he just copied fucking everyone, I enjoyed trying to figure out where music came from which is why I think Kanye West was just a big
thing for me, cos I deeped he was sampling from the beginning and then trying to figure out where he got his samples from, all that shit. Music history’s always been interesting to me.

So yeah it pushes me towards real music but I cant play any instruments which is fucked bro, that’s why when people say are you a musician I say nah.

Yeah but your talent is your voice init, you can’t have it all can you. So what’s the story behind this EP?

I definitely like, think that peoples first body of work is usually just like songs that they like, all start next to each other so I wanted to like, try and make it more cohesive than that. So I made it 9 songs which is long for an EP, and then I called it Captions because its all kind of sporadic and all
over the place and also some of the lines are good for like, girls that wanna caption their pictures or something. I wanted it to like, in less words than a few like a caption, encapsulate the different areas of relationships, so from like the fucking infatuated honeymoon phase, to the oh we’ve
broken up now you’re chatting shit about me, to like, being in like a stagnant routine in a relationship. So like the songs aren’t, they’re not like in order of a relationship but they’re commentaries on like the different parts of relationships.

There’s a song called Carried Away which is about, I just get carried away, I promise our marriage all day I was in the moment and I thought I meant it but it turns out I made a mistake, but then there’s another song called Screen time, about like how I’m increasing my screen time but I don’t mind, like facetiming all the time its just like the honeymoon phase, and then there’s another called same fucking place which is just about like being stuck in a stagnant routine and its all just kind of like, different viewpoints on a relationship at different times in a relationship. And that’s what the EP’s about.

Sick. I guess how do you, does it make you nervous commenting on those sorts of things now?

Yeah. I’m happy I’m a bit older doing it cos I feel like if I was trying to do this like 5 years ago so when I was 20 or even 19 I fucking, definitely would’ve seemed more basic. It is weird, it is nerve wrecking putting something so personal out to the world even if like only a couple thousand people listen to that shit its still a thousand people listening to a personal experience which is like, I’ve never really done that before.

Yeah, I never really thought about it that way

Yeah, they’re fully, it is weird like you’re opening up, well I’m opening up a lot about some shit which usually people only speak to like their best friend about. Yeah so I guess this is like your way of kind of expressing them feelings through the tracks. And I guess its also weird for me as well because I feel like my online persona, which is my real life persona, is definitely different to some of the saddest songs that I have on there.

Everyone at some point has you know, different phases. We very rarely show the true side to us.

Exactly, so yeah I’m definitely nervous but I’m also gassed as well, I’ve been sitting on these songs for like a year now.

It’ll be good man. So have you moved to LA?

Nah I haven’t moved to LA

Ah you’re just staying there

Yeah yeah so the person that I started making music with Austin, guess he’s my engineer now, well no he is my engineer now but its weird saying that, but my engineer was the person that I first started making music with out here with Jevon, he used to come to London every Summer and
like he also shoots videos and all the stuff for something to hate on so he’s got a crib here and London was doing my head in G I cant lie so I dipped and just came here and just locked in cos it’s a one stop shop bro every room has a studio in it, my engineer shoots my videos, makes my
beats, records my vocals edits my videos bro, like every morning I wake up and make a different video or like start a new song or fucking make a new idea, and like you can’t really do that in London.

Nah you can’t. So you’re basically living in like a, complete creative space.

Yeah this is the fucking spare bedroom literally a studio, and then downstairs there’s a whole like, G the studio looks like some Sony studio downstairs and then there’s a drone there’s two reds, every fucking stabiliser in the world, DJ decks, there’s even a fat sewing machine to make clothes. These man have it good out here.

Coming from London right now that’s fucking, that’s heaven man.

100, cos bro my career started at the beginning of like, literally bro I signed this little marketing and distribution deal as the world went into lockdown, and I just felt like there was a little bit of hype around it and everything and I just felt like I didn’t wanna come out of lockdown in London with like
nothing, wanted to go and do something and keep my career moving so that when lockdowns over I can go straight into a live show or like theres actually shit out there for people to digest and look at. I needed to do something. So I had a little two week holiday and was meant to see Alex every day, then he ended up doing something different every day bro he’s fucked. And then came here and locked in bro I’ve never worked this hard in my life.

Hows LA compared to London?

The weathers better, the food is better, the people are not better. But the inspiration here to make music is way more like, you can just leave the crib and go to like the main road and people watch, and like come home and make a song about a conversation you had or like a stupid line you heard
someone say. It’s just so mad out here, it’s so different, we think London is fake sometimes, oh my god. It is mad out here. I’m about to unfollow 150 people the moment I leave LA the first thing they do is take your phone and be like can I follow myself.

I’ve not done LA but the only insight I know is watching The Hills like binge watching init, so I guess it’s the exact same as that. It’s terrifying.

It’s mad. It’s a game out here bro. Once you have your corner and your people and you’re content, cos I’ve been coming here on and off for time like I’ve done the running around I’ve kind of seen it, once you’re just happy like okay cool you know what it’s like you’ve experienced it, it’s better just to stay, but I’m in the valley I’m like 20 minutes away from everything, its better just to stay with your people doing your ting. Bro you’ll get eaten up by the weird ego’s out here.

Not for me man. Real life Instagram isn’t it I guess.

Words by Jake Hartwell