'You Forget That It's A Process'

5 June 2018 | 12:49 pm | Carley Hall

"When the Peking Duk song came out I was working in a juice store, so to do music full time and have that as my income is pretty awesome."

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When electro-pop singer Nicole Millar calls in from Sydney she's fresh off the plane from New York. And not because of a whirlwind tour or a two-week long recording stint; Millar has been living in the States since the start of the year, penning her debut album and playing a suite of glitzy industry shows.

It's little wonder there's a tired edge to Millar's words as she reveals her number one mission since landing on home turf a few hours earlier. "First off was an adventure for a good coffee - you definitely take it for granted," Millar laughs.

Millar hit the public consciousness as the feature vocalist on Peking Duk's megahit High back in 2014, the guest spot paving her path towards a busy solo career. The period since has included a bunch of tours and huge shows, like 2015's Splendour In The Grass and with RUFUS for triple j's One Night Stand. It also yielded two solid EPs that housed edgy, electro gems Tremble and Signals. It's perhaps a reminder of the pace the modern world moves at these days that Millar, despite her youth, recognises the need to breathe in and reflect on all that she has achieved.

"It's definitely something that I have to work on and I think I'm getting better at it," Millar reasons. "I feel so grateful that I get to do music as a job. I mean, five years ago when the Peking Duk song came out I was working in a juice store, so to do music full time and have that as my income is pretty awesome.

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"I think as an artist I'm always like, 'I haven't done this yet or I'm not someone who's touring the world.' You forget that it's a process. It's hard, because I'm always thinking forward to the future and it's nice to look back and go, 'Well I've played some amazing festivals and reached thousands of people with Peking Duk and RUFUS.' I forget about that stuff."

Armed with her consistent and quality run of the releases, Millar has fended off the 'featured artist' syndrome that seems to trap some, where the artist is at risk of becoming more famous for their guest appearances than their own material. In fact, saying 'yes' initially to such opportunities is something the singer encourages others to do.

"I'm going to be doing some collaborations with people in the US, because it's such a good starting point to get your name out there," Millar explains. "Obviously you don't want to say yes to everything and be the 'yes' person. I was that person at the start and I was saying yes to a lot of things and they all happened to come around at the same time. After that, I just sat back and took a year off collaborating with people and concentrated on my own music.

"But it's a good starting point in someone's career, because you can go from no one knowing who you are to having a song on the radio and people going, 'Wow, who is that voice?'"

Millar has put "that voice" - her light, breathy trill - to good use on her first full-length release Excuse Me. Reining in the talents of both Dan Farber and Sable, who produced Tremble and Communications respectively, the trio created new ground for the sleek-but-textural 15-track LP. The recording process also gave Millar some new 'roommates'.

"I had about 50 demo ideas that I had written in Sweden and LA and Australia," she explains. "Then I made a shortlist of the ones that I properly wanted to finish. So we brought in Dan and Sable. It was pretty cool having the two different producers from two different EPs come together and work on the one album. I was in this studio in Woolloomooloo and they had three studio rooms - Dan was in one, Sable was in the other and I would walk in between the rooms and say, 'I like this,' and, 'I like that'. I always felt guilty for being so controlling, but it was kind of fun."

Millar hits the road with Excuse Me in June. Although she's already an accomplished solo star, heading out into the spotlight for her first national album tour is still a big deal.

"It is daunting," Millar deadpans. "With support shows, you have that security blanket. But when people come just to see you, that's a whole other thing. Pre-tour, I'm always like, 'Oh my god, is anyone going to come?' But I'm going to have so many songs that I haven't played in a show yet and with the album coming out a couple of weeks before the tour hopefully people can still resonate with them.

"This album is just the first step of putting more and more music out. I'm excited."