Rob Milton is an indie soul singer whose ascent as an artist is as organic as his music. With a relatively adventurous sound blending genres of jazz, hip-hop and funk, Rob’s latest release “Song from the Internet” proves this musician is continually moving from strength to strength and evolving within his own sound.
SYS speaks to the New Jersey based singer about what inspires him, collaborations & where he sees himself in future. Bree Stewart writes.
Whilst it’s clear you’ve got some serious soul roots, there are mixtures of electronica as well as some more simplified ambient tracks - Do you have any specific genre you would consider yourself?
Every now and then I call myself a soul singer, but my sound is ever-changing honestly. I always manage to get connected with incredible producers and we create a sound together. Sometimes it’s inspired by Dilla beats. Sometimes it’s inspired by The Foreign Exchange’s sound. Sometimes it’s inspired by the sounds of Georgia Anne Muldrow or even India Arie. That’s what I love most about music. It allows you a space to be free and bring your ideas and emotions to life in whatever way that you choose.
You’ve stated that recording music is a place in which you are “Truly comfortable”. What is it about the writing process that feels most therapeutic to you?
While I love performing, I dig the writing and recording aspect the most. So much of life is based on living by the rules, standards or the expectations of others and I’ve never felt comfortable with any of that. Writing allows me the opportunity to express myself freely. If I’m feeling angst or grungy one day, I can express that in a song. If I’m feeling spiritual the next day, I can express that too. And there’s no pressure. Nobody’s pushing me to try to be someone else.
You sing a lot about love, does this notion drive you creatively?
Love is vital. It’s supposed to be the driving force behind every aspect of life. I grew up admiring the way that people like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway managed to write about love. They both always seemed to have a special way to sing about love in different forms, whether relational or spiritual, without apology. The sound didn’t change. The feeling didn’t change. That’s how I always look to approach creating music. So sometimes I’m writing a love song based on a past relationship or sometimes it’s simply based on my spirituality, but it will always leave you feeling the same way.
What’s your process when you start composing a song?
My process normally begins with a conversation with my producers. Albums seem to flow much better when artists really bond and build with a producer. Nothing matches what Brandy and Rodney Jerkins did on ‘Full Moon’ or Diddy and Mary J. Blige on ‘My Life.’ So I always try to build with a producer that I trust and we vibe off of each other to create something that is special to the both of us.
Who has been your favourite collaboration so far?
I love a good collaboration. I love when it’s genuine and it flows easily. As I said before creating music is where I’m most comfortable. So I don’t want any egos or bad vibes in that space. I’m fortunate to have been able to work with some of my favourite artists like Fresh Daily, ILL CAMILLE, Roman Lee Norfleet, Chance Fischer and Tope. But my favourite collaboration so far has to be the song “Lazy” that I recorded with my friend Jacque Hammond. That song is honestly perfect and was the start of it all for me. Without that song I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Whose a dream collaboration for you in future?
I have so many, but I have to say Georgia Anne Muldrow. I admire her work and her work ethic so much. She is constantly creating and releasing music with a message and with the funkiest sound possible. ‘The Electric Feel’ EP that I released early last year was heavily inspired by what she does. I would love the opportunity to sit in a studio with her and soak in her wisdom.
In regards to Jacque Hammond, your voices gel incredibly well together, can your fans expect more from the two of you in future?
Jacque and I have recorded quite a few songs together. We even performed a duet set together in New York City last year. She’s quietly my musical soul mate and I try to always save a spot for her on every project that I release. I would be honoured to do a full project with her, but right now I’m just looking forward to her releasing more of her own music. It has been a good three years since her debut EP. The world needs to hear more of the magic that she has to offer.
Do you remember what first inspired you to record music?
I do. It was the song “Lazy.” I had been playing around in the studio a little bit in 2011. I recorded some background vocals with a choir one summer and the guy who owned the studio allowed me get some time to myself. I recorded over a 9th Wonder beat that I got off of YouTube. I didn’t really think it was anything special.
Jacque heard it and called me up to do some work with her and Roman. Everything just flowed so well and it felt just right. I knew the moment that I left their house that I wanted to keep recording. I ended up recording a full EP with Roman on the beats a few weeks later and when I released it people like DJ Rahdu over at BamaLoveSoul and Musiq Soulchild showed it a great amount of love. And the rest is history.
What’s next for Rob Milton?
This year is going to be special. First, I have a record on the third instalment of BamaLoveSoul’s On Deck compilation album. AbJo of Soulection produced the song and it features my girl ILL CAMILLE. It’s basically a descendant of songs like Zapp’s “Computer Love” and my musical take on movie Spike Jonze’s incredible film 'Her.'
I also will be looking to release my first full-length album before the year ends. I accidentally started recording it earlier this month and I’m already extremely proud of it. The sound is different. The feeling is different. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all.
Finally Rob, what stimulates your soul?
That’s a big question. Music stimulates my soul. Love and positivity too.