It was just Friday afternoon that I got on a call with Mila J. The Cali songstress said she had been in the studio heavy working on a new project. And unbeknownst to us, we would be totally blindsided by her release of MILAULONGTIME yesterday, Mila was only being coy when she said ‘sometime soon‘ in response to being asked when we could expect her follow-up project to 213. To our surprise, Mila would spring on us a surprise release of the 7-track EP as a Valentines Day treat.
Appearing in Prince ‘Diamond’s N Pearl’s’ video when she was 7 years old, Mila J is no stranger to the music industry, or the industry in general. Dancing alongside R&B teen group Immature in their video’s as teens, to being a part of girl groups under the wing of Chris Stokes and his camp, the big sister to Jhene Aiko is super chill, much like the vibe she convey’s in her music. Growing up in a musical household, Mila said she and her sister’s were always active in dance and sports, with their mother being an art teacher, and their father an aspiring musician, their home was always filled with noise and people.
And gearing up for the official release of her album, Mila was anxious to share another set of tracks, another body of work – or so she called it, to her fans for free prior to. With songs like Fuckboy that we debuted on the site a few weeks ago, and Move that dropped earlier yesterday too, we can only anticipate the full project.
With the release of 213 back in June 2016, how do you feel that project was received?
From what I got, it actually got a good reception based on the news that reached me. People really liked it, people really liked Friend Zone; and even Kickin’ Back, people are just kind of just now discovering it, which is cool because you know that song, December would have been going on like 2 years. But you know, you never know when a song is going to catch. Even now, there are people that are literally just finding the song. So I think, yeah it had a slow build, but I definitely like the fact that all the remarks about it are good. So it’s better late than never is how I feel. Some things go out the gate running, and some things are kind of just like a slower build. I was happy with the feedback that I got, and now I’m just trying to top that and make that better.
Kickin’ Back is actually my jam, when I tell you, my jam. I love that song, the video too, everything. And Fuckboy, which we shared on the site recently too – I can totally relate. But what can you share about what you’ve been currently working on?
You know, I felt that it was just time, with Valentines Day coming around; I feel like when Valentines Day comes around, women, especially who are single are always like, “Oh my God, I don’t have a Valentines.” And that’s because half of us are dealing with fuckboys. So I was like, ‘this is a perfect time, who cares anyway, take yourself out and forget about trying to be with this no-good whatever’.
But, yeah, I’m about to drop another…it’s not an EP because it’s going to be free. Another body of music, a couple new songs that I’ve been working on, that I just want to share. Like I said before, I record so much and I feel like I don’t like to hold on; well obviously I’m holding onto some stuff because the album is done, but in the meanwhile, I just constantly want to be putting out music. And fortunately in this day in time, because of the internet, it allows you to do that. Sometimes with labels and stuff like that, stuff kinds of gets stuck, you have to wait, and be put on a schedule. And I just feel like, I don’t want to be making people wait.
But, I’ve just been working on a project of about 6-7 songs, so you gotta look out for that. Maybe we’ll be talking again after that. But it’s coming sooner than later.
What was it like growing up in your household back in the day, was it a pretty musical household?
Yes, well it was definitely loud (she laughs). Our house was always just full of people, all the kids from like our dance classes; my mom was an art teacher, and my dad was a musician and he always had his friends over, so we just kind of was all over the place. Our parents kept us involved in a lot of activities, sports and music, and dance, so it as definitely fun to say the least.
How did the ‘Diamonds N Pearls’ music video opportunity come about for you?
That came about because, actually at the time we had recently gotten agents through this dance company I was with, and we got sent us out on the music video audition; which was weird because we didn’t actually have to dance in the audition. But we went straight after school in our uniforms; me and my older sister, Miyoko.
Did you ever get to work with Prince again after that?
Well he ended up sampling one of my songs, so I kind of count that as working together. But it wasn’t in person. We were actually suppose to end up recording a song, but obviously that didn’t happen.
What song was it?
I did a mixtape called ‘Westside’, and it had a song on there called ‘Blinded’ and that was the song that he sampled and put on the album before his last. I can’t think of the name of what he named his now that I’m on the spot. (Prince’s song was titled ‘U Know‘ off his ‘Art Official Age‘ album in 2014)
How did you take it after he passed?
Honestly, even up until now, it’s weird but I try to think that its not even real. You know what I mean. I feel like I’m still like in denial, just because he was just a big part of; obviously just disregarding that he was an icon, you know, legendary. But it was more personal for us just because my first musical experience, my first concert, my dad’s favorite artist; he was like a family-friend-musician so to speak. That’s who we knew as music then, and then to be able to meet him and actually have like a friendship. It was just so out the blew. It was too much to swallow. So I honestly try to think that it’s not even real.
And then Immature, one of my childhood favorites, how did that opportunity come to pass?
Once again, our agent was sending us out. And that was just another audition, which actually my older sister ended up getting the video for. And once she got that video, that kind of formed a relationship. At that time, me, her and another girl we danced with were all in the same dance crew. And once we kind of met them, they thought we were perfect, and they were like, “You guys can come and dance for us.” Then we were in a couple more videos after that.
So when did you figure yourself this sulty songstress that you are? When did you get to that place, and how did you go about sharpening your skills once discovered?
Hmmm, sultry – I never thought of myself as such (she laughs). I would say honestly, I was always in girl groups so I definitely feel like that experience helped shape me. Just to even figure out what it was to be in the music industry, its much different than dance because you know, you’re not in the background – it’s on you. But then on top of that, once again, even comparing solo to being in a group; even in a group you can kind of be like, well it’s still not all about you. Every member is kind of pulling their weight, you know, bringing different personalities. I feel like those experiences helped me to get to where I am, but at the same time, I had to kind of figure out who I was, alone.
And as far as Sultry – I’m a scorpio so, I don’t know I’m just comfortable with sexuality I guess I would say, so I guess that kind of maybe comes out. But not necessarily thotty or anything like that, it’s just that I’m sensual, passionate, and I’ve always just been drawn to those kinds of things, and that kind of music.
How do you go about choosing the sound of your albums/songs? You have a particular style that I love, when starting each project, what are the elements that you kind of lean on to create your next sound?
First, obviously I’m always trying to top whatever record I did last, regardless if the song even came out or not. I have a really good relationship with one of the producers that I work with, we have a really great chemistry and we are constantly recording. And the goal is always to top the last song, you know. Try new things that maybe I’m not comfortable with; even vocally like maybe singing in different range or trying a different tone. I think for me the main goal is to always kind of like top the last thing, and trying new things. I just try to challenge myself and try to step outside; do something that I normally wouldn’t do.
I know there was talk about you stepping away from music at some point, can you reveal a bit what was going on around that time that maybe caused you to step away for a minute. We’re glad you came back, and definitely understand the importance of stepping away from time to time.
Well, a lot of people don’t know that I started in the industry, as an entertainer, not necessarily being a singer. As a kid, a dancer, doing kid video’s and stuff like that; I was in the industry for basically a long time and I just needed a break. I just needed normal, regular. I actually wanted to explore myself, and what other interests that I had; who I was. Not forever, but I needed some time to just do something else. Plus, I didn’t know who I was, referring to what we were talking about earlier, who I was solo anyway; so I knew I wanted to do music again being that the groups didn’t work out, so it was like, “Okay, but who are you?” I kind of had to figure that out.
And on top of that, I just wanted a mental break from it all. The industry can be very, it’s a lot; especially when you’ve been doing it since you were younger. I really wanted to do normal things. I ended up going to school, getting my license in skin care; I worked normal jobs, I was just doing normal things. And I actually enjoyed it, I don’t regret it any of it. There’s things that I even learned from having those jobs that I’ve applied to my artistry; even something as simple as customer service. Dealing with people, and meeting different people’s needs. I was just kind of exploring.
And talking about R&B, how do you feel about the current state of R&B right now with everything; the way people use social media to promote, everything overall?
I think R&B never really went anywhere, just like in life, just like in fashion or design, everything has a season. At one point when EDM was poppin’, it was like ‘okay, that was just what people wanted to hear,’; or some times country is what’s poppin’. R&B makes its rounds, and I think there are artists out there making it, its just that people weren’t listening.
And yeah, sometimes people have to kind of say, ‘Let me make songs that sound like this,’ so they’ll listen, but there still people giving us R&B. A lot of time people get lost in the clutter of all the music that comes out every single day on the internet, but you know, I think too on the footsie is like, everything evolves. Of course, I’m a 90s baby, so my personal favorite is anything 90s: TLC, 112, SWV, you name it, but that was for that time. And I think trying to re-create that is where people get it twisted. We’re not going to have that again, just like we’re never going to have how music was in the 70s – it was for that time. I think it’s dope with how the artists now, whether it be The Weeknd, or PARTYNEXTDOOR, Drake or whoever; the way its evolved, I think the sound is super dope. It’s different, but it’ still dope to me. I think people just have to accept that, ‘we’re not going to have the 90s again’. Luckily music lasts forever, and we can put on 90s music whenever we want; and you know, I personally do try to put that feel in my music just because its my favorite.
You know, in 2030, people are going to be talking about the music that’s being made now. Kids are going to be saying, “Oh, I want it to sound like 2017.”
So what are the chances of you and your sister Jhene collabing on an album together? I think a lot of people might want to know.
Well the possibilities are endless, we are sisters. But still, we haven’t yet but you know I think it’s just more about a timing thing and when the time is right. I definitely think that me and her are going to hit y’all with some thing. But you know that will have to be a surprise and come out of no where (she laughs).
That will be probably be so fun to do just because it wouldn’t even feel like work. We’re sisters, we know each other better than anybody so, so it would be definitely be a fun project.
I know you’ve delved in a bunch of other things, but as of right now going forward, is there anything outside of music that we can expect from you?
I do want to get into more acting. I got my first little taste of the acting world, I saw the project called Howard High, and it was really fun. It was totally different from music because it’s not about being yourself, it’s all about being who the character is. So more than anything, it was new but I like the challenge of doing something different that I didn’t know. And not being myself, it was hard because I’m so all about being yourself. I give kudos to actors because it’s like you have to be willing to maybe not look your nicest, if the character has a tacky moment, you have to be tacky on set. I had to train my mind.
Even though it was still a musical character that I got to play, but it was a high school student and I never went to school, I was home-schooled. So it’s like, even that alone I had to figure out, ‘how did you act in high school?’ That was a challenge because I didn’t go to campus everyday.
I definitely got the bug. I’ve been going out for stuff. That’s a whole other world in acting. Going on auditions everyday and being told no, but it just makes you go harder. I see acting in my future; like once I saw the premiere of it, they premiered it for the cast and I was like, I was not going to go, I’m one of those people that once I do the video, afterward’s I don’t want to see it; because I know I can’t change it. But then one of the actresses in the movie was like the good thing about watching is to see what you can do better for next time. And she’s a well-respected actress, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to come.” So I went, and I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. And I liked it. So I’m putting it out in the universe that I would like to be doing some movies in my future.
Random question for you, with so many people turning to Reality TV the way that they are, do you ever seeing yourself doing anything like that?
That’s a tricky question. The thing is, I’ve never said no, and I know I should never say never. But based on how I feel now, in 2017, I know I wouldn’t want to be on a show that has a lot of drama – put it like that. Just because that is not me, that’s not my personality; and I just don’t believe in putting that out into the world. But I would be interested in something if it revolves around music, or just like fun.
A show with me and my friends, or my sisters, something like that. Especially in the climate that the world is in right now, having something that’s just like a breath of fresh air, I think we have enough drama going on right now. And, so if it was something like that, or family based, I would probably be interested. If the basis of the show was right, I would say, I would see what they are talking about.