We spoke with Mikey100k to discuss songwriting, resiliency, and his balancing act between working in both the background and foreground of music.
The duality that surrounds Mikey100k is rather interesting. He is ready to spark the fire, yet likes to keep a low profile while doing so. His Twitter and Instagram accounts are both private, and he purposely keeps his face hidden in most, if not all, of his videos. Mikey’s reasoning for this is simple: he wants his craft to speak for itself.
The rising Raleigh singer/songwriter began making music in 2014 and has since collaborated with names such as K Camp and Ye Ali. However, he prides himself on his songwriting above all else. After a hiatus from music a few years into his career, he is back and eager to maintain his creative momentum. While he has three projects under his belt—his latest being an EP titled Nights Before Cozy which dropped back in December—Mikey has been releasing music and videos consistently all throughout last year. He also has previously been covered in other music publications such as Noisey, The Fader, and yours truly, Elevator.
Mikey100k’s latest single “Wya?” arrived last month and features his usual Bryson Tiller-esque singing, an observation he takes as a compliment because it means he “really has something.” In lieu of this new single, we spoke with Mikey100k to discuss songwriting, his resiliency as a person and an artist, and his balancing act between working in both the background and foreground of music.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
I think I was eight years old, maybe. My mom took me to this guy’s house; his name was Shawn. He was an engineer, and he had a little studio. That’s where I kind of picked up the whole thing, from that. And my mom being a singer as well. So those were the two things that kind of pushed me into doing music.
You told me before that songwriting is your strong suit and that you releasing your own music is more for fun. How were you able to pinpoint that songwriting is your homebase?
Honestly, because I hate my voice. I’m not really a fan of my voice, but I feel that I am a great writer. I also feel like hearing someone else—that is way more vocally blessed than I am—sing my music, will really put a smile on my face. So it’s a lot of things that I write and I’m just like, ‘Yo, this person or this person will sing this ten times better than I could ever sing it’. Being in the spotlight and being an artist isn’t for everyone, you know what I’m saying? That’s what did it for me. And I’m okay with being in the background, that’s fine with me.
Yeah, I definitely noticed that.
Yeah, I’m really to myself and really laid back.
What stood out to me about your artistry is the fact that you value the behind-the-scenes work just as much as what goes in the forefront. I don’t think too many of music’s consumers realize how much work has to be put in in order for a hit to be made; it’s not just the artist. I can imagine singing/songwriting allows you to control both of these spaces.
Honestly, it’s been a challenge. It’s really been a challenge because a lot of people feel like you can’t do both. But with me, I’ve been doing it for a while now, so it’s not really too hard. I just found a way to really balance it, and I found a way that works for me. If it was anybody else, I couldn’t tell them exactly how to do it because what works for me, works for me. You know what I’m saying? I don’t know how I make it work, but it just works for me. Like I’ve found a comfortable spot where I’m like, ‘Alright, this is when I do this or this is when I do that,’ and kind of just balance them both out because it gets tough.
But I know being in the spotlight really isn’t for me. I’m not an attention kind of person; I really hate a lot of attention. Like, I hate it a lot. So being that I can songwrite and still have the opportunity to write with big artists and co-produce with big artists and stuff like that, it’s still a blessing. It just worked out like this is; I feel like this was in God’s plan.
So if you don’t like your voice and you don’t like the attention, why make your own music, put it out, and promote it?
Because I felt like that was the only way for me to get noticed for my pen. I felt like no one would have given me a chance if they didn’t hear me do it first, you know what I’m saying? So that’s why I put out my own music. And like even now, sometimes I don’t want to do it, but it’s still fun. Like, I’m okay with doing it, but I don’t do it as much as I used to. Now that I’m in a position of working with big artists and being in the same studio and sessions with them, I really don’t put out my own music like that.
I listened to your project Who Needs Friends 2 a couple times and was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of crazy’. I really enjoyed that. I sent it to a couple of my friends too, and they were like, ‘Yeah, this is cool’.
That’s what up! I appreciate that.
Walk me through your creative process.
I wouldn’t say I really have one, because I could be in the line at Food Lion, or at a grocery store, and ideas just come about and I jot them down in my phone. Like if anything, voice memo recording. And then once I go home—I already got a melody or something—so once I go home, I just kind of put everything together. But I never had a process that actually is set in stone. I’ll catch an idea anywhere, but I do jot it down in my phone.
There was one time where I had my laptop, my mic, and interface, and I started recording in the McDonald’s. Like, right in the McDonald’s as I was eating and everybody was looking at me crazy. But I’m just like, I have to put this down if I don’t want to forget anything.
Who is your favorite songwriter, and why?
Starrah. Starrah is my favorite songwriter, honestly, because of her range. She’s very talented, like her pen is just next level to me. Being able to see her create in the studio has really inspired me to take my music to a place where I feel like I never could have taken it before without her guidance. So she’s my favorite songwriter, like, ever. Hands down.
You told me before that you took a hiatus from music to focus on your mental health. Can you speak on that a little? Tell me what your self-care process was like while you recharged.
It was really tough ‘cause I dealt with depression like really, really bad. I had father issues growing up. Like not necessarily on nothing crazy, but I kind of wanted my pops to be around. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t there and things like that. So it bothered me for a long, long time. I kind of just spiraled into a depression, and it took for me to just get away from literally, everyone and everything to bounce back and just start loving myself a lot more. I felt like something was wrong with me, you know what I mean? So once I figured out that I was going to be okay in it—you know like, ‘This is life, things like that happen,’—I kind of just went into this little hole until I was ready to get out, and it really helped me.
I was a little iffy about putting this in there because I didn’t know if it was a very personal thing or not.
Nah nah, it’s all good. I’m open about things like that, you know what I’m saying? That’s a part of my journey.
Okay, cool. So I’ve been noticing that North Carolina, in general, is being put on the map more with all the voices that are emerging out of there. How do you think being from Raleigh influences your sound, if it does at all?
Being from here does not influence my sound at all. Like, at all. But I’m very, very proud of what NC is doing as a whole. It’s been a long time coming, and I know a lot of people are taking advantage of this moment and really working their hardest to get that shine and that exposure that it needs. I feel like they’re doing a good job, and I hope that they keep it up and can really come together and make it shine the way it needs to.
Are there any other North Carolina artists you would like to work with?
No. None. At all.
None of them? Not even like J. Cole, nobody on Dreamville, DaBaby?
Nobody. Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of their work. But, I don’t know. I just never been the type to want to work with anybody from my city. And it’s not no hate thing, it’s just, that’s just been me. I guess it’s because I know how they really move here. It kind of makes me really iffy. But I still listen to a lot of people from here; it’s in my playlist now. It’s a lot of people out here I listen to, but I just wouldn’t work with them.
Wow, okay. Interesting. I mean, it makes sense though. If you’re already familiar with how people move and stuff, you would want to get out of that bubble, I guess.
Yeah, you know what I mean? But, it’s no disrespect. I just see how everybody moves in and it’s like, a lot of them don’t want to see another person succeed without them succeeding. It’s just weird to me.
It is weird. So in general, who is your dream artist to collab with?
I would have to say Travis Scott… well, I got a few. I got Travis, Don Toliver, Kehlani, Ty Dolla $ign, Wiz Khalifa. I’ve always wanted to do a song with Snoop. Always. He’s just like the OG. It’s a few.
That’s crazy you said Travis Scott and Don Toliver. Travis Scott is like my all-time favorite. I’ve never followed someone since their very beginning, and he’s that for me. I’m just a stan of Travis.
Yeah, Travis is the GOAT.
Yeah, he’s amazing. I could go on about that. But yeah, Don Toliver, I like him too. His voice is very unique.
Very. His melodies are crazy. I don’t mean to keep going on about it, but like, Don’s melodies are beyond this world.
They are! Do you remember… okay, did you watch the Astroworld documentary?
Yeah, I did.
Do you remember that part, they were in the studio and they were playing. . .
“Cardigan”? That song is so hard. Like everybody’s been asking when he’s going to drop that. Just that little snippet went crazy.
It went so crazy. I go on SoundCloud, and people took that part from the documentary and just put it on SoundCloud as a loop, and I just listen to it over and over [laughs].
Yeah, that joint is fire.
I need that like, ASAP. But okay, back to this interview. What was the first CD you owned?
I think it was Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the 50 joint. That was the first CD I think I’ve ever owned. I don’t know if I owned another one after that.
Do you know why that one? Did you buy it, was it a gift or…?
It was a gift; my mother bought it for me. I was just a big fan of 50 like, always. I mean, he was a gangster on the scene at a time, and everybody wanted to be a gangster, you know what I mean?
Who do you have in rotation right now?
The artists that I named earlier, of course. DaBaby, Stunna4Vegas. NBA YoungBoy, I’m just getting into him. Who else? JuiceWrld, I’m a big fan of Juice Wrld. G Herbo. I’m listening to The 1975. Somebody just put me on to, I don’t know how you say his name. Is it Tame Impala, or something like that?
Yeah, Tame Impala. Fire.
Yeah, so I’m listening to them. Alex Mali. It’s a lot of people.
You put me on to Alex Mali and I can’t stop listening to Sweet & Sour.
[laughs] Yeah, she’s fire. A lot of artists that I’m listening to now, I’m kind of just experimenting with. Of course Roddy Ricch and stuff like that, but a lot of them I just go to SoundCloud and I just listen to the little playlists and get put on pretty much everyday, so it’s a lot of artists I listen to.
Yeah, that’s good. That’s actually really funny because when you were naming all these artists, I remember a while ago you told me that you really like pop music, and you didn’t really name too many pop people just now.
I only had a few pop artists that I really listened to, like on a daily, but a lot of them were due to Spotify playlists. Like, their songs would be playing and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t really go back, you know what I’m saying?
I see. You’d get put onto the song, but you wouldn’t really go into their discography.
Exactly. I don’t go check, but I will go to work or something and just put on a pop Spotify playlist and just let it run through. But now, I’ve been listening to pretty much a lot more rap and stuff like that.