INTERVIEW: Milly from Airs N Graces

I’m always curious about what inspires people to be creative, whether they’re a painter, a musician, a writer, whatever really. I’m even more curious when, from the outside looking in, I get the impression that the person is on a somewhat similar wavelength to myself. It’s with that in mind that I decided to grab a few words with London-based arts and culture blogger Milly from the site Airs N Graces. We talk about where it all started and why, as well as getting down to the nitty gritty of the hype debate and what drives Milly to write about the things she does.

Jus Like Music: Can you just introduce yourself to our readers, briefly explain who you are, where you’re from and what you do?

Milly: My name’s Milly (aka: Mildilla/Millytant/MillyOnAir, depending on the mood), I’m a born and bred Camdenite with a passion for music, film, people and trying to put it all into words. I’m what you’d refer to as a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, I enjoy switching between challenges. I’ve dabbled in several different things from baking cookies to working on films to doing PR for a well-known toilet tissue brand. I lost my job as the credit crunch hit last March and out of my jobless misery and struggling to find my direction again, I started writing for a local Camden blog and it all snowballed from there. I finally summoned up the bottle to start my own, at airsngraces.com, last July. I still contribute to others, but at the moment I’m really focused on building mine.

JLM: So your experiences, and the occurrences, in your life have in a sense led you to where you find yourself with your own blog now?

M: Yes, completely. Without sounding wanky, I feel like the blog is a manifestation of all my past experiences there on a page. Although the blog is primarily about music, art, events and the like and I’m not there writing about my personal experiences in a ‘Dear Diary’ fashion, my past definitely shapes my approach and the angle of the content. It was a case of realising that out of all the crap, literally and metaphorically, good stuff can take shape.

JLM: What drives you to do what you do?

M: I’m passionate about separating the over-hyped from the genuine. I can’t stand the mentality that it’s all about who you know and what people deem as ‘cool’. I looked around me and clocked that there’s several popular blogs doing their thing, but a lot jump on whatever is the ‘next hype’, and it shows. I’m a firm believer in good manners, raw talent, people who strive to challenge what has gone before, hard graft and never resting on your laurels. I don’t care what success you’ve had in the past, I want to know what you’re you doing now. I don’t run around believing my own hype, whatever you see on Airs N Graces is there because I think it has genuine qualities to it, be it music, film, photography or fashion. You’ll get the occasional post about kicks I love, which could be deemed self indulgent, but other than that I’m not about chucking up content because it’s the next big thing or ranting for the sake of it. I’ve lived in London and been around the music scene too long to care about bullshit or appearances, what’s hot and what’s not. If something’s good and it is, or should be, the next big thing, then we’re talking! If you’re coming to me with something you want support with, whatever that may be, I want you to be passionate and excited about it and not have some stinking blaze attitude. People seem to forget good manners and respect go a long way, you maybe big today but when you hit hard times, as you inevitably will on this rollercoaster, folks will always remember first impressions and how you treated them in the past! Hence the simple manifesto; ‘No Hype Without Substance’.

The reality is, it’s just a blog. If people read, enjoy, have a giggle and relate to it, maybe even discover something new from it, then I’ve done what I set out to do.  The minute I stop being excited by the content I post, then I’ll stop the blog.

JLM: It’s refreshing to hear such frank and honest thoughts. How do you feel about blogs that simply reproduce press releases and do you think it’s more of a question of finding a balance between facts and opinions?

M: There are no hard-and-fast rules to this blogging game, although if there were it would quickly sort the men from the boys. The beauty of the internet is there’s a lot of space for opinions without censorship. I’m not going to sit here on my soapbox saying one type of blog has more or less merit or validity than another – it comes down to freedom of choice. However, I would say, again in my opinion, having worked in PR and media for over seven years, the ones weighed towards regurgitating press releases stick out like a sore thumb. People are fickle and the blog world is saturated, so it is hard to win over and keep readers coming back. It completely depends on your blog’s angle, but I think you should have an element of yourself somewhat in your content, it shouldn’t necessarily be stamped all over it but people like opinions and balls. I have a lot of respect for people who can lay themselves bare on the page for the world to judge, I could never do that, but that’s just me. I choose to read blogs that give me a sense of both opinions and facts, I want a feel for the writer’s opinion and a sense that they’re passionate about the topics they’re covering, or what’s the point? It’s all about striking that balance and it’s by no means an easy feat.

JLM: What’s new in your world, Milly?

M: This week, after nine months in a pretty understated format, airsngraces.com underwent a non-surgical facelift. I decided it should probably look like the well nourished and nurtured beast it is. It’s still all about the content rather than appearances but it’s just a bit sexier now! We also now have an official Facebook page for all those who want to be kept in the loop.

JLM: Sounds like you’ve put in a lot of groundwork with Airs N Graces. Do you have any sort of long-term plans with regards to what you want to achieve with the blog?

M: Ha! This is something I think about on a daily basis. As I said, as long as I keep growing with it and feel inspired to create content then I will keep at it. I’m working on some interesting projects that will be linked to Airs N Graces, so at the moment it’s a case of pushing things forward, making opportunities happen and realising this is a blank canvas to create whatever I want from. I’m not gonna be clichéd and say, “watch this space”, because I don’t believe in speaking too soon, but finger’s crossed there’s some exciting projects on the horizon!

JLM: Sounds like exciting times! Lets turn to something that both Airs N Graces and Jus Like Music are passionate about; music. What types of music are you into and are there any hot tips you could pass over to the Jus Like Music readers?

M: I’m into a broad spectrum of music. I was brought up on a mix of blues, jazz, soul, RnB, reggae and pop. Both my parents were deeply into their music. My granddad on my dad’s side had one of the first jazz magazines in the UK and my mum’s dad played jazz trumpet. My dad has played jazz and blues guitar and piano since a teen (he still gigs now) and my brother plays funked out Hendrix influenced guitar. So, there’s no escaping the fact it runs deep in my veins. As a teenager I guess my rebellion was to seek out new ground and I discovered hip-hop which has been my first love, with exception of a few lover’s tiffs, ever since. I was deeply into my UK hip-hop back in the good ol’ days and I used to go to a record spot called Disque (then renamed MSM) in Camden and my mate Chris, who co-ran it, always said of me I’d be the only person coming in demanding they play ‘Klashnekoff – Murda’ at 11am on a Sunday morning whilst I dug through the new releases! These days I’m far less ‘Millytant’ about my music and I’ve learnt to keep an open mind. One day I’ll be all about the 90s east coast hip-hop and the next I’m all about Bob Dylan or Pink Floyd. I’ve learnt to never judge something before Ive given it a good listen, looks can be deceiving, so be open minded to new things. Sorry, but you did ask!

JLM: Ha ha, no need to apologise, I did indeed ask! Now, I always find it really hard to answer questions like this myself, but now the tables are turned! Top five tracks you are currently feeling?! They don’t have to be new, just five tracks you’re really into at the moment.

M: In no particular order my top five on rotation at the moment; Laura Marling – The Captain and The Hourglass, Dessa – Matches to Paper Dolls, Mos Def – Travellin Man, The Police – Walking on the Moon, Gang Starr – Mass Appeal (R.I.P. Guru).

mp3: Gang Starr – Mass Appeal

JLM: Finally, and to wrap things up, do you have any parting words of wisdom for people who are considering starting a blog that is beyond just being a personal diary of sorts?

M: Cliched as it is, don’t worry about the “if, buts, or maybes”, just dip your toe in and you may just surprise yourself! There’s so many platforms about for bloggers that cost nothing to use and yes it’s tough out there and pretty saturated but pick your angle, start slow, work hard, treat others as you want to be treated and there’s nothing to say you couldn’t establish yourself up there with the best. Regret is far worse than trying and finding out something wasn’t for you! I’m a big believer in failing your way to success, trust me I’ve flopped at a fair few things in my life to date – and I’m sure they’ll be more – but I’ve never regretted trying something.

Many thanks to Milly! Don’t forget to check out her fantastic blog over at Airs N Graces, and also get following on both Facebook and Twitter – you know it makes sense.