'So you think you know me?' Inviting us on an intimate journey of personal growth, Pip Millett finds the light and silver linings in her debut album, When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know.
Pip Millett had barely hit double figures when she learned the power of music to unite, soothe and charm those around her. Growing up in Marple, a suburb of Manchester, a young Pip’s first foray into music arrived in the form of an iPod Nano set up by her older brother. Rather than choosing a playground soundtrack of noughties hits however, it was records like Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” and Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free” that sparked a musical obsession. As the obsession continued, Pip lined up the musings of old schoolers like Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Bobby Womack in YouTube selections whilst playing DJ at family gatherings. She was an 11-year-old absorbing the songwriting greats, poised for her own musical take.
‘So you think you know me?’ Opens this year’s debut album, ‘When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know’. The line floats gently through the soulful vocals for which Pip has become known, setting the 24-year-old’s intentions for the project. With an underlying quiet confidence across 17 vulnerable tracks, it signals a period of growth. If you thought you knew Pip Millett, this album dares you to better understand the emotional journey she’s been on.
Pip’s songwriting began following the passing of her father: “It was the best way for me to look at things and figure them out, and then to turn them into lyrics.” 2018 breakout single “Make Me Cry” tackled Pip’s experience of depression following her father’s death. Many will have been introduced to the Mancunian artist during her performance of the track on the COLORS YouTube channel in 2019, a video with over 5 million views.
Maintaining a steady composure despite the emotional weight in her delivery, it blew up, and Pip’s debut single release accumulated over 24 million streams and counting. Honing an ethereal take on soulful sounds, as demonstrated by a cover of her beloved “Try a Little Tenderness” later that year, Pip remained ever connected to her musical roots.
A commitment to relatable transparency continued into 2020’s EP ‘Lost in June’, an eight-track project punctuated by personal spoken interludes from Pip’s mum sharing insights into her daughter’s personality. Her third EP ‘Motion Sick’ came the following year, featuring Gaidaa on “Sad Girls” and Ghetts on powerful track “Running”, on which Pip tackles “the tiresome reality of being Black / a POC in an unequal white western world.”
‘When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know’ marks a new chapter for the artist. Shaped both by her journey so far, as well as accepting there’s learning still to come, tracks like “Heal” acknowledge a period of her life that’s been “pretty rough”. But years on from her first breakup, and first therapy session, in Pip’s words: “I’ve just come so far.” She’s not claiming to be perfect, but her strides in overcoming trauma and coping healthily with anxiety speak for themselves; the album is a celebration of optimistic possibility. She might not be playing YouTube DJ in her Marple home, but Pip’s still using her razor-sharp songwriting ability to unite, charm and soothe, this time with self-assured maturity.
In the week following her album release, Pip discusses her upbringing, her COLORS blow-up, and how music has captured periods in her life.
How are you? I imagine you’ve had a crazy few days…
I’m good thank you. Super busy but very happy. It feels good to have the album out and is a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s also really lovely to see people’s reactions.
Before we get onto the album, I want to know what songs were getting played in young Pip’s DJ sets?
YouTube DJ was my vibe for a while when I was younger. I was often playing music for my mum and auntie on a weekend, so it was older soul tunes or reggae. A bit of Bobby Womack and Donna Summer, that kind of thing.
Do they speak to your musical influences when you were forming your own musical identity?
Definitely. I think naturally musicians are influenced by what they’re listening to, and for me, that’s a lot of old music. Even now, I love listening to Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder. I don’t think that’ll ever change.
Your “Try A Little Tenderness” cover now has over 10 million streams on Spotify alone, how do you think your younger self listening to Otis Redding would feel about that?
I think my younger self would be shocked to even think of herself releasing music, shocked to be going on tour and doing interviews. It can all feel very surreal when I think back to where I started and how shy I was. My younger self would be pretty proud.
Do you still carry those influences with you now? I know Bobby Womack inspired a song on your new album.
I do. Bobby Womack’s “So Many Sides Of You” inspired “Slow” on the album. I love looking back at old tracks and I enjoy trying to capture some of that energy in my own music.
Growing up in a Marple, did a music career seem like something attainable?
Not really, but I went for it anyway. I’m quite stubborn. I just knew I didn’t want to work in a job I hated. There are of course parts of my job now that I don’t particularly like, but that’s the case with all jobs. As long as the good outweighs the bad,I’ll continue to enjoy most of it. In all honesty, I’m not completely sure how I got here. I guess I just kept pushing forward and believing in myself.
Fast forward to “Make Me Cry” being released in 2018, and the COLORS show in 2019 — were you expecting the reception that track got?
I really wasn’t expecting the reaction I got. I feel incredibly lucky that people loved it as much as they did.
Moving from the debut single to the debut album, how does it feel to have a full-length project out in the world?
It feels amazing. I didn’t know that I’d feel so free afterwards. I’m so glad I took the time to make this project, but it was incredibly stressful and overwhelming at times, but it was worth it.
Did you have a party?
I had a pop-up in Manchester signing vinyl and singing a few tunes which was very cute. Low-key is more my vibe.
What’s the meaning behind the title, ‘When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know’?
The title is taken from a line in one of the songs on the album. “This Stage” was a song I’d written when I was quite depressed but also going through a huge transition. It summed up how I was feeling perfectly, and I felt it summed up that time in my life and fitted perfectly for the album name.
Could you tell me a bit about the themes and intentions behind the album? As a listener there seems to be a sense of your strength and self-awareness throughout lyrically, which tracks a journey since projects like “Motion Sick”. Do you feel like that’s the case?
The theme behind the album is my life. I write about whatever I’m going through at that time. It’s a collection of anything I’ve felt over the past three years.
Do you feel like music has helped you understand parts of yourself?
I try my best to understand myself before writing a song. I like to write down how I’m feeling first and go from there, but when listening back to my music it’s a reminder of who I am and how I was or am feeling.
There are four interludes, one is called “On Reflection”, and “Hold Up” talks about literally taking a pause and how that might make things better — what was the thinking behind those?
“On Reflection” is about looking back and understanding that hurt people hurt people, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about one another. “Hold Up” is about self-love. It’s hard to receive love from other people if you aren’t giving it to yourself. Your partner or friends cannot always be the people to lift you up. There are times you need to do that yourself.
“Heal” discusses having the intention of healing, and self-improvement, which I’m sure lots of people will relate to. The album ends with “Only Love” which feels like a lovely and optimistic ending about loving yourself and being proud of how far you’ve come. Is there something that you hope people take away from the album?
I want people to listen to the album and feel hopeful. Life can feel really shitty, but there’s always beauty somewhere. Throughout this album there’s struggle and heartbreak and depression, but there are also new beginnings and light and happiness.
How are you feeling about taking the project on tour?
I’m very excited! My band are so great and the set list for this tour is the best yet in my opinion. We’ve really tried to squeeze in as many songs as possible. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
What are you looking forward to after that?
A fucking holiday? Spa day? Christmas activities? Lots of fun stuff I hope. I know I’ll definitely be doing some more writing soon.