Young, fresh, and up and coming- Mickey Shiloh is anything but the cookie cutter artist the music industry seems to spit out all too often these days. She’s a rule breaker, challenging industry standards and proving that it’s not only ok be yourself, it’s necessary. Surrounded by music her entire life, Mickey started composing her own songs at a young age before eventually signing with the legendary Rodney “Darkchild” Perkins as a songwriter. With an undeniable talent and ability to write music that the artist and fans could connect to, Mickey found success writing hits for everyone from Janet Jackson to Britney Spears.
As an independent artist, Mickey is coming to the forefront of a wave of artists who are successful, talented, and unapologetically reestablishing what it means to be an artist. They’ve literally skipped the middle man, proving once and for all that you don’t need a record label to define you. Their music comes first and their fans are living for every second of it.
When I first heard Mickey’s “Drunk on the Mic” I was blown away, and it quickly made its way to every single one of my playlists on Spotify. Beyond the fact that it was different and edgy, her rawness and vulnerability were nearly palpable and something almost anyone could connect to. Currently releasing more new music than anyone else in the industry, Mickey is the embodiment of what it means to truly let your art speak for itself. She has a clear message for her fans, and the world is listening: be yourself and apologize to no one.
I wanted to start at the beginning with how you got your start in music.
I got my start in music when I was really young. My dad was a rapper. Growing up, I would say I got the music bug from him. He had albums out that had Tupac on them and Biggie. As a kid, I wanted to be a rapper. I listened to Eminem and Missy Elliot and was writing raps originally. I got a MySpace music account in like 2007. I was in 8th grade, and I started uploading songs that I was recording in my room. And then a producer [Chad Dexter] found me on there. I actually reached out to him. I signed with Chad at 15 years old, and we worked together for 2 years.
And then I met Darkchild, who’s a really huge R&B producer. He signed me, and that’s where I say I got my real industry start. There’s a creative start in music and then there’s like an industry start. My career skyrocketed when I met Darkchild because then I worked with everyone that he was working with.
Darkchild has worked with literally everyone from Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston and Beyonce.
I knew who he was but I didn’t know the extent of how huge he was in the industry. He’s a huge name. I no longer work with him, but I’ve always considered him one of my greatest mentors because he taught me how a hit is made. And that’s something that you can never have taken away from you. He’s a hitmaker, and I was really blessed to know him and be signed by somebody like that. I’m always very grateful for that opportunity.
And you yourself have written for some huge names in music as well. Can you go over some of the artists you’ve written songs for?
I’ve written for Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Cassie, Iggy Azalea. I’ve written for Ray J, Jennifer Lopez. I’ve been in rooms with pretty much any artist you can imagine. One person I haven’t met yet is Eminem, and that’s the one person that I’m dying to meet in person just because he really was so influential to me when I was younger.
When you write songs for other artists, do you think more about your own experiences or who you’re writing for?
There are different scenarios. When I’m in the studio with the artist, I talk to them about their life so that I’m really accurately portraying them in the songs. The problem is a lot of artists don’t want to share so much about themselves. And that’s the job of a songwriter, to kind of draw that out of them so that when they sing the songs, they’re really connected. I’ve had issues with some artists where they don’t know what they want. It becomes an issue because then I, as a songwriter, put my heart into the music. And then it’s really hard to let go of those songs when the artist does them because it’s like this is my story. It’s really a difficult balance between being an artist and being a songwriter.
When you started in songwriting, was being an artist always the end game?
I started as a songwriter because a producer that was signed to both Chad and Darkchild said you should do songwriting first so that you understand the industry. I’ve always been an artist, but he said once you know the industry, you’re going to become a much more successful artist. And it’s true! Now I’m 25, and I consider myself an up and coming independent artist. Like Macklemore. Like Childish Gambino. Like Kid Cudi. They have major deals, but they’re very independent. I call them independently owned because they have their own labels. So now I have Michaela LLC and BDRM Records so when I go to a major label, I’m going to be able to say sign my company. If I want to even do that. Or I can keep going on this path now. I’m glad I started with songwriting because I could’ve gotten so messed up being an artist first.
Royalty Exchange might not be a name a lot of people are familiar with, but it played a significant part in your success.
Royalty Exchange came into the picture for me in about March of 2017. I didn’t know what it was. My friend came to my apartment and he was talking to me about it. He said, “Yo, I just got money from this company for some old songs I did.” And I was like, “Hold up! What are you talking about right now?” Cause I have a back catalog. A back catalog is just a catalog of songs that you’ve written for other artists. So I have Janet Jackson, I have Britney Spears, I have LL Cool J. I have all these songs that I’d been a part of since I was 16 or 17. And they’re just collecting $2,000 worth of royalties a year.
I contacted Royalty Exchange to get more information. I signed up and they sent me an email back a few days later and said, “Hey, you have a good catalog. Why don’t we work together?” And I read the requirements for doing a deal, and what it really means is that I sold a hundred percent of my writers share so. I still own my publishing, but I gave away a hundred percent of my writers share on those songs just so that I could get basically an advance on ten years worth of royalties. It auctioned off to different investors, and then I got a check for $20,500. If I hadn’t had that, I don’t know where I would be right now, to be honest. For me, it really was the key that opened the door, and I’m very grateful to have had that. It’s incredible.
One thing that I feel your fans, myself included, really appreciate about you is your honesty and openness. How important is it have that level of authenticity?
Oh, my gosh, it’s the most important thing to me and it’s always been the most important thing to me. I remember I wrote down my goals when I was like 15, 16, 17. I really wanted to be an artist so bad but people kept telling me just be a songwriter. I wrote down that if I ever make it as an artist, the number one goal for me is to be authentically myself and number two is to connect with people. It’s just those two things because that’s the only way that I feel I’ll be sane. I don’t ever want to be a fake artist. I don’t ever want to lie about anything because who wants to live a life lying? So many artists live that lie.
And your lyrics are a reflection of that. For most people, lyrics are what they connect to the most.
It’s so hard to find music like that, that you can connect to lyrically. It’s hard for me even. So when I find an artist like Vic Mensa, who’s one of my really good friends, who really speaks their life, when you find someone whose lyrics you connect to, it just makes you feel like you’re not alone.
How challenging is it to be that vulnerable in your music?
It’s not even hard for me, and I know that’s weird to say. When I’m at home by myself creating, it’s really my therapy. I view it like this: I’m sitting on my chair recording and then I’m imagining that one of my fans is sitting with me and we’re like having an intimate moment of just being honest with each other.
If I feel like the song is too personal, and I’m like really vulnerable, I tell myself release it anyway because there’s somebody out there in the world who needs to hear it. When people DM me that I saved them from suicidal thoughts and stuff, I’m like that person needs to hear this. It’s hard for one second and then when I release it, I’m like it’s not even a big deal because people have way worse issues than I do. My issues are minute compared to some of the things I’ve seen. And I’ve been hospitalized for bipolar disorder before, and I’m sitting in these hospitals without phones. We can’t really do anything all day, we’re just like talking to our doctor and hanging out. And I’m talking to these people that are schizophrenic, that are bi-polar, that are depressed, that have really hard lives. And when I leave the hospital, I go home to my nice apartment and back to my job. And then some people don’t even have families. It’s really sad! So it’s not hard for me more than one second to release it.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about bi-polar disorder?
The biggest misconception is that someone bi-polar has erratic emotions, which is not the case at all. We’re all normal. Some people just experience it in extremes. And I’m happy to experience the extremes because I record it, and I use it for my music.
At 25, you’ve already experienced so much from working in the music industry. What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
The most important thing I’ve learned is to trust myself over any executive and what they tell me. And that’s not shade being thrown at executives. It’s me knowing my worth and that I’m doing something different that hasn’t been done before. The amount of music I’m releasing, what I’m doing is different so I have to trust myself more. I’ve learned to stay connected with God. Whoever I believe in, I know there’s a higher power guiding me. And it’s not some weird Alien stuff; it’s just being connected to a source that created everything. My insight is God and now at 25, looking back at my 17 -year old self, I just wanna hug her. Learning to love me fully with God’s help, that was my biggest lesson. And it took 8 years, and I’m still learning.
What does music mean to you?
Music is life in general. Music is language and that’s the biggest thing. I’ve been to a lot of Third World countries. I’ve been to Thailand. I’ve been to Mongolia. I’ve been to Senegal. The only common denominator in all of these countries is music. I’ve been in drum circles in Africa, and it’s the one thing that ties everyone on this earth together. Even if you’re deaf. There are other senses that you have that can be called music. People who are deaf or blind, they’re still listening to music in a different way. So music to me is the universal language of whatever you want it to be. That’s why it’s so important if you have a voice, that you use it for good.