A powerhouse voice over beds of piano, lo-fi beats and pop-electronica, Suffolk born and based Amy Milner brings us her second EP, Big Bad Thoughts — a title that alludes to her outspoken lyrics of confronting the dark side of her mind and steering it to a positive place before the darkness takes an unbreakable hold. I spoke to the rising star during lockdown who’s at the Brighton studio of her producer and musical partner Tim Larcombe (Lana Del Rey/Halsey) who was also down to chat about these brave new tunes.
“I crossed paths with Tim when we were both at this record label that turned out to be very dodgy,” Milner says with a laugh.
“The guy turned out to be a bit of a fraudster. So Tim and I started a working relationship and got an album’s worth of material together. So when everything fell apart at the label, we decided to keep going with the project. So I felt lucky that Tim was really into it. So we’re a year and a half into that, and we’ve set up our own label! It’s so good to have total control, nothing under the radar going on.”
Larcombe adds that “despite how dodgy that label was, we managed to keep the masters of the songs we’d worked on, which was pretty cool. We definitely learned a lot from that, how things were done with advertising and PR.”
Larcombe and Milner’s teaming up seems to resemble the relatively new but increasingly popular producer and artist development model that seems to be filling the void left by more and more artists going the independent route and not bothering with record labels.
Particularly the fact that Larcombe seems to be present for many of Milner’s interviews and live performances, and the undeniable rapport as they finish each other’s sentences.
Milner’s story saw her being gifted an upright piano by her grandparents at a young age, which led to a passion that grew and grew up to the point where she would drop out of her french degree at university to fully go after music.
Larcombe on the other hand saw early success in his music production journey when joining the wildly successful songwriting and production group, Xenomania.
Writing for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Cher, Pet Shop Boys and Sugababes, they perhaps had their most fruitful collaboration with Popstars: The Rivals winners Girls Aloud, writing virtually every song the group ever released.
“Brian Higgins, the guy who set up Xenomania, was obsessed with Motown,” Larcombe explains. “He wanted it to be that kind of pop factory. And it was for a few years. If you look at the credits for some of the songs, there’d be about 20 people — four people writing one line of lyrics, and three of us working on the drum beat. A bit of a Frankenstein’s monster vibe to it. But I learned a lot from the experience and it made my programming skills quite a bit sharper.”
After being involved in the 4.3 million single sales for Girls Aloud, a bit of freelancing soon led to Larcombe working with one Lana Del Rey.
“When I met her, she wasn’t signed and was staying on people’s sofas in London to do writing sessions,” he says. “A lot of people were telling me she wasn’t very good and I shouldn’t bother working with her! But I could tell she had something very special.
"For me it was just a case of doing what I normally do and try to get the best out of what the artist wants to do — not really thinking anything else of it. It was just luck, really. Then she moved to LA and blew up and everything. I worked on another few tracks for her but now I think she has a whole team around her.”