“My sound?” Without missing a beat, Michael Lewis (C ‘14), professionally known as Myylo, proudly proclaims, “I write folky, country stuff for myself, and then for other people, I like writing savage girl pop.” Myylo’s not your average Penn graduate. While most were looking for junior year summer internships, Myylo finished Penn an impressive year and a half early to pursue music full–time. Now based in Nashville, the young musician’s exploring new music and new places, creating a sound that is completely his own.
Growing up in Calabasas, California, Myylo had always been surrounded by music, discovering songwriting at a young age. “I was going to Berklee College of Music for a summer program,” Myylo begins, laughing, “and the night before [I left] my brother and his friend were getting frisky with two young ladies at my house and I was like, “Oh man.” I felt so pathetic and sorry for myself and so I wrote a song about being pathetic. It’s really funny. It was on a piano in my room, I was 15, super emo, just feeling sorry for myself.”
But Myylo’s music is anything but self–pitying. Combining genres, South, Myylo’s new EP, tells the mostly–autobiographical tale of the trials and tribulations of leaving home, inspired by his own move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and then finally to Nashville. In Myylo’s own words, South is about “a dude who moves south, he falls in love, he finds out that he has to work really hard at his dreams and then he gets fucked over and gives his lover the finger, and then he’s homesick for what he left behind.”
Following his early graduation, Myylo made his first stop in L.A. where he worked with producer Neff–U as an assistant—an invaluable teaching experience for Myylo. “I was sitting in on writing sessions, and working these super long 14–hour days, unpaid, but learning a lot” he remembers, “And you kind of have to do that in the music industry, pay your dues.” Yet after almost a year in L.A., the California native found himself being drawn southward towards Nashville, a kind of haven for young musicians. “Nashville is the best place to be a songwriter” Myylo says firmly, “The community is really about nurturing new talent and lifting each other up and this sense of camaraderie that L.A. and New York still haven’t adopted.” His move to Nashville has sparked co–writing relationships with other songwriters and eventually led to South. With anthemic vocals and folk–inspired harmonies, the EP’s mix of country and pop comes together to create a sound as daring, joyful and unique as its artist.
Myylo in his own words:
Street: So who are your biggest musical inspirations right now?
Myylo: Oh my god. Who isn’t? The world is so huge!
Street: Well then who are you listening to right now?
Myylo: I honestly listen to Amy Winehouse at least once a day. And then I love Jazmine Sullivan. I’ve been listening to anything that this songwriter Shane McAnally writes. Kacey Musgraves. Oh! And then obviously Beyonce.
Street: Obviously. Tell me a little bit about your experience at Penn.
Myylo: I was a creative writing major but I realized pretty early on that I needed to get out as soon as possible. I loved my friends, but I was falling asleep every morning in my econ lecture so I was like, “This is not the place for me!” I was in the Penny Loafers and I got to sing all the time, but I really did just kind of hustle on out of there.
Street: Was it a scary decision to graduate early or something you felt totally confident in?
Myylo: It was pretty terrifying because my parents were supportive but everyone else in my family was like “what the fuck are you doing?” I’m pursuing music so there’s no really clear ladder to climb and there’s no real answer. So I just didn’t know how long it was going to take, or if it was going to work out. I still don’t know how long it’s going to take or if it’s going to work out.
Street: Do you think moving to Nashville has changed the kind of music you’re writing?
Myylo: Definitely. Definitely. I was in a singer–songwriter–y phase back when I was in high school and early college and then I started writing pop music. And when I started wanting to move here I started listening to the Johnny Cashes and the Dolly Partons and Kacey Musgraves of the world and that really influenced my sound to be a bit more country and the songwriting to be a bit more country.
Street: So what’s your songwriting process like?
Myylo: It’s actually pretty easy to explain, basically if you’re a songwriter, whether you’re in New York, L.A. or here, you’re usually co–writing with other people. You’ll come in with half–finished ideas, half–baked goods and you’ll play them for the other people and usually something bites where you want to complete that song or some sort of song with the other person that they’re into or both people will come in with nothing and you’ll have to start songwriting from scratch.
Street: Speaking of new music, congrats on the music video! It looks amazing. Can you say a little bit about the inspiration behind the song “Finger”?
Myylo: Well, the song sort of came from the time this guy cheated on me with somebody else and I didn’t know about it for about two years.
Street: Oh no! I am so sorry.
Myylo: Oh it’s okay it’s okay! It’s actually hilarious. Basically I was sipping Four Lokos getting chummy with this guy when he dropped the bomb that he had gotten frisky with my man. So I guess I sat on that for a while and then “Finger” just came out of a co–write I had with this songwriter Remington Maxwell. We were writing, we had started the verse, “I had never shot a shotgun, I had never swung a sword, but I sure as hell ain’t been this mad before.” And then I took that first verse and made it into this song about that experience.
Street: What’s the next move for Myylo?
Myylo: (Laughing) The next move for Myylo! Wooo! Right now in the works, I’m putting together a cover of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. So hopefully that’ll be a video and then I’m just working. I’m just writing a lot, with people, for some other people, and hoping that along the way songs pop up that I’m really keeping for me.
Street: What sets you apart from every other songwriter in Nashville?
Myylo: The inclusion of horns and some really sick harmonies gives my sound a bit of an edge. I think what sets me apart is that I’m coming to a country scene with a L.A. vibe. I grew up in a very different space and was listening to a lot of music that differs from my peers here.
Street: Does that impact your lyrics?
Myylo: I’m willing to be lyrically a little bit absurd or cheeky as opposed to being melodramatic. I try not to take myself too seriously. In Nashville there’s this culture of rounds, you go to a show in Nashville, there will be four songwriters on stage and I’ll play a song and then the next person plays a song, and then the next person plays a song, and then the next person plays a song and then it comes back around to me. And a lot of people are self–serious and that’s their style and that’s cool but I always feel compelled to be more tongue in cheek because I’m like, “Okay the audience needs to hear something a little bit different” instead of four songs that are all the same.
Street: What advice do you have for any student, maybe specifically at Penn, who is interested in pursuing music?
Myylo: If you want to be a writer, you have to make it your job. It can’t just be something that you do. If I have a three month period and I only write ten songs, that isn’t going to work. You need to write 90 songs in 3 months. You’re working everyday and getting better at what you do because ultimately if your songs aren’t good, no one’s gonna care.