Exclusive Interview: Mist – “If you keep knocking that door, eventually it will open.”
Following the success of their London collaboration with Skepta, with the launch of a youth music studio in Tottenham, Levi’s Music Project are currently taking their initiative further afield, expanding the programme to Manchester and Birmingham.
After creating a fully equipped studio in Birmingham’s The Pump, young people have been invited to work with Mist, who’s embraced his role as a mentor. As well as personally delivering workshops in song-writing, he’s reached out to regular collaborators in order to offer additional knowledge in production and engineering.
Mist’s hope is to equip the group with the skills to build a song from start to finish, and as a by product has found himself inspired and energised by the participants.
We caught up with him during a busy day in the studio to find out more about his work with Levi’s Music Project…
Could you describe your involvement in the Levis’ Music Project so far?
Well my involvement is just giving [the participants] a bit of my experience and my way of thinking in the studio. And to build a bit more confidence in people that don’t think they’re going to get anything out of the music. Actually making them know that they’ve got talent.
I actually work with them in the workshops. So far we’ve been doing classes in writing and producing. A lot of them want to make music, but they’ve never made it as a track. So me being in the studio trying to give them a bit of advice how to build their tune with structure; verses and choruses. Just to let them know how to build tunes, because they have talent, they just need to know a bit more about the technical side of things.
What do you want participants to walk away with when they’ve finished the project?
I want them to carry on with the music. They’re going to be doing a performance art the end of the course, and everyone that’s on the course is willing too contribute and perform their own song that they’ve written. For them to do that alone takes a lot, so this is a great confidence [builder].
You’re bringing people in from your own network to help with workshops too…
I’ve brought in people from the network where I started. The people that I started off with, like P110 Media. I’ve got producers that I work with, I brought Shadow in. I brought some engineers in so that they can actually see what engineers do, because a lot of people don’t really see what an engineer does. So, I teach them the engineering side of things just in case they wanted to do that.
Are you personally finding inspiration in working with these young people as well?
The biggest inspiration for me is finding out how much of an inspiration I am to the kids. Knowing that me just turning up and being there gives them enough inspiration to start writing songs and performing them, that gives me inspiration to know that what I’m doing is more than just standing and performing a bit of music. I’m a role model to kids. That’s what I get out of these projects, knowing that it’s more than just being an artist and the fans, everything that comes with that. I’m a role model; these kids are really looking up to me.
What do you admire the most about the young people that are taking part in the workshops?
What I admire most is definitely the kids that didn’t really want to come to be much, didn’t really want to speak much. And then now just to step outside the box, to look in and see them all involved. These projects bring unity to different cultures, to different styles of people, people that like different things. I’ve seen people that wouldn’t normally work together, working together.
Is there anyone on the project that we should be looking out for?
You should be looking out for a few people. I wouldn’t want to say anyone in particular because everyone on the project is a great talent. I can see potential in every one of the kids that are in the project, and I know that probably sounds like a bit of a fib, but I believe that everyone in the project can get somewhere if they keep pushing. I’ve met a lot of people in the industry and there’s a lot of talent here that can get somewhere.
When you were younger did you ever have access to anything similar to this?
No, I didn’t. I would have loved to have done a project with one of my role models to get a bit of advice. To know that I could do something. I had to teach myself that, to come off life experiences to give my story. On this project I’ve been telling them what not to do. I’ve seen it; I’ve seen people rise and fall. So they’re learning so much from this.
What advice would you give a young Mist if you could go back in time?
Just to keep pushing. I know that I’m in a good position now in the music scene, but I feel like if you just stick on something from the beginning, just don’t stop, it just breaks through no matter what. If you keep pushing, you can break through. It doesn’t matter whether you think people don’t want to listen: if you keep knocking that door, eventually it will open.
How important do you think it is that people like Levi’s extend these initiatives beyond London?
It’s great, because when I put it up on my Instagram I felt like a lot of people were surprised that it was coming to Birmingham. So I’ve seen the comments and I feel like I’d love to do this again. This has inspired me, I want to don this for myself in the future. I know I’ve done it at Levi’s but I’d love to do it as a MIST project, to be more about my community. I feel like it would benefit me in the sense of where I want to be with my career. This has inspired me to do different things with the music.
What are you most proud of about the project?
That they picked me to actually do it. I feel like I play a big part, not just in Birmingham, I play a big part in a unity in music project.
And lastly, what is your definition of success?
Success is living and getting paid for something that you love doing, and that you do every day. It’s doing what you enjoy, what you love, what you have a passion for, and then making a living from it. I think that’s success.