Mr Mitchell, aka Tony Mitchell formerly of the Mitchell brothers, who were signed to Mike Skinner’s label The Beats, came back onto the scene last year as a solo artist. He released his first solo track ‘Off The Coathanger,’ followed by his first solo mixtape, ‘The Night I Thought I Was A God’. His first solo release this year, ‘On The Rooftop’, will be out on March 25th followed up by a second single ‘Wolfcry’, and an EP. Flavour’s Shireen Fenner talks to Mr. Mitchell about The Mitchell Brothers, being a solo artist and what to expect with his new music.
You caught Mike Skinners attention by slipping a CD in his back pocket. What advice would you give to up and coming artists who are hoping to attract attention from DJ’s, labels and artists?
Always do what I did; in anyway you can force something to be done basically (laughs). Always put a CD in an artist who you find inspiring’s bag. Always do it the difficult way never the easy way.
How influential were The Streets to your musical direction?
It helped me out a lot, because working with Mike inspired me a great deal with writing, with thinking about music in a different way. He taught us specifics, and making a simple subject seem bigger when you’re writing it. I’ve always kept that knowledge and added it to what I had already. Now I can’t say I’m complete because I’m always learning when it comes to music, but its good to have someone like that teaching you stuff, and helping you out technically when it comes to writing music.
The Mitchell Brothers split in 2008. What was the reason behind the split?
We grow as adults, and I guess at the time I was writing music that didn’t make the albums ‘A Breath of Fresh Attire’, and ‘Dressed For The Occasion’. When we split it wasn’t a great time, but the more time that had passed the love for the music I had written had grown. I suggested to Teddy at the time, “what do you think of me going solo?” Obviously it was hard to digest at the beginning, but I don’t think he said the idea was a bad one. As time went on it just happened.
Was it hard being a duo and working alongside someone so closely, and then becoming a solo artist and not having someone else to share the pressure with?
I mean it’s always going to be hard. It’s like having a baby and your girlfriend walked out on you (laughs). Fans were probably questioning us about what we were doing. We were good writers and we dedicated a lot of time to writing, and I feel because of that we both could last as solo acts. When I’m on the stage and I look to my other side, he isn’t going to be there.
Formerly the Mitchell Brothers and now Mr. Mitchell. Is there a reason why your family name is so key to your identity? Did you not think a more drastic name change would be helpful in distancing yourself from your musical past?
No because I don’t want to run away from my musical past. I want people to remember me and know where I’ve come from. By calling myself Mr. Mitchell it was easier for people to digest rather than if I’d changed my name completely. By calling myself Mr. Mitchell I haven’t erased what me and Teddy built together. I feel the word Mitchell is important, I feel it was paramount that I left that name.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your songs?
Through the pioneers, through listening to all different types of artists, from Jay Z to Kanye to Ian Brown to Chris Martin to Stevie Wonder. I’m a lover of music full stop, so I think when you listen to a broad sound; it allows you to learn a lot. I get my inspiration from that and I get my inspiration from real life. I think the best music to make is the music where people can relate to it. They can take a piece of that painting that you’ve painted, and they can say, “ah I’m going through that, I know what he’s talking about”.
You have consistently been described as innovative and unique. Is it a challenge to remain different and fresh especially given that you are not new to the music industry?
Yes it’s definitely a challenge, because now I’m trying to find a balance in terms of brining that uniqueness and still being credible and cool at the same time. I feel like now I’ve found that balance. I find that balance by listening to new music and different sounds and reading books. I still try and keep being creative and innovative, but without possibly going a step to far. There are some people who might not be able to digest that creativity.
What do you bring to the industry that makes you stand out from other artists?
I bring real music. Real music that says what people go through around me. I don’t make music to sound cool. I make music with a meaning. I feel that artists today should make more music like that. I also feel that artists should put themselves in the music. I’m a firm believer that when your writing a song write the chorus, write the bridge write the hooks. Don’t just do things the conveyor belt way where you just give the song to the artist, and that person writes you a song. I believe in making real music and that’s my path.
Why should people be listening to Mr. Mitchell?
I’m making music that I feel like they want to hear. They could be driving to work, or be in a bad mood and need to listen to one of my songs, or be in a happy mood and listen to one of my songs. I write music for the people. If the people want someone where they want themselves to be heard, or they want a song that will relate to them, then that’s why they should listen to me. I make music that’s sincere and honest.
What was the reaction to your first solo work last year, and in particular your mixtape ‘The Night I Thought I Was A God?’
I feel a lot of people liked what I was doing, in particular visually. I stayed away from radio, a lot of the stuff I did was promo work. I got a lot of good feedback; it was always going to be difficult for me to come back as a solo act. The fact that they acknowledged me was fantastic. When I did ‘Off The Coathanger,’ the video was seen as something very creative and different. That’s how I wanted to start off; I wanted to come into the scene saying something without saying something. Now is where I’m going to be judged (laughs).
If you had to choose one track to best describe and showcase you as an artist, both past and present, which one would it be and why?
‘Routine Check’, it was about a real situation in terms of the topic being harassed by police, and having that altercation with police that a lot of youngsters go through, and myself. It was just the way we went about it in putting that picture to people for them to like it, for them to like the funny side of it, but understand the seriousness of it as well. At that time with a lot of artists it was cool to be macho, but bringing that wit and humour for me was important.
Tell us about your forthcoming single release, ‘On the Rooftop?’
It’s about wanting to be like the bird on the rooftop. What I mean by that are people in bad situations and wanting to get away from those situations. Sometimes when you look at the rooftop, and birds fly off the rooftop and they go to another destination. It’s not that easy for us to do that. In some ways I’m saying I want wings. Another reason why I made that is because that is what is in my surroundings. When I come out of my house, that’s what I see, I see rooftops. That to me is a symbol, not only of London but also of the UK in general.
You have an EP set for release this summer. What can we expect from it?
Real good, energetic music. Music that you can play in your car, music that you can play in your home. It still has that cool sound, but at the same time has that concept that you can all get into. Good well-written music. I’ve got Mic Righteous in the studio right now, so that should be fun.
The single On The Rooftop out March 25th
The single WolfCry out May 2012
Follow @MrMitchell on Twitter
Interview By Shireen Fenner