In the early 2000s, it seemed like there were enough bonafide pop artists to fill the whole island of New York. Everywhere you looked, a new rising pop star was claiming to dethrone the likes of Micheal Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and P!nk. At many times it seemed like the music industry was hard at work making complete copies of them. The 2000s was a decade of looking forward to the ever-changing landscape of music while paying homage to the 90s. Those mentioned above were the once-in-a-lifetime acts who have been able to defy Father Time and ascend into the halls of music glory. They shook the house, ran backward, threw caution to the wind, placed bets on themselves and won. They knew what it took to surpass their human status and become icons.
Fast forward a few years and we have arrived at a place where we are seeing fewer icons. The few who are left no longer appeal to the masses or had succumb to their own devices. All that’s left are the broken stained windows of the musical cathedrals that are no longer visited. The magic is gone or has been redirected into money-making machines. None puts thought into their style and music but rather follows the trends. Our icons have abandoned us in a moment of need.
But, there’s hope just over the horizon. Miles Arnell is our saving grace, in stylish armor.
Think back to the late 2000s when the age of Pop was at the height of music and Billboard charts. Remember how you felt hearing a catchy Britney Spears tune? That new single from Justin? It’s the same effect Miles has learned to harness in his music. “Luxury Pop”, as Miles Arnell describes it, is a new form of his music in which Arnell is able to capture the best part of pop music and dress it up in high style fashion and you won’t even have to take out a loan for a Rolls Royce. His blend of soul, pop, funk, EDM, and anything else you can throw at him is what makes Miles Arnell stand out from the rest. It’s the biggest part of what makes Miles Arnell so addicting.
The Connecticut-born kid has made his living touring and spending time in and around the Las Vegas nightclub scene to perfect what he does best, give listeners a great time. Miles looks to set an example for the rest of the music industry and carve his own path. Just a few weeks after his first single of 2021, “Love in My Veins”, Miles Arnell is riding high on inspiration and creativity.
True Urban Culture had the opportunity to sit down and talk with luxury pop King himself to dive into how his term luxury pop was formed, his willfulness to get back into the studio, how the streaming service industry and the artist can co-exist, and his plan to release new music every 4-5 weeks this year.
Out of those three, I feel closer to the funk and soul side, you know, my background is in all things. Motown, funk, and soul. Being that it’s pop music too, I’ve also been around classic rock and the blues. So it’s certainly about connecting the past to the present in a way. Then you have EDM, which you know, is a present phenomenon right now so I look at it as merging the elements of EDM with the traditional. That’s kind of a sweet spot for me, it just sets me on fire.
It’s interesting that you say Motown because there’s not a lot of artists who still connect or even know the importance of Motown in music history.
They’re missing out! I don’t know!
Speaking of Motown, your musical influences range from 60s Motown to some of 2010s biggest pop stars like Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd, which era would you say has had the biggest impact on your music?
Well, that’s tough. It’s hard for me to pick between the two as it’s more of a combination of them both. My three biggest influences, just because of what I was raised on as a little kid, are somewhat random. But they are The Beatles, Hall and Oates, and Elvis Presley. Now, three somewhat different genres there but that’s just what I was raised on. From Hall and Oates, it sorta led me into more of soul and R&B, from The Beatles into classic rock, you know. I went through a phase where I listened to a lot of classic rock. There’s Led Zeppelin and The Doors. There’s just so much there, then through Elvis, he was a rock star but also a huge pop star. That made me look into current pop stars and got really into Burno Mars and what he did with Mark Ronson in ‘Uptown Funk’ and you got Charlie Puth and Dua Lipa. That sound, they are very much in the same terms of influence if you will. You can just tell by listening to their music.
Now, I heard that you were born in Connecticut, is that correct?
That’s correct, I’m here right now!
I’m not sure about the Connecticut music scene but you did base your music around the Las Vegas night scene?
Yeah, it definitely influenced it a lot. Just that level of energy. I’ve had family there my whole life as a kid so I’ve been back and forth, so Vegas is like my second home prior to the pandemic. I was living in Vegas. I had moved out to Vegas, had packed my car, and said I’m out of the east coast, time to start anew. Drove cross country with a good friend of mine and stared over out there, you know? Life was beautiful literally achieving things that I had only dreamed about for years. Then, the pandemic happens and boom. The rug gets pulled out from under everybody, you know unless you’re Rihanna. Everybody’s sorta in the same boat. So as you can imagine, I’m back here in Connecticut as the world settles from this pandemic. But certainly, my time in Vegas, especially when I first moved out there, you can imagine I had some wild times. That energy, that vibe absolutely influences the sounds, yes.
How did you balance the difference between east coast sound and west coast sound?
That’s tough man. I don’t know, it’s just so subjective how people interpret it too. I think in my song, ‘Sexy time’, for instance, you can hear a little bit of the New York rat pack influence and the (Miles indicates a snapping West Side Story-like motion with his fingers), yeah, you know? But, about ‘Sexy time’, when that drop hits, it’s like boom, you’re in Vegas!
What was the first cultural shock you have upon moving out to Las Vegas?
Just being so different. Like I said before, I’ve been back and forth to Vegas but to just, then, live there full time. It’s so different. To not be caught up in the nightlife, the movie scenes of Vegas that you think of. It’s like, “oh, the lifestyle’s a little different out here, the people are a little different as well.” It’s very much a melting pot. There are people in Vegas from everywhere. It was interesting adjusting to a full-time nightlife. I’m kind of a night person anyway but even more so out there like the daytime barely existed for me.
I was about to say, it just seems like it’s just nighttime all the time out there.
Yeah, it’s night man. The sun doesn’t rise, it’s an illusion. (Miles chuckles)
You seem to be at the forefront of a brand new style “Luxury Pop,” is that something you want to see more of in mainstream music?
Wow, I love that question. You know, I don’t think I’ve fully flushed it out yet as much or even if I want to. No matter what, I’m an admitted perfectionist. I’ll never actually be happy with anything I do. I’ve come to terms with that, so in my mind, luxury pop is still an idea. So what you hear right now, in my music, hasn’t been mastered, hasn’t been fully owned and refined as well. I don’t think I’ll ever consider it that but when it gets to a point, sure. If other people want to imitate a certain style that’s become a consistent theme in my music, sure, that’ll be awesome. You know, how flattering would that be?
A lot, absolutely a lot. I’m glad you did some digging on that because it’s a big reason of why what we want to express, what we feel, what we fear musically and spiritually on the outside as well. You want to reflect that so certainly, I like to keep it classy. I like to keep it upscale. Do I sit around in my house a lot of time in a sweatshirt like everyone else? Of course but you know, that’s one thing I miss about life so much Donovan! Like, getting dressed up, getting as fresh as possible. Going out, feeling like a million dollars, you know what I mean? The nightlife, the lights, I live for that! I live for that buzz, that energy. So I think that does reflect in the wardrobe choices. Yes, I do take pride in that and I enjoy it. I enjoy that whole scene.
Yeah, I did feel that. There’s something about dressing in clean luxury that makes you want to have someone pull the Mercedes-Benz around the block.
100%. You feel like you’re on top of the world, even if you’re not exactly.
You released your first single, ‘Love in My Veins’ this year, how was juggling studio time in a pandemic? Heeding to health safety protocols, meeting with producers? Getting everything out on time?
Luckily with that song, it was recorded three years ago. There’s actually a cool story behind it. It was released under a different incarnation, So it was released and it actually got some radio play in iHeartRadio and Cumulus Media. I had performed it live, literally, for thousands of people at one point. I had signed a little record deal that didn’t end up working out, it was just a mutual thing, which is fine. But in the process, we had taken down all my music, and unfortunately, that was one of the songs. But whatever tragic, there’s a miracle right behind it and I connected with a DJ PhillyCheesesteaks (Dante Bowden) who is Pink Sweat$’s (David Bowden) brother. An amazing artist who is killing it right now. Dante is an amazing producer and he heard this so I sent it to him and he killed the production. So, all credit goes to him, he destroyed it and just created a brand new version. But to answer your question. It really really sucked not being able to connect with people in person, that’s such a big part of being a creator, of being an artist, or being a people person. Even on this interview right now, there’s something missing that you just can’t replace so it’s been tough. It’s been a lot of Zooms, virtual meetings. I haven’t traveled, I’ve been very safe. You know, I’ve been one of the people following the rules. Any other artist I’ve talked to is having the same problems. There’s the mental illness aspect of it and people are suffering mentally and emotionally. they’re not able to vent, talk to other people, and get things off their minds. It’s a dangerous time in the world right now.
As you continue to grow and expand your fanbase, how has social media changed the way you interact? You seem to be really big in Germany.
Yeah, that’s just from getting on a few choice playlists that are popular over there and marketing efforts over the years for whatever reason works there. I’ve had several releases in Germany specifically. I’ve actually charted over there on the DJ Top 100 three different times, so I think it’s a culmination of all those things. Not sure if I mentioned it already but I collaborated with a lot of German producers. They are really talented and passionate over there, I don’t know, there’s just something about Germany.
That’s interesting, I assume German music is very different than United States music standards. How do the music, production, and overall process differ from Western music?
I can definitely say that dance and EDM is still very much reigning supreme over there. I mean, the same Top 40 pop hits that play over here play on the radio over there. You know that the songs that pop over here are the same ones playing all around the world. I know this because I checked my Spotify a few months ago and saw it was getting radio plays all over Germany on their biggest stations. This, in turn, was an amazing thing that led me to now listening to the radio in Germany. On my phone, I’m listening to the radio and I’m like, “wow, they have a lot of EDM on their pop radio over there”, so it’s still very popular. I would say the people there, work-wise, are very humbled and easy to work with. Although I don’t want to generalize, as there’s a lot of artists and producers here who are also awesome souls and human beings, but yeah, there are certainly some egos here. There’s much more ego here. I think what I’ve seen here and overseas, the United States and the music industry, it’s a little iffy.
That brings me to my next question, what’s your overall view of the inner workings of the music industry as a whole?
I think we’re in a good space overall. There’s this debate about Spotify and how it should be paying artists more. I think, on many levels, Spotify is broken. Although, I do think they are moving in the right direction, encouraging us to do the right thing. Daniel Ek (founder and CEO of Spotify) did say, “Hey, you got to release more music independent artists” and he’s right. You have to put out songs every four to five weeks. It’s very demanding but that’s sorta what you have to do right now, but I do think the business model is a little broken right now. I do think they could be generating more revenue in other ways that would allow them to pay artists more while leaving the door open for more business. I still think major labels still have a lot of pull and power but the positive of it all is so do independent artists. They have the same ability that a major label has in terms of reach and exposure to build their own fanbase. But the caveat is it can get really expensive. You really have to adopt a business mindset and become an entrepreneur as opposed to just being a musician. In the seventies, you could just smoke doobies and hang out in the back of a van and write songs and someone else would handle the business side. But yeah, in today’s society, you have to be on top of your shit.
Exactly. In recent news, Soundcloud announced a new payment method to allow fans to directly pay their favorite artists, a huge milestone in the streaming age. How do you think this will impact other competitors like Apple Music and Spotify in the coming future?
Yeah, I think Spotify’s tip jar method is similar to something like that. I say, the more the better. There’s a weird disconnect with it though because there are levels of popularity and to just get to that level of a fanbase where you’re big enough for people to tip. So I tend to always think about that bracket. At the end of the day let be honest, the artists at the very top, none of these changes will really affect them. I mean, God bless them, they’ve earned it for the most part. But I tend to think about what ways we can help artists reach more people that you don’t know than just emptying their pockets, right?
Yeah, that’s a really good point. Do you see live music making a comeback later in the year?
I do see it coming back bigger than ever but the question is when? When it does come back, there’s going to be so much pent-up demand and so much eagerness to connect with people and fans. I mean, it’s going to be a hell of a time to tour or perform, right?
Yes, I know a couple of artists who are so eager to get back to performing live. As for a roadmap for the rest of 2021, what is your plan? Any EPs, singles, or albums in the works?
Singles. I plan to release a track every, you know, four, six, seven weeks at most. To continue releasing music. Focusing on more content as the months get warmer and vaccines start circulating more and things chill out a little more, hopefully, get back to traveling back out on the road. Even if it’s just to reconnect with collaborators and friends. that I’ve made over the last couple of years on the west coast. That’s all in the cards for 2021, granted things don’t get worse.
Lastly, what does True Urban Culture mean to you?
That’s a strong question. I know we’re in Black History Month so I think it has various meanings. It means different things to many people on various levels, you know? On one level, it’s a tribute to the amazing attributions and contributions of the Afro-American culture and our society. I think it’s an outlet for people who are in that urban environment or grew up in the urban city. it’s to reflect on their experiences, and to me, it’s something i can directly relate to a great inspiring group of people that I met who are like-minded, people who are passionate, who are forward-thinking, and were able to give people like me a chance to speak. I think people will come up with their own ideas that relate to them and apply that. As for True urban Culture, that’s a cool title. It’s one of those titles where you can interpret it how you want.
Very solid statement. Before we go, is there anything else that you wish to say that we haven’t had the chance to touch on?
Yes, as an artist my greatest mission is to have people adopt positivity and the lifestyle that is you know, my purpose that is my message and moving forward to my music you’re gonna start seeing that will become a greater theme in the music. I went through a phase where the songs I did were more about the fun, but it’s gonna get more serious now, especially after last year. It has broken my heart to see the divide, the hatred, and the suffering. I just want to bring people together and I want my music and my presence and my voice to do that and if I can even do that with just a few people that’s my purpose here and you know encouraging people to adopt positivity as a way of life.
Wow, that’s exciting. A new path in your music, moving a little way from the fun music to more social justice focus music. Do you have any inspiration you’re pulling from for that?
Yes, John Lennon. I think if you look at people like him, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, anyone who advocated for peace, humanity, brotherhood, togetherness over hatred. I want progress instead of regress. It’s going to be relevant now more than ever and it’s not going to stop anything soon. So, the more people we can get to wake up, the more i think we’ll be better off.
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