Daily Discovery is a feature that highlights a new or recently discovered artist who we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
Jarrod Milton has a voice that can leave a listener's neck hairs standing on end. Atlanta’s fresh-faced newcomer always loved music but never considered artistry a feasible option, first expecting to study sports journalism at university.
Head space trumped classroom lessons, however, as mental notes of local heroes Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo inspired him to think different. Despite his city’s ascension in hip-hop lore, musical gaps remain. Milton aspires to fill them with his mystifying vocals that lend a troubled, tender touch to sparse backdrops. He had to follow the creative footsteps of his idols—Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and Kid Cudi, among others— to realize that he could set his own path. Only several songs into a young career, he's already learned how to elicit goose bumps.
“Blue” finds him diving deep into a well of sorrow somewhere between Sam Smith and Sampha. His afflicted vocals soundtrack the music video’s main character, a young woman seemingly haunted by a dark, human force that lurks through the forests and encourages self-harm. The visual serves as a short film accompaniment, a complementary piece stitched together by director Ben Elias after recording footage in Paris. In both mediums, reality bleeds into fiction, and internal influence threatens to taint life itself. As Milton tells it, happenstance brought song and video together:
"One of the members of my team was hanging out with the creator of the video," he tells us in an email. "Brian thought it was sick, showed Ben 'Blue,' and Ben thought the two would work perfectly."
Watch “Blue” above, keep it on repeat below, and meet one of the latest talented artists to emerge from Stone Mountain by reading our interview as you listen.
Where does your story as a creator begin?
I never planned to be a creator or creative, really. I never thought I could be one. I was planning on becoming a sports journalist and planned to go to college at Auburn four years ago with that same plan. But after hearing people I felt akin to tell stories in ways that appealed to me both musically and lyrically, I felt like I might as well give music a shot, which had always been a love of mine ever since choir as a child.
I just never thought was possible because outside of Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo, I wasn't seeing a lot of different black artists coming out of Atlanta. I didn't think you could make a song with Bjork or The Strokes as inspiration and get a positive response when you look like me. But after seeing those guys get to step out of the box, it only made me want to push farther than where they had gone. So I started writing songs my senior year of high school and rather than pursue journalism as planned, I decided to go to school at St. John's in New York so I could really get to where I wanted to go musically
Would you mind talking a bit more about Oliver, your closest collaborator?
So Oliver is my really good friend and musical partner. I put out a song called "Chromatic" months ago and P&P actually premiered it. Through that, Oliver saw the song and hit me the next day about meeting up and working together. We met up and decided to just create and see what would happen. But in the first two days of actually working, we made "Blue" and two other songs on the album. From there, we just kept seeing how far we could reach musically. Oliver is probably one of the most creative people I've ever met. He thinks so far out of the box musically, it just makes me want to go farther. Collaboration with us is never the same, no one really just does one thing. He's not only playing instruments and I'm not only writing the songs. We consistently just play off each other's thoughts and ideas and something special comes from it.
Do you remember your first song? What have you learned since?
I do remember my first song very clearly. It was very poorly written, the melody was very rough and too Miguel-esque. I was too timid to really sing in a way that meant anything. So I've learned a lot since then. But I think the biggest thing I've learned is to never change your core. At my core, I've always wanted to do something different and I've seen that different doesn't exactly mean "successful." But as long as I like what I make and I can help someone with what I make, I'm okay with not being the most successful.
What was your high school experience like? Did your perspective change substantially between high school and college?
High school was definitely a time of discovery. I was kind of sheltered so I learned a lot of things socially that I'd never known before. I was also just a bit shy and not very confident in myself. But with the discovery of writing and some maturity, I got much more poised by college. Once I got to New York, I really wanted to do it all and go all out. I was so ready to find the stories some of my heroes had talked about, like Donald [Glover] did with "L.E.S." or even like what the Weeknd did in his early stuff. I thought their ways were my calling. But after some mistakes and some growing up, I learned I had my own story that was worth telling and I could tell it in my own way.
What drives you to wake up in the morning?
What drives me to wake up in the morning is the fact that I want to help people with what I'm doing. Whether it's a song today or a movie tomorrow, whether it's a laugh, smile or tear, I just want to help in some way add something.