Taranaki singer-songwriter Renee Millner has released a new single, Fly Me Back, with an accompanying music video set in a dystopian landscape that seems to disintegrate in slow motion. The single follows two EPs and another recently released single, the touching Out Their Windows, with signs that there is an album worth of material being compiled. Sam Smith spoke with Millner about her latest song and life as a musician.
When I was writing this song I was considering how easy it is to have ‘crutches’ – things that we use to numb ourselves from the feelings that we don’t like. One of those ‘crutches’ for me is finding some way of distracting myself. Ultimately, they (the crutches) don’t really work, ’cos you will just be given another situation to learn the lesson that you didn’t learn before!
Fly Me Back was actually written in mid-2019, and I have played it a lot live since, but never made a recorded version. I’ve tried out the song a few different ways, both solo and with the band, and when I went back into the studio to record Out Their Windows in late 2020, it felt like the right time to record it.
Musically, this song is presented quite differently from how I have performed it live, which I really am enjoying. The beats in the song are obviously electronic, and it was great fun to play around in Sam Johnson‘s studio, toying with these different sorts of ambient sounds. I really like the vibe of the song, that it has a bit more of a pop-electro element to it. I was listening to some David Gray at the time, and I think his vibe has influenced the song for sure.
I didn’t set out to send any sort of emotional message with this. If I was to say what message I would like listeners to take out of it, it would be, ‘Trust yourself – and particularly in the hard times – trust that you will find your way back to your core beauty, your core strength.’
To be honest, I actually can’t remember how the title came to me. However, I was thinking of when you’re in the midst of something really difficult or challenging, be it a difficult emotion or situation, that there is something greater than you that is holding you. The idea of “fly me back”, to me, is being held by something greater than myself.
Sure, the music video was made by this great young guy named William King. He is very creative and came up with the idea of flying with a drone through parts of Auckland, and also down some random streets within Taranaki. I love the vibe of the video; how it is constantly moving and evolving. I think the colours and the video game-like design that he came up with really suit the music and lyrics.
Are you saying I’m old?? Haha!! My favourite part of being a musician is still coming up with a new idea/song, then going into the studio to record – it’s such a buzz! I still get nervous performing, but I like to think of it as “nervous excitement”. Also, the people you meet along the way, including other musicians and creative people is so enriching.
Don’t take anything personally, always do your best, be impeccable with your word – basically that’s The Four Agreements, a book by Don Migeul Ruiz, which I believe sums up how to have a good life in general! Keep to your own path and find ways to look after both your physical and mental health – for me, that’s good food and sleep, exercise, and remembering to laugh and enjoy the simple things in life. Cliché, I know, but it is so true.
There are so many great artists in Taranaki! Ones that come to mind are O Juliet, and The Slacks, and even though they are not from Taranaki, (but we would like to claim them as so), Mireya Ramos and Andy Averbuch, who performed at Womad 2020. They are all artists who work really hard and I admire their songwriting abilities.
I just finished tracking a new single yesterday, called So Much, with Sam Johnson at Rhythm Ace Studios. I’m very excited about that song! Hence, I will be working on that release, as well as promoting the third single called Cambodia in early May.
I have a single release show coming up on 10th April where I will perform with professional dancer Sophie Gargan, here in New Plymouth. It’s like a music/improvised dance collaboration. It’s entirely different to what I’ve done before, and it’s super exciting to be a part of something so fresh. I’m going to take a brief holiday before heading back into the studio again – hopefully somewhere where computers and smart phones do not exist 🙂