Mila Falls – or Cayte Webber as she’s known to her mates – is the UK singer / songwriter behind the bubbling under single ‘New Levels’ on the hit making label, Perfect Havoc. While this contagious dance/pop number was released back in October, it’s been gaining momentum ever since thanks to a whopping 27 spins on BBC Radio 1 Dance and over 3.4 million global streams. 2020 was a breakout year for Mila Falls with an incredible 27 releases, a Beatport #1 for ‘Put It On Me’ with Holy Goof and Notion, and a total of 8 million Spotify streams with support from David Guetta, Don Diablo and Joel Corry. We thought it was time to get to know the person behind that incredible voice. Here she chats about getting creative in lockdown, on stage mishaps, and signing her first record deal to Defected.
Welcome to DMC World, Mila. Let’s set the scene, where are you in the world and what did you eat for breakfast?
I’m in Brighton (UK) by the ocean. I ate poached eggs, sourdough rye bread with chilli jam and rocket. I LOVE FOOD!
Congratulations on the release of ‘New Levels’. What’s the song about and what’s your song writing process?
It’s a love story about finding happiness by taking it to the next level with a special person who was there all along, right in front of you. It was an enjoyable process writing with my regular co-writer, Reece Pullinger. We have written so many songs together I have lost count. He is one hell of a songwriter; we make a great team.
When writing it, I wanted the “new levels” lyric to be slightly ahead of the beat and kind of pop out. This is unconventional as you’d often start the melody a split second later. I tried out singing my idea with Reece and he was really feeling it. We sent our idea to the producers Tobtok, Milwin and Alfie Cridland (pictured above), and they created the track around our melody and lyrics. They sent back a demo and I was like, wow!
Take us back to 2013 to your first record deal with Defected Records when you featured on S.Chu’s ‘Oh My’. Annie Mac and Toddla T loved it! How did the deal come about?
S.Chu and I were really interested in making music together. He played me this track he’d been working on and I thought of a melody straight away. We wrote the topline in an hour and I vocalled it right away at his studio in East London. That quick vocal ended up being the recording on the release. I find that the more immediate the creative process, the more powerful the song is.
It was signed to Defected and was championed as “Track of the week” on BBC 1Xtra. This was mind blowing to me as I’d never had national radio play before, I was so chuffed that it got some attention. I heard a DJ drop it at Ministry of Sound. To hear it blasting out was a special career highlight for me.
You released a staggering 27 tracks in 2020. Do you have any favourites?
I love bass music, so of course ‘Put It On Me’ released with the kings of bass, Holy Goof & Notion, is my personal fave. I grew up obsessed with UKG, drum n bass and dubstep. Bass music is its progeny, so it is exciting to be a part of that.
From a singer’s perspective I particularly love ‘New Levels’ because I got to sing out loud, belting out in my chest voice register. On the second verse I went wild and freestyle with the melody, which ended up being the lead vocal on the song. I really wanted to challenge myself and not hold back. On many of my previous releases, I had used a more breathy, airy type vocal, so I was keen to venture into a new territory. Tobtok and the guys turned up my adlibs in the mix on the last chorus. Frequently producers end up muting them and keeping it very simple. Us singers sing our hearts out, then they are like… “ok then, let’s just pop those vocals in the bin” (silently cries), so I was super chuffed that the adlibs became an important part of the song. The first time I heard the demo I was really proud of it – the producers did a great job.
How did you end up working with major labels like Universal and Warner? You must’ve seriously impressed the big wigs to have gone on to represent them at song writing camps across Europe.
I have been very lucky to have worked with a long list of great people. When I was at college, I signed my first song to Universal for the final dance scene in the film ‘Bring It On’. It was my first taste of songwriting as a real job. From the success of ‘Oh My’, I began releasing records with house DJs such as Marc Vedo and David Penn. My songwriting career, however, really started to accelerate after I was invited to a songwriting camp in Spain run by DWB publishing. There I met Greig Watts, the owner of DWB. He guided me with feedback on the songs I had created; I’d never had this support network of fellow writers before. He said something that I’ll never forget, “People often find that these camps are where they find their tribe”. I thought to myself “yes, this is my tribe, this is the kind of people I belong with”.
This experience really changed my life. Song by song I was being head hunted to work with record labels and artists and the songs just got bigger. After a few years of writing for others, I took a leap of faith and performed the songs under my own name as I’d always wanted to be an artist and a songwriter. 2020 changed my life in terms of getting so many songs out in full force under the Mila Falls name. ‘New Levels’ and ‘Put It On Me’ have given me a lot of exposure. I’m now being asked directly to sing and write songs for some of the biggest artists in the world. Unbelievable really!
Where did you find your creativity during lockdown in 2020?
I set myself a target to get 20 records signed and released. I also wanted to step up my Spotify stats. I had started 2020 with hardly any streams and no monthly listeners. The whole world – especially the music industry – judges you on your Spotify numbers, so and I set myself a mission to build up my numbers.
It wasn’t easy. At the start of the first lockdown I was suffering with lung damage and a weakened immune system from long COVID-19. I got my health in order, managing 10 minutes of yoga at first, but I eventually built up to running 5 miles. It wasn’t all amazing, I had down days where I cried and felt overwhelmed. It was when everyone clapped for the NHS that got me the most, it meant that this situation was real outside, and not just on my phone.
Being stuck at home galvanised my working practices. No-longer being able to meet up and write in person made things more efficient as we could write any day and at any time. I felt so fortunate that I had a vocal booth and studio in my flat. It was a mad factory of emails, writing top lines, and self-recording vocals, and out of it we all learnt a new way to work. I went into overdrive and it paid off. As of January 2021, I have 6 million streams on Spotify, which exceeded my goal.
What 3 tracks have you had on rotation during lockdown?
I have a playlist that I’ve been running and walking to all year. It’s got stuff from Miley Cyrus’ Midnight Sky to Robin Schulz & Alida’s ‘In Your Eyes’. I had the pleasure of writing with Alida in a session in Norway a while back and was blown away when I first heard that song. Her vocal performance is just next level.
Lauryn Hill has always been my idol; I have listened to her music on repeat for years. I was listening to her cover ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ thinking it was a masterpiece and by chance I was recently asked to do a new version of this song, which will be coming out soon with Damon Hess & Wayne Lineker.
Did you learn any new skills during lockdown?
I joined a Skype dance class and improved my dancing skills – I’m shockingly bad at dancing!
You’re also a trained sound engineer and music producer, roles of which are, unfortunately, heavily male dominated. How was it working as a woman during this time – were you fully accepted, or did you find resistance from any co-workers?
Pretty much every single day for 2 years I experienced sexism! It was crazy. The most common condescending phrase I would hear on meeting the male musicians who had come to perform was, “oh… are you singing tonight then?” said as if there was no way I could have a technical role. I was like, “no, I’m running the venue and I’m the head sound engineer”. It wouldn’t stop there, they would inevitably ask, “do you know how to use the mixing desk?” I would bite my tongue and walk off to just prove myself by doing a great monitor mix for them. After they realised I knew what I was doing, they backed off. It was tedious but gave me a very thick skin. Not everyone was rude, I received lots of amazing compliments for my technical ability. Some men were super-duper kind and respectful, but the more frustrating incidents tend to stick in your mind. I hope with all the progress recently, women will be treated different in these roles. Really, they just want to do a great job and go home without being judged like everyone else.
Gig wise, you’ve been on some adventures performing in a variety of settings from the Olympic Park to Ibiza Rocks, to touring with Rudimental and Ringo Starr. What’s been your most memorable performance?
Maybe for the wrong reason, but my most memorable gig was part of a Live Nation tour with Ringo Starr. My guitarist’s string broke and I was left standing on stage looking at a sea of people with no clue what to do. We had no backup strings or a backup guitar! It’s absolutely crazy thinking back. I’ve since learnt to always over-prepare for live shows.
A big moment for me was on the Radio 1 stage playing at Sundown Festival in my hometown of Norwich. It was amazing to shout on the mic, “Put your hands in the air” on the drop and see a crowd of people actually doing it! It was such an adrenaline rush. When I was young, I would dream of being on stage and having that crowd reaction. To have that happen in my hometown was special.
What releases do you have coming in 2021?
I have upcoming records with Ummet Ozcan, Josh Hunter, Redondo, Cally Rhodes, Ruff Loaderz, Leandro De Silva, Alex Ross, Hiddn, Damon Hess, Wayne Lineker, Dave Crusher and quite a few more that are TBC!
Tell us 3 lesser-known facts about Mila Falls:
I used to be a successful gymnast, winning best gymnast in my region 2 years in a row!
I have hiked the Himalayas in India.
I found my artist name travelling in Australia. I went swimming in ‘Millaa Millaa Falls’ which is a heritage-listed plunge waterfall in the Tablelands Region in Queensland. When I was there, I thought, “this should be my singing name!”
‘New Levels’ by Tobtok, Milwin & Alfie Cridland, feat. Mila Falls is out now via Perfect Havoc: https://PerfectHavoc.lnk.to/newlevels
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