This year has been something, hasn’t it? And while many of us are busy doom scrolling and wondering what news story will break next, others like Octavia Mills have been taking each day as a blessing. Mills admits this year has been good for her – despite everything that’s gone down on a global level, “I feel this has been the best year. There have been many opportunities for me to look at my circumstance as a setback, but I have matured to a place where everything just works out for me. Even if it doesn’t look that way.”
With that, we talked about her latest single, “Sunshine,” her poetic ways, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: Spoken word poetry has such a rich history, especially in Black communities – why do you think that is?
Octavia Mills: In my opinion, spoken word poetry is so important in the black community because it gave us a voice during an era when blacks were ignored and treated as less important.
Kendra: You were a poet before a musician. Was there a next level of confidence you had to find within yourself to turn those poems into songs and perform in a new way?
Octavia Mills: My transition from poetry to rap was very natural because my poetry always had a melodic style to it.
Kendra: It has been over a year since you dropped your debut EP. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist and writer since then?
Octavia Mills: Yes it has, wow. To be honest I don’t know if I would consider that a debut EP. More like a collection of songs that were complete. Now, as an artist, I know I’ve grown because I am not willing to settle for just having a few songs completed. My next project must be epic to me, meaning there will be no shortcuts and I will severely critique it to make sure it’s exactly what I want. I’ve grown in the area of patience and endurance.
Kendra: This year’s “Sunshine” was needed given the well, everything that has gone on since January. Other than music and poetry, what is something that makes your life shine a little brighter on a bad day?
Octavia Mills: My daughter, Zyeon Nova. She is the most precious being I’ve ever had the please to encounter. She makes every high and lows worth it.
Kendra: You worked with DeShawn Nelson on “Sunshine.” How did you two come together and will there be more collaborations in the future?
Octavia Mills: DeShawn was originally laying his vocals as a sample, and we were going to have a kids choir copy what he did, but his vocals complimented the track so well we decided to leave it the way it is. I am currently working on a project, so there could be more features to come but I can’t say for sure at this time.
Kendra: Right now live music is on the back burner, but before COVID-19 how was the music scene in Virginia? Did you find yourself traveling the east coast to perform?
Octavia Mills: Not so much. By the time I released “Sunshine” COVID was settling in and I was very pregnant. I’m hoping to start traveling very soon though.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world
Octavia Mills: Yes, you are absolutely right about the world right now. I remember ordering Chinese food twice in a month and both times I got a fortune cookie that said, “The plan is not important. It’s the planning that matters.” This has stuck with me ever since. I plan to keep planning. Sometimes, things go as planned, but when they don’t it’s still all good. And the song that gets me through is “Sunshine” of course. It’s a constant reminder that joy is not determined by what we see, but a state of being that comes from within.