Today we’ve had an opportunity to interview Dan Middleditch, from a very interesting pop duo MIDLO.
MIDLO originally started out as just one member, Dan Middleditch. At the age of just 18 and living out of his car, Dan was determined to forge a better path for himself. He soon landed a role on Disney Cruise Line, performing and acting in their shows. Then, he landed the role of Elvis Presley on Norwegian Cruise Line. Dan’s dream ever since he picked up the guitar at the age of 12 was to entertain on stage. His musical influences have ranged from Joe Cocker to Justin Bieber, however he never truly felt that he “fit in” with any particular style.
Dan turned his tiny cabin on the cruise ship into a home-recording studio, churning out several original demos. One night, while performing in For The Record: The Brat Pack on Norwegian, music manager Jonathan Wax happened to be vacationing with his wife when he discovered Dan’s powerful vocals and technical prowess on the guitar. Wax knew that this could be an artist who could breathe new life into the pop scene, weaving classic guitar lines with catchy modern hooks and vocal acrobatics.
After returning to land, Dan went to Los Angeles to meet with Jonathan’s brother, singer-songwriter Mikey Wax, and producer Jacob Lee. Together, the three of them co-wrote and recorded an EP. The result was exactly what they had hoped for; a modern meets classic vibe. Catchy and infectious pop melodies with soaring, old-soul vocals.
That’s when Renata Baiocco entered the picture. The first single off MIDLO’s upcoming EP, “Emotional,” features a duet with Renata that was released on August 16th, 2019. The song instantly reacted being placed on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist, and then on fifteen other Spotify curated playlists including “Pop Right Now,” “Love Pop,” “Power Run 145 BPM,” and “New Music Friday Denmark”. The song has already surpassed 1 million+ streams in just 6 months.
Lisa: Define the mission of MIDLO.
Dan : Our mission is to create something that is as much of an outlet of creative expression as it is an accessible product to the public. There is a healthy balance of maintaining integrity without it turning into snobbery and creating something for mass consumption without selling out.
Lisa: Can you tell me more about your beginnings with Renata Baiocco, and your success with the first single off MIDLO’s upcoming EP “Emotional”?
Dan : Well, I met Renata a few years ago at a friend’s party. We hit it off and played some music in Central Park the following weekend and then I disappeared working on cruise ships for about two years! After my return, I was working on the very beginnings of MIDLO initially being a solo project. I was in LA working on what would eventually become “Emotional” and both my co-writer and producer Mikey Wax and Jacob Lee suggested putting a female vocal on the track. They had suggested a few people they knew and out of NOWHERE I said Renata’s name. I flew back to New York, and the day we cut Renata’s vocals in her apartment was the first day we’d seen each other in TWO YEARS. From there, I did one more ship contract, and one day while in Nynäshamn, Sweden I got a call from our manager, Jonny Wax, saying that “Emotional” was featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in three countries. I was blown away. Since then, the song has amassed over a million streams and continues to grow daily. From there, I went back to LA to finish the record, featured Renata on another song and then we realized that it was time to make her an official part of the project, turning MIDLO into a duo. We’ve basically been inseparable since that day!
Lisa: You feel that you don’t “fit in” with any particular style. How would you describe your music to people?
Dan : So, neither Renata nor I come from a traditional “pop” background. I come from a blues and rock background and Renata from the jazz and soul world. Because of that, our music takes this shape of something deeper while wearing a pop hat. Every song has a much deeper meaning than the lyrics may initially let on. So I guess I’d describe it as a Musical Transformer. There’s more than meets the eye…or ear, rather!
Lisa: What types of change do you feel your music can initiate?
Dan : A lot of these songs come from a place from when my mental health was suffering. I deal with social anxiety which led me to start drinking more heavily to cope with it. I am now almost two years sober, and loving every second of it. I also dealt with loneliness and lack of self worth throughout my time working on cruise ships, and also reflected on this idea of the constant strive to become worldly and see as many places as I could to seek some sort of enlightenment. Long story short, I hope these songs resonate with people who may be going through the same thing, and they do not feel any shame to seek help or talk about what it is they are feeling. We are all going through something, and it’s okay to not be okay.
Lisa: I loved your song and music video “Waste Your Time” What is it about and where did you get inspiration to write it?
Dan : First off, thanks so much! It was a blast to shoot and write. That one is special because it’s the first song with Renata’s creative voice in it in addition to her physical voice. As far as the inspiration to write it, I was telling this story to my co-writers Mikey and Jacob about a girl I was seeing, but we had both just gotten out of something serious and it was just never going to work out. Right thing at the wrong time, you know? We decided to make that the topic of the song but me, being me, I refused to write a surface level pop song. Because of that, I had this concept deriving from the multiverse theory that technically, in an alternate world this situation would’ve worked out. The narrative takes place from two different realities, neither of which are the one where it works out. The song was affectionately called “Rick and Morty” because of that whole concept. I’m a huge fan of the show! I could go further into this subject, but it would take up more real estate in this interview than necessary. If anyone reading this wants to know further, slide into our DMs on Instagram @wearemidlo and I’ll be happy to explain!
Lisa: If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
Dan : That’s a good question! I would love to do something in the realm of the music video for Beekeeper’s Daughter by the All American Rejects. Big, over the top choreographed dances, a wicked set, there would have to be a good, old fashioned walking toward the camera while singing the song. If you didn’t do that, is it even a music video? Also, a TON of pyrotechnics. Just…. copious amounts of fireworks. Maybe have Renata ride on Jason Momoa’s back. Absurdism is kind of my game. Also, who wouldn’t want to have Jason Momoa in their music video?
Lisa: Describe your approach to recording.
Dan : Well, right now with the pandemic, it’s a lot of demoing and remote sessions. However, typically the songs will be written in the recording session. Being that Renata and I both come from live performance, we cut everything pretty quickly, so it allows us the freedom to write as we go along. Usually I will have a lick or a little melody, or vice versa. Then we just sort of build from there! There’s no one singular way that we do things!
Lisa: What non-musical entities and ideas have impacted your music?
Dan : I would say my mental state and reactions to life experiences, rather than the experiences themselves. As opposed to writing about a relationship, or an event that happened, it’s more the deeper meaning to that than the actual narrative. However, if it’s a song like “Waste Your Time” where it is an actual thing that happened, it has to take shape in some higher conceptual plane. I love sci-fi and the non fictional sciences, particularly the works of Carl Jung and other facets of psychology. Those influences will often manifest within the music, most often within subtext.
Lisa: What is your view on technology in music?
Dan : I think that technological advancement in music is what keeps the same 4 chord songs sounding so wildly different. Even back to the Sun Records sessions in the 50’s. Had Sam Phillips not experimented with creating slapback delay, you wouldn’t have that signature sound of artists such as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. There is a place for everything. We live in an era where anyone with a laptop and access to YouTube can write a top 40 hit with enough practice. I think that’s really great. Will it ever compare to a live, one shot guitar solo? No. However, if you want to feel the live feeling, go support that artist by going to their show. It’s how we make our money and can continue to produce music. Well, “made” up until lockdown.
What are your plans for the future?
Dan : MIDLO will be releasing new music within a month, and continuing that up into the new year! We are eagerly anticipating the return of live music and hope to see some of you at a show when that becomes an option!