Man of the Road


November 29, 2015 8:00 am

Hearing an Alex Milligan song on the radio may be unavoidable but he's sorry about it. Well, sort of sorry. His relatable sense of humor lightens the blow of hearing his music more than you hear about your aunt's wine club on Facebook, he's touring tirelessly to put on a one man show, and although a certain song about being in love until you're 70 has allowed him to gain a lot more recognition his rise to fame has been gradual and achieved with nonstop hard work. He is the unassuming music man with a dedicated fanbase and enough humility to not let that fact phase him. Plus, he's a Mortal Kombat pro.

It's way too early to be awake, I'm thinking, at 7:00 AM and already in the car on my way to the record label so that I can meet Alex Milligan. We're going to spend the day together and when I ask what that entails all he says is "meeting stuff, food stuff, fun stuff, music stuff." So I've got absolutely no idea what's in store. The 27 year old hails from the UK and has those catchy songs that your girlfriends deem "soooooo romantic." Look, I'm a love cynic and a rock and roll kind of gal but I'm keen to learn more about Milligan because he's presented as the fun-loving guy who can write pretty words and turn them into pretty songs but I want to know what makes him tick, what sparks some passion, the eccentricities that no one else gets to see. Will I get any of that? We'll find out.

When I arrive, he steps out of one of the rooms to greet me. He's dressed casually: jeans and a shirt, hair ruffled ever so slightly and he manages to look effortlessly put together even at this ungodly hour. "This is the boring part we've got to do first, comes with the territory, but there are some really good donuts in there."

We go back in the room and immediately I notice that he can't sit still. In the span of ten minutes he has made a paper airplane, “I once watched this entire documentary on the art of the paper airplane. There’s this man, he’s an expert at it and he constructed his paper airplane in a way that it’s sort of like a boomerang and it flies right back. Crazy, right?” he goes around making sure everyone has a water bottle and quotes Kanye along the way, “What about you, Melissa? No? You don’t want to be responsible for this water bottle?” and his creative process seeps through mid-sentence. “And then there were...yeah, there were know. Those...fuck, sorry. I’m just getting my notebook out for a second. Hold on.”

When two of the executives finally enter the room, Milligan’s stance changes slightly. He sits upright, inches closer to the desk and keeps his attention on the task at hand: looking at future event dates, number sales facts and light discussions of album number three. He speaks with conviction when discussing the things he firmly believes in, throws a few jokes in the mix, but it is clear that there's a collaborative process going on. He's open to hearing other ideas but if he's adamantly against it, he is unafraid to say no. He's reached that position of credibility where he's able to hold his own against a room of record label personnel and his interests are actually considered.

He is a man of the road. Looking at his tour itinerary for the past few years, it’s a wonder how he could keep going at such a pace without having some sort of breakdown. It is one thing to go on tour for a few weeks, a few months, but when Milligan goes on tour, he doesn’t stop. “I can’t stop,” he clarifies. “It’s a part of who I am. Touring is part of my routine. Some people golf, I tour.” When he has an album out, he tours for a year to a year and a half through, usually keeping a month or two in between without consecutive tour dates to wind down before going at it full speed once again. It’s making my head spin and I can hardly imagine how Milligan deals with all of it. “It started out when I was younger, a stubborn kid trying to make it in this industry. I thought, I’m just going to get out there and I’m going to tour until my fingers bleed if that’s what it will take to get me to where I need to be. I’ll sleep anywhere, I’ll grab food from gas stations along the way, but I need to do this. There was no debate about it.”

He hasn’t been on the streets, per se, but he has known struggles as far as the music industry lifestyle goes. Milligan has always insisted that music was not seriously in his line of vision until he was fourteen, aided when his grandfather bought him his first guitar and he decided to seriously teach himself the craft. He then left school at seventeen to pursue that vision. With some money saved up from working, he went on a quest to play gigs around the UK.

“I didn’t care where I was, or how I was doing it. If I got to play my music, that’s all I needed.”

When he was eighteen years old, Milligan decided to go to Los Angeles. While there, he admits he had “unrealistic expectations” about the way his music was going to progress.

“I thought I’d go to Los Angeles, someone would discover me while I’m singing, and then I’d be the next big thing.” He pauses, shakes his head, and laughs. “That was fucking idiotic.”

It didn’t work out the first time.

“It bruised my ego but then it made me even more motivated to better my best. It's not about something as simpleminded as a bruised ego, so I got over that pretty quickly. All the greats that I looked up to were rejected before they made it. When I was constantly moving, always somewhere new, I felt free. The road has become home to me.”

Winding down somewhat from his X World Tour, Milligan is still enthusiastic about a few more tour dates in Australia he has left and speaks the same way a kid in a candy store would, all wide-eyed and enthusiastic when discussing his sold out, 3 night, 80,000 people in attendance stint in London at the iconic Wembley Arena. He was slated to perform for one night only but after seeing how little time it took for him to sell out tickets his team decided to put out two more nights of shows. He is more than prepared to discuss it because he takes out a small notebook from his back pocket and starts flipping through the pages wordlessly until he finally hits the page he wants to show me.

“I carry a notebook around with me everywhere I go. You never know when the mood to write will strike and you’ve got to be ready for it. I’ve been in situations in the past where I’ve got something good in my mind and because I don’t have my notebook I’ll need to write it down furiously on my phone, or make a quick voice note, or bother a waitress for some crayons and paper so I can write it down like that. It’s not really the same so I prefer to be prepared. Anyway, check out what I’ve got here.’

It’s an old notebook, some of the pages are discolored, and the year on the top reads 2010. Milligan reads the page out loud. “Just went to a concert at Wembley. That arena is absolute madness. Amazing. Unreal. I’ve been thinking a lot about goals and that’s one of them. I want to be on that stage performing. There’s nothing like that crowd, that atmosphere, the feeling I got from just being there and the feeling I know I’ll get when I’m onstage. That’s the ultimate.” Five years later, Milligan has reached that goal of his and even has a movie to accompany it.

He is among the rare few in his category that have been able to achieve constant radio and global success. The acoustic musicians strumming their hearts out on the guitar seem to be placed in the same group as they hit the airwaves in order to make things easier to the listener, but now Milligan is the constant who others are starting to become compared to. Sam Smith is the most notable example, a musician who Milligan calls, “a force” and the duo have even sung together onstage. This is an interesting change of pace from the rap feuds that are always there to keep the music even more amped up before a release. “Sometimes I wish I’d written a song by one of those guys but I’m not going to write a diss track about it, I’m going to want to figure out the process it took them to get there so we usually end up on pretty good terms, swapping stories and ideas.” When asked about a recent song he would have wanted to write, without missing a beat Milligan responds. “Let It Go by James Bay.” Really doesn’t seem like there are any hard feelings here.

There are countless media frenzies surrounding those in the entertainment industry, and while Milligan likes to have a good time, he knows how to keep it contained these days.

"I did a lot of partying and stupid crap when I was first getting attention for Lego House and A Team. I started getting invited to fancy parties with all these fancy people and felt very not fancy at all but I still had some fun. It was sort of weird, though. You could snap your fingers and get anything. At the time, I loved it, I dove right into it. I had never gotten that kind of attention before. I got treated really well at the clubs, there were pretty girls hanging around, producers chatting me up but it's not real. All of those people, they'll move on to the next thing of the moment. I learned a lot from that experience, though. Realizing who's really around because they like me and who's around because they like what I could offer them."

But has he really learned?

His team consists of people that he knows and trusts. Owen, his video guy, is one of his best friend's from high school. Ben, the photographer, met Milligan while he was on a tour with a UK rapper and after bonding over Back To The Future he went on tour to be Alex's photographer. Mike, his guitar tech, has been with him since his first album's tour. Theo, his manager, is an addition as of the last few years but Milligan claims the minute they talked about music he knew they were on the same page with everything. "If someone is trying to get something out of me, I can usually smell the bullshit. I don't like that. Be real with me, be straight up."

I ask him for an example, and he gets up so that he's a few steps away and then walks over in a brisk manner. Immediately he shakes my hand and in a deep, not very well done American accent, he starts speaking to mimic the kind of people he's talking about. "Alex Milligan, huh? You're just fucking brilliant. Let me buy you a drink. God, you are so talented. You are one hell of a guy. Sit down, man. Sit down. Look, let me tell you about how great you are and then let me also tell you about how great you would be as a spokesperson for my business and how if you don't do it, it will be the biggest mistake of your life." He breaks character to laugh. "What the hell would I be doing getting myself involved in a deal I know nothing about? Everyone's always trying to get a piece of you, I understand that in the economic sense, but I'm picky with those sort of endeavors."

Apparently picky serves him right because after years of trying to gain traction to start a record label, he's got one. It's nothing huge just yet, he claims, and his focus is going to remain solely on a limited few artists at a time that he truly believes in so that he won't be the type of person who "signs and then ditches." Milligan is a savvy one, he speaks with a sense of realism and doesn't sugarcoat all that he has gone through in the world of navigating the things people have tried to sell him on over the years. More than anything, he wants a connection to be formed in any sense of the word, whether it is done via the radio or in a crowd of 30,000. It has become a part of what pushes him to the top but also what makes others try and tear him down: revealing lyrics that speak to the heart. There have been countless jokes aimed at the lyrics in Thinking Out Loud but there have also been countless first dances at weddings done to that same song. He's not blind to the contrasting views about it.

“It’s amazing how much people love and hate that song so intensely. I’ve learned to take that as a good sign. If they’ve got a lot to say about something you’ve done, you’ve made an impact. I just want to keep on moving forward and push myself as much as I can. I want to release albums that are truthful to who I am as a person. Sometimes that honesty is a little bit too much, but hey...” He veers off with a mischievous grin and shrugs.

There is this fascination about the way Milligan writes and sings about relationships and he’s not unaware of it. Unapologetic, sweet, happy. He is the guy who is unafraid to tackle the subject of love in a heartfelt way in the era of guys who text haha and then what ;) and netflix & chill? As a romantic gesture. So maybe that's another reason why he manages to keep the attention of his fans. Chivalry isn't dead, guys, and it's being sung about. Sure, there are songs like Don't ("I never saw him as a threat/until you disappeared with him to have sex") about the girl he was seeing sleeping with another guy but there are also songs like Tenerife Sea ("Should this be the last thing I see/I want you to know it's enough for me/Because all that you are is all that I'll ever need.)

To all of that, he has a simple statement. “Love isn't always sunshine and rainbows, there are ups and downs, and my music is going to reflect that. I haven't always been happy with the way some of my relationships have gone but in others I look back with nothing but appreciation. When did being in love start becoming uncool? Let’s make it cool again.” We swap stories about the different types of love we’ve had and lost. I tell him about the time my boyfriend broke up with me in a two-minute phone call, he tells me about the time he got dumped via voicemail while he was in Asia. I tell him about the guy who set up a private lunch date after I had been working nonstop to get a promotion, he tells me about the girl who made a slideshow of important photos and videos for his birthday. There has been good and bad, ups and downs, but we chat like old friends going through relationship trials and tribulations and dissecting issues from the past. I tell him about my perfectionist ways and how I can find a flaw in every guy I date before deeming them unworthy, he tells me about how when he feels disrespected he has a hard time keeping a level head. On top of that, being a musician that is so in demand means that there is a lot of time spent away from a relationship.

“Distance is usually an issue” he admits, “I focus on what I’m doing on the road and I let that take over. When I want to Skype and it’s three in the morning, or she wants to have a phone call and I’m just about to go onstage, you feel even further away. There are plenty of things that can be done to combat that, but it takes a lot of work. A lot of girls can’t handle all of that and I don’t blame them.” He speaks of a man who has a firm grasp on what makes him tick the most, and he owns it with ease. “Owning it is the first step to being better with it. Something like that, does that sound like a self-help book? Probably.”

There are plenty of musicians who pride themselves on being edgy with the things they say and do, but Milligan is not one of them. He does get in trouble sometimes, but it seems to be in a different way. While some would argue that many musicians make a conscious choice to be controversial because it is in their brand’s best interest, Milligan Is in a different category. He might offend some but it comes from a place of impulse rather than a place of conscious thought to it. Just as I’m about to pull up a list of things I want to go over with him, he is able to accurately check off most of what I was going to say to him before I can even get the words out.

The time in Mumbai when a member of Milligan’s team said fuck you guys and some fans thought it was aimed at them them when really it was to airport security who were unprepared and handling fans too roughly. The time in Atlanta when Milligan was performing an acoustic set in front of a group of students and his phone went off twice, so he rushed over to finally turn it on silent the second time but the Dean of the school said some less than favorable things on his Facebook account. Perhaps most recently blogged about was time he went on an Twitter rant about a venue that was disrespecting friend and now labelmate Jamie Lawson after the manager of the venue tweeted a set of angry things aimed at Lawson because of a miscommunicated set time. That one sparked a set of memes revolving around one of Milligan’s last lines: sit down, shut up, go listen to Costello and let the sound of Riot Act wash over your bullshit.

“I was heated when I wrote that but I didn’t like the idea of someone telling the world a biased, angry perspective about a friend of mine who would never do anything unprofessional. I didn’t really think about it much before I started writing, I just thought fine, you want to do this for everyone to see? I will, too. Not my finest moment. Being in this spotlight, almost everything is recorded. When it is recorded, people will perceive the things they see the way they want to perceive it. There will be misunderstandings, people will speak out about me, I’ll speak out about them, but those are all honest reactions. I want to keep that honesty alive not just in my songwriting but also in my every day life. If I ruffle a few feathers along the way, so be it. I’ll deal with it as it happens.”

We arrive at a small downtown studio and I expect a group of people to surround Milligan but right outside the door we’re only met with his manager, Theo, a fellow Brit who asks how everything is going with the interview. Milligan replies quickly, “I’m discussing sex, drugs and rock and roll but with special emphasis on my involvement in all three things. Is that okay?” This seems to be typical banter between them as Theo shoots back. “Sounds okay if you want your next set of shows to be at kid’s parties where you’ll need to change up all your songs to have names like Hilda the Hippopotamus and The Dragon Who Went Swimming.”

There’s another man in the studio and it is none other than Benny Blanco, the young music producer who has attracted other big names such as Katy Perry, Wiz Khalifa, Maroon 5 and Britney Spears to work along with him on various musical pursuits. In the time I have taken to get comfortable on the chair, Milligan has already signalled that he needs a minute as he goes behind the plexiglass screen of the studio to sit on the floor, his guitar on one side of him as he strums along and his other hand writing a few lines down furiously. I look on, confused, as we’re supposed to be sitting across from each other for some more one on one conversation before he goes on to the music portion but I soon get insight.

“That’s how he works.” Blanco walks over to me and points to Milligan, who we can see now taking a break from scribbling things down in that notebook of his in favor of singing a few lines of a song he is working on before strumming on the guitar again, changing the chords every now and then to figure out a perfect harmony of sounds. “When he’s got an idea in his mind, he just goes for it. He doesn’t stop, man. He attacks it. He’ll bounce from one idea to the next and then a little while later he shows me this masterpiece that blows my mind. He works with his heart and his mind. That’s why it’s so real.” It certainly seems that way with how immersed Milligan is. Blanco mentions he’s a very easy person to work with because he treats every studio session as a new experience, wanting to make it the best it can be. "When he's on that grind, sleep is the last thing he's looking at. He gets so wrapped up in the music, it takes over."

Pharrell, who worked on Milligan for Sing, has even more insight on his intellectual and musical process. “I think that he is an anomaly, he's not easily describable in the sense that he's not normal. He thinks about things in a unique way. He has a fresh, wild, hungry perspective. It's a pleasure to work with him because I'm able to work with a different type of human being who just sees things differently. I'm able to learn and sponge things from him too, it's very much a collaborative process from two different points of view that meet in the middle.”

When Milligan re-emerges, he explains how important it is to continue on with making those unlikely connections. “How else do you learn if you stay inside your comfort zone and never leave it? Writing with people my fans would never expect me to write with, performing with people my fans would never expect me to perform with. That’s part of it. Hell, even if they’re not fans, I enjoy the challenge of stepping on stage with someone who I personally consider a powerhouse, where I know that those fans are not there for me they’re there for someone else, but I’ve got that time slot to win them over. Is it terrifying? It can be. Is it also something I crave? Most definitely. “ He goes on, discussing the nature of his own music in relation.

“I love challenging myself. Doesn't matter with what. Give me a hobby, I'm going to try and master it. Tell me about the person with an opposing view from my own, let me talk to them. Tell me about a genre you don't think I can handle, let me try it out. That’s the beauty of pushing yourself past your own limits, you never know what might come up. There’s so much to discover. That’s when those breakthroughs happen.”

We then talk about his love of music and where it stemmed from. “My parents weren’t huge music fans but my dad brought us up on mostly classic rock songs and I discovered the rest myself. I was always eager to know more, but I didn’t actively see it as something I could do for a living.” His father, Thomas, a construction manager and his mother, Emily, an elementary school teacher are still living in Milligan’s hometown of Berkshire. They are still “very disgustingly happily married” Milligan jokes. “I knew my mom wasn’t the happiest when I decided to pursue music as a career, but she was supportive nonetheless. She and my dad both wanted me to go on with my studies, that was the big thing there. My dad was definitely pissed off and at the time I thought two things: one, that he didn’t understand my point of view, and two, that I would prove him wrong. I was really delusional and stubborn in that way but that was also what ended up helping me advance in my career, so, it’s not all bad.”

When I ask if Milligan’s dad accepts his career now, Alex gives his father a quick call to solidify the answer to that. “Dad, I’m doing an interview for GQ magazine right now and they want to know how you feel about me being a musician.” He puts his father on speaker. The answer we get? “I feel great, how do you feel? Great too, I hope.” His mom chimes in as well. “I feel great about you doing what you love. I might've been a worried nut at first, but then I saw that it was so much bigger than just you and a guitar. I also felt great when we got to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas! Alex, when are you coming home to visit? I’ve actually just seen Aunt Millie and she was just telling me that -” Alex cheeks flush red and he immediately turns the phone off speaker, explaining to his parents that this was still part of the interview. The phone call ends abruptly. “You know what just happened? My dad goes, ‘so what the hell are you still talking to us for? Go on and do that interview.’”

Blanco has just finished up a phone call and comes to sit near us. The dynamic between them goes from two friends goofing around to two music makers doing what they do best. He includes us both in a Snapchat he’s forming with Milligan making faces at the camera and Blanco making a slew of animal sounds throughout, but once music talk comes up it's serious business.

It’s as though a light has been switched on for both of them. Blanco puts his phone away and throws out musical terms with ease and Milligan responds to them quickly, changing a few notes on his guitar and humming out a few verses. They agonize over the structure of two words he had written, until finally Milligan adds in a third word and it all makes sense to them. I’m watching this unfold, they’re speaking English, but it seems as though this sort of focus brings Milligan into a different world. A world he’s most comfortable in. Perhaps that says more than anything else he could say, his music will always speak the loudest and that’s why he’s at the top.

We're now stting in a Greek restaurant with a certain charm to it and Milligan goes so far as to call it a favorite when he's in town. A waiter comes out and immediately he recognizes Milligan, asking him if he wants the usual. I order the same. Since Milligan is such an expert, I figure he must know his stuff but he seems surprised. “What if I just ordered octopus baked in deer guts?” Except he actually ordered a souvlaki plate, extra potatoes with onion sauce, lots of tomatoes. Works for me.

It’s not hard for me to notice a few glances that are directed at our table and I’m not egotistical enough to think it’s because I’m wearing my new pristine blouse. Milligan seems oblivious as we talk and he remains that way until a waitress comes over and can’t help but go on about Milligan’s music, letting him know that Thinking Out Loud is going to be her wedding song. He says his congratulations, she gushes some more, and he remains kind and engaging during the conversation that they have before she's on her way.

Our food arrives and at this point I’m starving so I dig in but let me tell you, it was one damn good souvlaki. I tell Milligan this and he seems genuinely excited, waving the waiter from earlier over so he could tell him just that. The waiter tells us that just last week they got a huge order to ship out to a local university and Milligan starts asking questions. Which university? What sort of things did they order? Did specific departments order unique ingredients? The funny thing is, he seems genuinely interested in all of this. A man who is insatiably curious for all that he can soak in, no matter what that information is. After the waiter leaves, we get back on the subject of fans in general: the good and the bad.

“I love my fans, they’re incredibly dedicated and passionate, I owe a lot of my success to that fact alone. They believe in me, so I’d always want to do right by them but I also want to live my life and I do like some things to be kept private, and for the most part, they respect that privacy.”

That’s when I mention a few key moments: three times fans ran up onstage to give him a hug, cry, and take a selfie respectively, the girl who took Milligan’s watch found to be bragging about it on social media, and the man waiting outside Jimmy Kimmel that Milligan scolded for pushing some of his fans around in a video posted on Youtube. This one causes him to put down his glass he was just drinking from and he seems visibly tensed at what I have just mentioned. He's been pretty easygoing throughout but I can tell this is something that truly bothers him just based on his nonverbal reaction.

“Those guys are the loudest, the biggest, so they get what they want. I don’t like that. The tall guy with ten photos of me to sign sticks out like a sore thumb, and sure, I’ll sign something for him but that’s transparent. He’s only doing it to get a couple bucks, meanwhile the girl who listens to my music and has been waiting for hours in the cold is being shoved out of the way by him. No, I don’t like that, and one time I said so.”

What I appreciate about Milligan is that no matter what subject I hit him with he answers it to the best of his abilities as honestly as he can which is a rarity in this industry. An industry that has been practically built on the maintenance of brands and the workers who make sure to keep those brands intact.

Our next stop is one Milligan doesn't tell me about until we're there. It's an old school arcade and candy bar. It seems to me like a time away from all the questions and topics I'm supposed to be covering so that we can just play arcade games and let out our inner teenagers. Which isn't as weird as it sounds, I swear. He lets me pick a game first and I go to the Betty Boop one, where the goal is to beat the other person at sliding their marble down the board. I admit that I haven't been to a place like this in years but that he can't go easy on me. He looks at me like I've just said something horrible. "My competitiveness wouldn't allow that." I get to feel the full extent of that competitive nature when we start playing and I immediately get into it as I spin one of the wheels on the board, desperately trying to beat him. Go easy on me he does not, with shittalking ensuing on both sides. He wins and throws both hands up in the air as a victorious motion. "I'd like to thank Porter's in Berkshire for allowing me to practice this skill when I was a kid, you for losing, me for winning, and GQ for allowing me this opportunity to really transform into a pinball wizard."

That only compels me to want to play another game, so we do. He settles on a shooting game and I conveniently forget to mention that I'm actually a member of a shooting club. Although he put up a good fight, I beat him. He's very excited about the entire ordeal and it's infectious with the way he talks about the game and my link to it. "That was not a fluke, are you secretly a cop witholding gun skills from me? Am I being arrested for something? I didn't do it, probably." When I explain how this is not my first time at the rodeo, we decide to go for one more game, Milligan's choice. He goes for Mortal Kombat.

The game is occupied by two ten year olds so we wait our turn. "Just hanging out in this sort of fun settings works my mind in a different way. It's always turning up there, I'm just good at keeping that all within myself when I need to so mindless fun is welcome when I let it be." Finally, it's our turn, we choose our characters and go once again. Best out of three. I win the first round, he wins the second round and then he wins the third with ease. This time it's my turn to get frustrated and he notices. "You were a worthy competitor, grasshopper."

Before we leave we grab ourselves two empty bags so that we can fill them with candy. I explain that my favorite has always been the coca cola bottles and he says that his were always the gummy worms. "Chewy caramels, though." He shakes his head. "That's a disgrace to the world of candy."

Tonight after the long day Milligan still has duties to attend to. He is performing at a small industry party and invites me to tag along.

“It’s just going to be me and Valerie up there.”

Valerie being the guitar he has at the moment, because yes, he names his guitars. “I don't name all of them because now I’ve got loads of extras on tour for when strings break which they often do," The intensity at which Milligan strums the guitars onstage is a key factor to that, "but there are a few that get names because they’re my go-to’s when it comes to surprise shows, parties like this or award shows.” That in itself speaks volumes about how important the guitar is engrained in the music making process. There’s an emotional attachment to the instruments Milligan uses to write and perform his music.

He performs the new single, Photograph, along with a Stevie Wonder cover. When he is performing it is very evident that all he needs is that voice of his and no other loud props along the way. He can hold his own in a smaller room like this one or a huge concert arena. There doesn’t seem to be a limit when he’s breaking those limitations at the rate that he is now. The guitar and vocals are enough; they work together to help him connect with the audience.

“I want everyone where I’m performing to leave the show feeling like I was singing right to them specifically.” Seems like that’s that is going on right now: two girls sway with each other while mouthing the lyrics word for word, a couple beside me keep each other close, a young man records it on his phone and an older woman silences her friend so that she can hear clearly. It’s a diverse crowd, and every single one of them has stopped whatever they were doing to listen.

He mingles for a little while and soon comes over to get me so that we can take our beers outside to sit on the balcony.

“Sometimes it’s necessary for me to take these moments of calm away from all of that.”

All of that meaning the Hollywood scene. He's a man who can mingle his way around the crowd but doesn't actively choose to be there. It's the refreshing nature of a man who hasn't lost himself in the pursuit of something he is hungry for. He's at the top now so he can afford to play by his own rules. It's a place not many get to be, but more often, it's a place than many abuse when in the presence of it. Milligan seems to be in the rare headspace of not speaking in flashy metaphors or measuring self worth by depending on his success as compared to the success of other musicians all the while. He's doing what he loves and he gets to reach people on a grander scale - that's the bonus.

"No one gets to where they want to be without hard work. The people who shrug off that notion, that's bullshit. I'll see people talking about how it all came so naturally to them and everything was like a dream in the way it unfolded. No. Hard work is good, there's no harm in letting that be known. I was never the loudest in the room because that's not me. What I was doing, the music I was writing, the shows I was booking, the hours spent handing out CD's on the street. That was me. I wanted my actions to make a statement."

And make a statement he has.

Kristen Holt (@holtemup) is an entertainment writer in Los Angeles.

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