This time around, Armi Millare is playing music for herself

Amanda T. Lago
This time around, Armi Millare is playing music for herself

ARMI MILLARE. The singer takes time off from performing as she releases a collaboration with Norwegian band D'Sound.

Courtesy of Armi Millare

The artist talks about taking it slow, rethinking her music journey, and collaborating with her heroes – Norwegian band D'Sound

MANILA, Philippines – Armi Millare has been playing music for other people for almost two decades now – first with her band Up Dharma Down (later rebranded to UDD) and later as a solo artist. Known for songs like “Oo,” “Tadhana,” and “Kapit,” Armi and UDD were staples in the gig circuit pre-pandemic.

Like most musicians, Armi’s performing has been put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while most artists have expressed their longing to return to the stage again, the singer seems to have fully embraced being away from the spotlight.

“I’ve been doing performances for more than a decade, almost two decades, and the pandemic actually made me kind of take a step back and look at everything that I’ve done,” she told Rappler in an interview.

“Maybe we were overworking ourselves and just didn’t know it. Because it’s such a…kind of like a habit for us, performing every week, to a point where you feel uneasy when you don’t have a performance, when actually the reality is, for most musicians around the world, they don’t do as many shows, except when you’re touring a record,” she said.

While Armi said she is always grateful for opportunities and sees it as a privilege to be able to perform, she said that this time away from gigs is making her reassess her music journey. 

“I think it’s time for me to take a step back and reassess what I really want out of music…just restructure what I want out of it instead of be at the mercy of what it wants out of me,” she said. 

“Because it always wants me to perform. It will always be about what I bring to the table, but what does it do for me as a person?” she added.

‘Run for Cover’

Armi recently released her latest collaboration with Norwegian neo-soul band D’Sound, a song called “Run for Cover,” which will be included in the band’s upcoming 25th anniversary album, 25, set for release in January 2022. 

Armi and the band wrote the song in 2019, all in one day. 

“Coming into the studio for ‘Run for Cover’ was really easy, very breezy. We were working with a producer, Morten Gillebo. He’s such a brilliant producer and we finished the song in a span of six hours, six to seven hours,” she shared.

Armi said the song started with a keyboard line from Morten, with D’Sound drummer Kim Ofsted then adding drums. Armi then thought of the lyrics that would go with the music. 

“I’ve always seen songwriting as a subconscious activity. Basically, it’s a lot of the things that I don’t talk about that’s in my head, and then when I start hearing music, most of that just comes out. I suppose that was the state of mind that I had that I wasn’t very conscious about at the time,” she shared.

The song was meant to be released in 2020, but the pandemic hit, and mixing and mastering had to be done long-distance. 

“Whenever a new mix came in, I would listen to it, put in my comments, and I would wait for everybody to wake up and see…. So there’s a bit of suspense of sorts each time, like ‘I had no clue if they would like this new mix that I picked,’ but eventually, we found a common ground,” she shared.

The song is Armi’s third collaboration with D’Sound, who she first worked with in 2018 for the song “Lykkelig.” Armi had been a lifelong fan of the band, so when they replied to a tweet of hers inviting her to collaborate, she was in disbelief.

“They said, ‘If you’re ever in Europe, let’s do something, we’ll produce a song for you.’ So I messaged them after, like, ‘Are you guys serious? ‘Cos if you are, then we’ll figure something out,” she shared.

She decided to swing by and meet them for a few days in the middle of a trip to London in 2018. Their songwriting partnership turned out to be so seamless that while they set out to write just one song, they ended up with three tracks written in three days.

Armi shared that the first day was tough because they were feeling each other out, but once they got over the hump, it was smooth sailing from there. 

“The first day was difficult. I was so embarrassed and intimidated. We booked a studio and nothing came out. So I spent the whole night listening to everything I’ve done so far. Luckily, the next day, before I got on the tram, I already knew what to do,” she said.

They released “Lykkelig” in October 2018, and “Somewhere in Between” in August 2019. Both were included in D’Sound’s album Unicorn.

For Armi, their collaboration works because of “subconsciously having studied each other.”

“In general, that’s how I feel collaborations work. Of course, you have to like each other as people. It’ll make things much easier for you guys to work together if you have this mutual admiration, right? And sometimes, some collaborations, it’s not like they don’t work it, it’s more like they get held up for a while, put on hold for a bit. It’s because maybe there needs to be a bit more interaction between the two parties, or they have to reach a state of comfort between each other,” she said.

“I guess with this one, it helps that I’ve listened to their songs for a long time, they’re in my musical blueprint. I pretty much know how Jonny (Sjo, bassist) plays and what Kim can do for the drums,” she said.

The expression cautions that you should “never meet your heroes,” but it’s clearly not the case for Armi.

“I was thinking, wow, I’ve listened to all their records from the beginning and having collaborated with them in Unicorn with ‘Somewhere in Between’ and ‘Lykkelig,’ it felt surreal to be running to a D’Sound playlist at the park in Oslo and then hearing the song that I made with them in that same playlist. It’s like having gone full-circle,” she said. 

“Run for Cover” being included in D’Sound’s anniversary album is yet another milestone, especially because the album also features other artists that Armi looks up to. Ultimately, though, it seems that the song itself is reward enough for Armi.

“I really love this song. It’s one of those songs that I’ve written that I know I’ll never do again,” she said. As for working with D’Sound again, Armi said, “We’ll see.”

“I’m very comfortable working with them, so it shouldn’t be a problem doing another song with them again,” she said.

In the meantime, Armi will be playing music – not for anyone else but herself.

“[I’m] taking things really slow and making myself happy in terms of music, like playing music for myself. I realize I’ve been playing music for other people for a long time that I haven’t done it for myself, so…. I haven’t sung to myself, just for me, or play the guitar for me, which I used to do as a kid,” she said.

“Because you had nobody to perform to. You perform to yourself. And that’s the fun aspect of it that sometimes we lose – doing things for the love of it.” –

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.