Write music that you love and find people who love it with you


It’s hard to imagine punk powerhouse and music mentor Millie Manders only being able to perform if she was in her mum’s dining room, with the door closed and her back to it. Or that she still gets stage fright to this day. This is her story.

I was surrounded by music from day one. My mum and dad are both music lovers and my mum played flute when she was younger.

I started recorder in primary school when I was five and loved it, which led to my trying piano (which I didn’t like) and clarinet at seven, which I loved. I passed my grade five when I was 11. And I am a classically trained vocalist.

My parents definitely sparked my passion for music, but also the music lessons at school. They were simple, but I absolutely adored learning to replicate the sounds myself.

My first memories of performing are of my mum asking me to play clarinet for people. I had such bad stage fright I would only play if I was in the dining room, with the door closed and my back to it.

They would have to press their ear against it to hear me. I later performed in small theatre productions which I think were my first singing performances. I still get stage fright.

I had two bands at school. Only one performed, but both were originals bands. The second one would record tapes of our songs and give them away – old schooool!

The first serious band I got into at 21. We released an album. I then released two EPs as a solo artist before forming The Shutup.

We perform what we call cross genre punk because while the ethos, lyricism and feel is punk, we are influenced by pop, rock, dance, ska, hip-hop, metal and more.

We currently have two EPs and an album. We are working on a few projects at the moment and hope to release something soon with more to come in 2022.

I kind of fell into mentoring. I had just moved to Norwich from London and needed work. 

Because I had touring experience and a Music Business degree, a friend introduced me to The Garage, and I was hired to work as part of the Musicians’ Development Programme team.

When the Unsigned programme was launched, I was asked to head it. Passing on knowledge is something I’m very passionate about, so I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. 

I enjoy seeing young musicians realise their potential and grow in a field they’re passionate about.

Music’s always been an inextricable part of who I am, and I have always followed that path, but I didn’t fully immerse myself until much later in my life. I had to make that leap and risk everything.

Each aspect of my musical career is so enriching and rewarding. 

[It’s] therapy, joy, release, passion, emotive connection, friendships, elation, travel, learning, growth, evolution of self and art… ad infinitum.

Many, many people and events inspired me.

One who continues to inspire me is a man who was the singer in a Blues Bros tribute band when I was doing work experience at a theatre when I was 14.

He told me that success comes from hard work. That if I really wanted to be a musician, I had to forget everything else and practise.

That he practised for hours a day when he was at school while his friends were in the playground and continued to practise daily to achieve his goals.

He wasn’t big or famous, but he was happy doing what he loved, and he was successful because of that. That has stuck with me and I have worked hard every day since.

Maybe not practising for hours, but certainly honing my craft, learning more about the business and practically applying it, maintaining my voice etc. I will never forget that conversation.

[My advice to aspiring artists is] work hard, don’t quit, perfect your craft and hold on to your values. 

Don’t change your style to please the crowd or [get a] contract. Write music that you love and find people who love it with you.

Be a business-person – understand your industry. 

Lastly, if you really, really want it, be prepared to sacrifice time, money and energy every step of the way to get it.

Every road has bumps. Sometimes they are really big. But if you quit now, you’ll never know what could have been.

A world tour, a sophomore album, a million streams on a song, playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire (I love that venue SO MUCH), many, many things are still on the career bucket list.

Some of my biggest highs are definitely the Empress Ballroom and Casbah stages at Rebellion Festival, opening for the Fireball Tour at O2 Brixton with Less Than Jake and Goldfinger.

Being played on Radio X and Kerrang! radio stations and John Feldman saying on a live video chat that he’d want to tour with us in the UK.

There are so many places I couldn’t recount them all, but The Waterloo in Blackpool will always be a special venue to me – for the people, the owners, the crowd.

It’s such a welcoming and heart-warming place to be. There are loads more but that’s off the top of my head.

Everything is a journey. There have been some really tough times with band members, but again that is part of the learning to surround yourself with decent people who are right for you and the sound you want to create.

It’s a hard time for everyone in the music industry but it’s certainly not the end of live music.

For me, I try to take everything as it comes. 

No use crying over spilled milkshakes. If everything gets stripped back to foundations, it’s just another opportunity to rebuild.

Milly Manders and The Shutup are now touring with support from The Garage‘s Unsigned participants Jøra the Førtuneteller.

Booking for our autumn term is now open. 

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