Last weekend, we lost one of Atlanta’s best young R&B artists to leukemia. Jarrod Milton was an up-and-coming songwriter whose ability to channel his deep consciousness into snapshots of joy and melancholy was unparalleled in the city. Though he found inspiration in Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi’s willingness to challenge the status quo, he also matched them in his prolificacy. Milton was always in the process of creating, and in 2018 was working on a new LP, Smile. According to longtime producer Ivano Milo (Oliver Blue, Brother Mary), the album will now take the form of a multi-media release which will attempt to unify Milton’s work. “We’re focusing on gathering everything we have of his,” Milo explains, “so that he can have the musical career he always wanted.” You can expect the record’s first single, the tragically resonant “Q,” to drop tomorrow.
Though I didn’t know Milton personally, I had the pleasure of reviewing his subdued masterpiece Girl in 2016. Milton wrote music on a different wavelength than many artists, but instead of leaving of us lost in translation, he spent the entirety of Girl gently passing knowledge on to us underlings with grace, even while wandering through a world built from his own imagination. The album is rich, but never saccharine, and each track swells with the idealism of innocence but not naïvety.
It’s difficult to distill Milton’s work into something measurable in the realm of genre, especially considering that he only released one record. It’s even harder to condense and decipher his impact on the Atlanta music scene as a whole, especially for the lucky few who had the opportunity to work closely with him. Since his passing, we asked a few of Milton’s confidants and collaborators to share their memories of him both as an artist and as a friend. We will continue to update this post as more responses come in.
“Jarrod was an angel. The love he had for the people around him knew no limit. Whenever he knew I wasn’t feeling great about myself or my work, he’d make an active effort to show me why he believed in me. I’d receive calls from him once or twice a week, where he’d just fill me in on all of his new thoughts and plans and opinions about music. He knew EVERYTHING about music. I don’t think there exists a person that had as much music knowledge as Jarrod did. Once he called me and spent an hour telling me Michael Jackson’s life story, down to production credits for individual tracks, just because he wanted me to know. I’m going to miss hearing ‘Hey man, how are you doing?’ whenever I’d answer his call. His work ethic was unparalleled. There are so many pieces of writing that he left us. He spent the majority of his time concocting these intricate worlds with words. He lived in a different universe to us, one that he created for himself through the words he’d write. I feel honored to have been able to help him soundtrack those worlds. He’ll forever be a role model for me. We’re so excited to show the world what we’ve been working on!” – Ivano Milo
“I will always have an infinite amount of admiration for Jarrod Milton. He was one of the first people to believe in me as an artist and promoter. We could and did talk for hours about our ideas and plans for the future, and, every time we spoke, I was just mesmerized by what he had to say. He was one of those souls that lit up any room he walked in. He reached out to me and genuinely cared about my well-being like a true friend and it hurts that I’ll never get to relive what it’s like to interact with him. Ultimately, my hope is that his new music will allow him to live on and reach folks in a way that would make him happy. My anticipation for that and fond memories of him are enough to keep me going.” – Jay Americana
“In Jarrod, I found someone who thought about songwriting and lyrics the same way that I do. Jarrod pushed me to try new ideas, listen to music more closely, and be more accepting of all sounds and concepts. He was constantly pushing the envelope not just for himself, but for everyone around him. A kind, thoughtful, and at times painfully honest person. I will miss him always.” – Wiley from Atlanta
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A funeral service will be held tomorrow morning, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Old Fourth Ward. All are welcome to attend.
In addition, a celebration of Milton’s life and music will take place at the Mammal Gallery tomorrow night. The event will feature local artists covering Milton’s music and paying their respects through visual arts, including live painting and prints on display. If you’d like to donate to Milton’s family but can’t attend the show, contact Austin Weatherly through the Facebook event page. A special thanks goes out to Jay Douglas and Carter Sutherland for their help in organizing the event.
Jarrod Milton: Music & Memories will take place tomorrow night, Jan. 26, at the Mammal Gallery. Doors open at 8 p.m. Entry is free, but donations will be accepted for his family.