Armi Millare almost quit music.

She was in the process of writing and co-producing her upcoming debut album, South Node. It will be her first full-length release after departing UDD, formerly known as Up Dharma Down, in 2021. Last October 25, listeners got a taste of what it would sound like with the release of the album’s first official single, “Roots.”

“Roots” is bread-and-butter Armi Millare, her one-of-a-kind soulful voice sweeping through the track — just with more electronic elements compared to her UDD cuts. Her writing still toes the line between literal and metaphorical, merging mystery and familiarity together. With such a seamless track, it’s difficult to believe that there could’ve been a timeline where no one would get to hear Armi Millare create new music.

“I didn’t think I was going to put the album out, actually,” she reveals. “A year ago, I thought that it was just going to be one of those things that you write…There was a very long period of time where I thought that these songs weren’t me anymore. I had to stop and consider what I might leave behind and who I would be after that.”

armi millare udd up dharma down

Nina Sandejas

Millare pushes it even further, saying that at that point, it felt like she already retired and just didn’t tell people about it.

She looks back and calls it a very strange process, having written a whole record and being determined that this is who she is, only to come to end feeling extremely sure that she’s moved on from that chapter in her life. “I really thought that I just didn’t fit into [music] anymore. But often I ask myself, ‘Then, what am I going to do?’ This is all I’ve done.”

There were many things that factored into that feeling, she shares, but the thing that comes at the top of her head was the burnout. At this point, it’s something that you can’t help but empathize with. UDD with Millare at the helm skyrocketed into the mainstream with their critically-acclaimed debut album, Fragmented, which included their breakout track, “Oo”. In 2006, “Oo” was nominated for Song of the Year at the NU Rock Awards. Just a year prior, they won the In The Raw Award, which recognized the best independent band of that year.

But Fragmented was just the start. Their sophomore album, Bipolar, followed then Capacities, which featured some of their biggest tracks thus far. There was the ever-timeless “Tadhana” and the heartbreaking “Indak”. Scottish band The Blue Nile frontman Paul Buchanan even sung a duet with Millare on “Feelings.” After Capacities, they released U D D in 2019, their last album before Millare left the group.

They were hitmakers in every sense of the word. But over the course of nearly two decades of making music non-stop, there comes a point in time where they noise of everything stops you from being able to pause and think.

Then, one day, she woke up.

armi millare udd up dharma down

Nina Sandejas

In that moment, it was a rediscovery of herself — something that would inevitably describe her journey over the past two years. It’s a moment that’s both new and familiar, she says, as she goes through the same things she went through in the first chapter of her career, this time as a solo artist. The past two years were a rebuilding for herself as she crossed paths with both old and new collaborators.

In her forthcoming album, she teams up with Norwegian duo Jonny Sjo, Kim Ofstad of D’Sound and Bernt Rune Stray. She worked on the album in Oslo, immersing herself in an environment of different musical and cultural identities to create something new. South Node will be the epitome of that two-year journey, a record that encapsulates the familiar and the new versions of Armi Millare as we will know her today. In fact, “Roots” introduces us to that concept, as Millare sings in the song: “Convergence of things / Convergence of time / Convergence of minds.”

“Now that I’m doing this again after a considerable amount of time, thinking that this is something I want to be for the rest of my life, I feel very at one in my craft,” she shares. While she has a stronger grasp on who she is as a musician today, she recognizes that the hurdles she’s overcome will still stay as hurdles in the future. “It will always be there. It will always persist. It’s just that now, I have a full sense of my self-concept and I will treat it a lot like life should be treated — with discernment and still being able to make peace with the unpleasant bits. Some of these I unwittingly caused being young, and now I’m just a little bit more aware of things, and most especially surrounded by people who are motivated by the same things.”

Welcome back, Armi.

Listen to South Node’s lead single, “Roots,” below.