BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills is the latest star to get the WISE WORDS treatment, where we ask a range of people from all across the entertainment industry to reflect on the lessons they’ve learned over the years.
He tells us about how he copes with anxiety, the importance of taking time away from technology, and how he dealt with negative criticism when he appeared on last year’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’...
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What do you do to switch off from the world?
I have a kind of rule that after about 8 o’clock in the evening, I try not to check my phone. I realised when I was on holiday recently, that it does stress you out a bit, and I think this is true for a lot of people without even realising it. I’m the kind of person who, if I get an email I’ll reply to it immediately, and I’ll be checking Twitter all the time and refreshing the Internet, and actually I need to not do that because it sends my mind racing.
And it’s not even just work stuff - it can be friends arranging things, or things like that, so I try and set myself a curfew and switch it off for an hour or two every evening, and I find that really chills me out. Otherwise the time I could be relaxing and enjoying a bit of calm, I’m filling my brain with all this stuff.
How do you deal with negativity?
I’ve got a lot better at it over the years. I remember when I first joined Radio 1, I couldn’t even look at the texts coming in because I felt too vulnerable! While you’re on air, you’ll be doing something which you think is entertaining or that you’ve worked hard on, and people will just text in and say ‘this is shit’, and it’s an instant reaction.
But I think as time goes on and you realise that anyone can have an opinion on what you do or what you look like or what you say, I think that you do develop broader shoulders, and I definitely think that’s the case for me.
I got a lot of negativity when I did ‘Strictly’ last year. There was a bit of a backlash, when actually quite good people were going out like Thom Evans, and I stayed in, that’s when the tide turned a little bit. People take it far too seriously, saying things like ‘you should be ashamed of yourself!’ And I just think… people voted. And it’s a TV show. So I was exposed to a new level of what it can be like for people to really like you and then change, but you’ve just got to not let it bother you.
When and where are you happiest?
I would say that I am happiest around friends that I have known for a long time, or family. I’m very close to my mum, and I just spent the whole weekend with her on our own. We don’t get to do that very often because of work and things like that, so it was really nice to just get some quality time with her, and to see her being happy made me feel really really happy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s kind of an old one, but just be pleasant to people, because you never know when they’re going to eventually be your boss. This has happened to me actually, because I’ve been at Radio 1 such a long time, there are people who probably did make tea on my show who are now my boss. That actually has happened. And luckily, I was nice to them!
I don’t see any presenters on TV or radio being divas, but it must happen, and I think you never know who’s going to be at the top one day, so always be pleasant, and don’t be an idiot. You do meet some celebrities sometimes who can’t really be bothered to be there, and I just think don’t be unpleasant to people who are on their way up. Because on your way down, they won’t be pleasant to you.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
I used to suffer quite a lot with anxiety and nerves. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a lesson, but I’ve learned to cope with them now, and I’ve learned to use nerves in the right way. With something scary like live TV, I’ve actually been scared beyond belief and been sick, before going on live TV. And that’s bad nerves. And I don’t know how I’ve done it, I think it’s just through doing things that scare you a lot, that you can turn them into good nerves, and that’s what’s happened to me now. I still get that adrenaline, and I still get that nervous feeling, but actually, it’s not disabling like it used to be.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Be more confident, and don’t let people walk all over you. I was quite a pushover for a long time, and I remember my nan used to say to me, ‘you can’t just say yes to everyone’. At the time you don’t really realise it, and I’m still like that a little bit, but now I feel like I have the courage to say ‘no’, and not to be walked over.
What three things are at the top of your bucket list?
Thing is, ‘Strictly’ was one of them, and I actually said no to it for years because I was too terrified. So I’ve ticked that one off.
On my list for this year is signing up for a half-marathon or a marathon, because I used to really like running. I want to go to South America, because I’ve always wanted to go there, and it just looks amazing. And I want to do something truly scary that I know will scare me, like jumping out of a plane or bungee jumping. I like to do things out of my comfort zone, and I do quite like having goals to stick to.
What do you think happens when we die?
When I first joined Radio 1 I used to be on that ‘Most Haunted’ show all the time. I do find that hilarious, because it is looking for ghosts, but at the same time… I’m not saying that I saw stuff in particular, but I’d like to think that there’s something else going on out there, rather than death being the end and that’s it.
I don’t know what it is, but just from us trying to contact the spirits, I definitely experienced things, I don’t know really what they were, but I experienced feelings and sounds and emotions... and so I think that there’s something in that. I don’t know what, but I’d like to think there’s a higher plane out there.
I know a lot of people think ‘nope, you die and that’s it’, but a lot of people do hold out for something else going on. I’m not sure if I think that it’s heaven and angels and all that, but I’d like to think that there’s something else.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
This goes back to what I just said really, I want to believe in something, and I’d quite like to know - I know obviously no one will ever know - but I’d quite like to know that this isn’t it. Especially, when you have a family member that you really love who passes on - as I have - you kind of don’t want to think that they’re completely gone, you know? And I do hold on to that quite a lot with my nan.
What do you try to bring your relationships?
I try to bring understanding, I always listen. I try and bring advice when I can. A lot of people ask me for advice, which I quite like, but I quite like to think that I can offer an unbiased overview of a situation. I’m not one of those people who’s always loved up and lovey-dovey, but you’ll always know that I care. It might not always be the things that I say, but it’s definitely the things that I try and do.
What keeps you grounded?
I’m quite a grounded person anyway, I am the same person now as I was when I was 15, I’m just a bit more grown-up and a bit more confident.
And also if I was being an idiot, I’ve got enough good friends around me to just tell me to shut up. I think when you do a job where you’re on TV or radio or whatever, most of the conversations are based around you. And I think it’s very easy to fall in that trap of just talking about yourself, because you do it a lot. Luckily my friends are the sort of people to say ‘err… can we talk about something else now?’
What was the last good deed someone did for you?
Actually I lost my phone in the taxi the other day, and when I phoned the taxi firm up, the driver actually brought it to my house. It’s just little acts of kindness like that which I really like.
Scott Mills will be at the Virgin Media Louder Lounge at V Festival, on 22 and 23 August.