Early Talks w/ Mills

A while back, I came across an artist who completely took me by surprise. In 2019, I stumbled on a song called, “The Feeling” by an act who goes by the name of Mills and ever since hearing that track, I’ve been a full fledged fan of the Kentucky native who is now taking the industry by storm. Just recently, the now La-Based artist inked a deal with Keep Cool and is primed to make his mark on this music world for many years to come. There’s a lot of promise with Mills, but even more inspiration, which is why he’s the perfect person to have a conversation with. Keep reading down below to check out this week’s installment of the Early Talks Interview Series w/ Mills!

Sam: So where are you from originally?

Mills: I’m from Bowling Green, Kentucky originally!

Sam: Oh shoot, no way. What was it like growing up out there?

Mills: It was cool! I mean it was all I knew. I spent 18 years of my life there and knew all of the same people and would go to Nashville for shows. I was always sort of into music and performing, but was hesitant to get into it because I was into sports and I was afraid of how people would react to it naturally, being a young kid in a southern town; But, my older brother got into music and I was always hearing what he was listening to…John Mayer… Jon Bellion; Just great songwriting. He was a big Caged Elephant fan, since they were from my hometown as well and they kind of paved the way for a lot of people and made somewhat of a music scene that’s pretty admirable and cool.

Sam: So growing up, could you sense that there was some form of musical community there?

Mills: When I got into music, definitely. I definitely found a community of people who I hung out with. My High School friends would be playing beer pong in someone’s basement and I’d be in the studio or playing a show at a bar and get kicked out afterwards. I always loved the shit and I found a group of people but they were all older than me. I was the youngest in the group. A lot of them were college dropouts going to the studio all of the time and I was just in High School doing it with them.

Sam: That’s lit man; as a kid, was there ever a specific moment where you said, hey, I want to do this?

Mills: Yeah, so I got into music when I was thirteen. I joined choir as a joke, just to get an easy A and then that turned into my teacher getting pissed at me and telling me that she was going to kick me out of class if I didn’t start trying; So, I started trying to sing and really fell in love with it and the people in my class. I was a fat kid back then, so I didn’t get girls attention, but when I sang in class all of the girls would talk to me afterwards and so I got a guitar that birthday and over time, it just stopped being about trying to impress people and became more about expressing myself and that being a vehicle to get out how I’m feeling and it makes me feel better about a lot of things. I just really fell in love with performing. I got into musical theatre and acting and that kind of forced the ideology of “fuck what anyone thinks”; Because I played football and baseball and stuff like that as well and when I would have to skip practice for a musical or miss a game, the coaches let me have it bro. They were so ruthless with their words and I had to just be like “fuck it”, I’m doing what I love. My friends and the homies on the football team are going to be throwing up and I’m gonna be chillin.

Sam: Facts bro! So when was the moment that you said to yourself, “I’m going to do this for a living?”

Mills: I always loved writing songs and I was really into things as a kid. I got into so many different things; I literally wanted to be a martial arts instructor at a point. I wanted to be a cage fighter at one point, a magician…I wanted to be a fucking Harlem Globetrotter so bad bro. I learned so many tricks with the ball, but I was terrible at basketball. Yeah, when I got into something, I always thought that was going to be the thing. So when I started getting into music, everyone around me thought it was going to be another one of those things that I would just try out and drop; So within 2 weeks, I was like, this is it…This is what I want to do and so I’ve been seeing this shit and envisioning it. I’d be at a show in the crowd and I could just envision myself up there. I would say, it was when I was at this music festival at Louisville, Kentucky and I saw this band called, Hound Mouth and it was the first time I took acid as well. So they played this song, called, “For No One” and it was just him and the guitar and a dude with a saxophone and dude the words of that song just touched me and inspired me…I tore my ACL in High School playing Lacrosse and it was just a really long recovery process where I could only play guitar and write. That was my junior year. That was when I think I really locked in.

Sam: So from that moment of you deciding that you were going to lock in, what did that process look like up until where you’re at now?

Mills: Studying songwriting; Really reading lyrics and understanding not just the songs but the people; Getting inspired by the people. Taking time to dive into what they were actually saying and where the world was at when they were saying these things. From their metaphors, to everything. So I just really spent time immersing myself into their world, because when something is really your world, you’re going to write about it and it’s going to be different than everyone else’s. So just really connecting with myself and my thoughts and my emotions and when I’m in a situation, being aware of how I’m feeling, so I can come back to that and explain it in a way that other people cant’t. That’s when songs really resonate with me; When it’s a feeling that I’ve felt, since I’m a human being and we’re all human beings because we feel the same things; but when it’s put into words that you don’t ever think about, oh my god, you just get chills. Songwriting is my thing bro. I just love it.

Sam: As we keep going bro, I’d love to know how did you meet your manager?

Mills: Now this is the crazy story!

Sam: Talk to me.

Mills: This is like some 60’s rock n’ roll shit. I was 17 years old and I was a big fan of this artist named Felly. He was like a white kid in the suburbs making beats and I just saw myself in that. So, I watched all of his videos and eventually got into his music and I went to a show during my sophomore year of High School. I made my dad drive me 6 hours to St. Louis. Got a hotel room and saw him and then my senior year, he was finally coming to Nashville and invited the kid that I was going to room with in college because he lived there and I was staying at his house. So we went and we were both 17. It was 3 days before my 18th birthday and it was an 18 and up show but I didn’t realize it. so, the door man was not letting me in, so I’m emailing Alex at the time, who was managing Felly at the time and I’m like, dude, you said I’d be able to get in, why won’t they let me in? And he didn’t see it until the next day. It was freezing cold outside and I tried to watch from the door. I was asking the door man if he could leave the door open so I could just listen and he was like, it’s too cold man, you can just hear it from right here; So I just listened from the steps for like 25 minutes and after that I just left. Then the next day, Alex emailed me and he was like Facetime me, I’m so sorry…So I facetimed him and they were driving from Nashville to New York and they were just apologizing and he handed the phone to Felly and he was like, I’ve been kicked out of so many shows, I’m sorry it happened and they were like, we’ll send you some merch from the new merch drop. At that moment, I was like, don’t send me any merch, just listen to this demo of mine right now and tell me what you think. I wrote this song called, “Kanye in my head”. It was the first song that I really took my songwriting serious.

Sam: Wait, what did they say when they heard the song?

Mills: They were like, dude, you didn’t tell us you could fucking sing. They thought I was going to be some random felly fan. After that, Alex was like, keep sending me music man, this is special. So, for like 6 months, I sent him every song I was writing, just everything, since he was the only person I knew in the industry. So yeah, I sent him everything for 6 months. He responded here and there from time to time, but then one day I sent him this video of me looping a beat on the machine and playing guitar and singing. He called me that day and told me that I had to come to LA the next week and so I came to LA for 3 days and worked with Felly and some of his homies. I made a song with Felly, which was “Water” and then came back home and went to college for a year at MTSU; But when I got home, Alex said he still wanted to keep working with me. So I went to school. I went for Commercial songwriting and I just didn’t really enjoy it. I met a cool group of people when I was playing like house shows and it was fun, but school just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be chasing what I wanted to be doing. So I came out to LA during fall break and spring break and ended up moving out here for the summer and was planning on going back to school then I played this show called School Night and Alex has a friend named Catlin who works for Keep Cool and she just came to support him, but then that night when I played that show, he head was turned and so the next day, she put it on Tunji’s desk and we met and everything just came into play.

Sam: That’s fire bro! That feels like a movie forreall! As you were saying that, I was literally watching the movie unfold in my head which is tight! Tunji is a legend man. You getting to work with him and Catlin is probably a huge blessing.

Mills: I’m blessed man. He’s truly the nicest dude too!

Sam: As we close this thing up bro; with everything you know now, what’s some advice you’d give to your younger self?

Mills: Focus on the music first. You can never practice enough. There’s always room to get better at what you’re doing and I wish I would’ve practiced guitar way more as a kid and skipped out on way more parties and really honed in on this, because this stuff is way bigger than that. Just getting to sit in a room with people and just play, nothing beats that feeling. I would’ve just told my younger self, just jam out with people and meet musicians and connect with different types of people. Don’t limit yourself to one friend group or one type of people. Be eclectic with the people you hang out with. Immerse yourself with different cultures and people who come from different walks of life. It’s a lot of different things, but that’s what I truly believe.

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