"The timing was not in our favor but we are happy with the end product," says blues musician Michael Mills as he discussed the band which bears his name, their new CD, its release party and more.
Based in Huntington Beach, CA this group of seasoned musicians brings their love of the blues to the forefront with a new full length disc and the gentle speaking Mills is not only proud of their effort but also makes no attempt to contain his excitement.
"Yes, it's called "Stand Up" and we're really excited about it because it came out really well," he stated with confidence. "It took us about six months to pull it all together because it was during the holidays and Christmas so it was kind of like herding cats (laughs) to get everybody in the studio to do their parts but we pulled it off. We mixed and mastered it in Irvine, California with a guy by the name of Richard Bredice and Patrick Woodland who did the mastering and they did a phenomenal job, they were great to work with; we just had a great year. They offered a lot of great advice and so we are real happy with the end product but right when we released it this virus hit; every band in the world is pulling back on their tours and everybody is sitting at home. We are still really hopeful that it catches on and people give it a listen; I think if they do they're really going to like it."
Ah yes, the "Virus." The proverbial elephant in the room; one which has created controversy, divides us and creates fear and paranoia unlike any we've ever seen. Music however has the ability to transcend all things and The Michael Mills Band does a masterful job of utilizing their talents to do just that. "Stand Up" is a mixture of traditional and Chicago style blues along with an upbeat swing feel that unites all on the dance floor.
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Mills is a prolific producer so it's no surprise that this is a full length album but with so much material; how does one decide what goes on the record?
"I have a partner Jessie Godoy he plays guitar in the band and we kind of bounce ideas off of each other and collaborate and it's a really great relationship. He sparks ideas with me and I do the same with him and I think it's a great synergy that we have that puts some great songs together that hopefully the public likes as much as we do. There are 12 tracks on the disc, we pulled out the stops and said we were going to do a full album this time and that's what we did. We had a lot more songs but we pared it down to 12 that we thought were the strongest and polished them and went into the studio, knocked them out and we are really happy with the way it came out."
Even though the current climate has prevented many artists from performing, the one thing all seem to have in common is creative spurts. Mills says that he's utilizing his time away from live performances to compose new material; even if it happens at the oddest times.
"I never stop writing, the gears are always moving in my head. It seems like it's always three o'clock in the morning and I get these ideas and if I don't jump out of bed and write them down they just evaporate and they're gone. So I've been doing a lot of that and I've written three or four, maybe even five songs so far and I think they are pretty strong. We've been trying to get together and I've been in contact with the other band members and they've all been practicing on their own; we talked about maybe getting together and doing a podcast but you know we've got to keep the six foot distance so it's hard to video anything like that."
Blues music is often misunderstood because its origins are rooted in slavery and oppression but as it has evolved over time into its various forms it has influenced generations of musicians and spawned rock 'n' roll as we've come to know it. Even Mills wasn't sure of his own taste for it until the pursuit of his talent enlightened him.
"It never really solidified in my head growing up; I knew I loved the music but I couldn't really identify it. I didn't know the difference between Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and then finally I started taking some guitar classes and my guitar teacher asked me who I liked. So I said, well let's see. I like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and he said, "Well you like the blues" and I said, well yeah I guess I do (laughs). So that turns into a journey where you go all the way back to Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson and then you work your way back to Chicago electrified blues; I just couldn't get enough of it. I said, that is what I love, that is what I want to be a part of, that is what makes the hair stand on my arms and that just does it for me; I've been that way ever since. It speaks to your heart and your soul; I don't know how else best to describe it. It just has so much soul and emotion and we all do this journey; the other day I said, you know what? I'm going to listen to some Howlin' Wolf and I put on "Smokestack Lightning" with Hubert Sumlin and he was in his twenties and just the emotion and passion that was coming from those guys just blows me away and I never get tired of it."
Mills has manufactured this love of the blues into his passion and just prior to the virus forcing cancellations and grinding live performances to a halt he and the band were able to hold a release party event and they couldn't be happier with the results.
"It was great! We've got some clips on our Facebook which is @The MichaelMillsBand and it turned out really well. We had a really, really great crowd and everybody was receptive to the new songs and we played the new album start to finish. We had a couple of local supporting bands that filled in in front of us and we had a guest harmonica player and sax player that sat in with us; it was a really, really great time."
So what's next?
"We had a lot of gigs that were cancelled because everything came to a screeching halt. We had a bunch of venues lined up in Southern California and then we were going to head north and possibly over to Chicago to Buddy Guy's place but for now we've been getting airplay and that's great! I know you know our publicist Marlene Palumbo and she's been in there really hitting hard and we've shot it out to a lot of the radio stations and it's in a lot of their line ups right now and it's being well received; we're getting nothing but positive feedback on it."
"Everybody in the band is just itching to get back together and start playing. They've all been doing their own practicing and keeping up to speed so they are ready to go. So we've got a couple of standing venues like The House of Blues and we're just waiting to jump back into that and get back out there and start playing; to us a gig is a gig and we'll play whether it's five people or five thousand we don't care. We just want to play and keep improving, that's what we're all about and write good songs. We just can't wait to get back out there and do that and promote this album. We never had a really good chance to promote it and give it a fighting chance; like I said, at our release party everybody loved the songs so that was very encouraging and we want to just keep that going."
To discover more about The Michael Mills Band please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/themichaelmillsband/
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!
This week's event listings
Sadly, there are no live events to report or list once again this week; however there is a fine venue located in Ewing, NJ who are doing what they can to support the arts.
The 1867 Sanctuary located on Scotch Road is holding a virtual benefit concert May 1 featuring classically trained soprano Ana Maria Ruimonte and jazz bassist Alan Lewine.
This 3 p.m. Eastern concert is free and benefits the UN Refugee Agency; donations to the 1867 Sanctuary are welcome as well. http://www.frsprod.com/home/owlsong/