Since his first 7-inch single in 1995, Chris Mills has consistently expanded his musical palate with each new release. That initial 7″, entitled Chris Mills Plays and Sings, and the 1996 EP Nobody’s Favorite featured minimally produced, 4-track, acoustic-based recordings that showcased Mills’ “older-than-his-years” vocals and his knack for writing beautifully dark songs. Since it was the height of the “No Depression” movement and Mills resided in Chicago, he was quickly tagged with the “Alt-Country” brand.
But Mills had more ambition than to become another acoustic guitar totting, singer/songwriter. His first full-length album, 1998’s Fight For Your Life, electrified and rocked-up Mills’ songs surrounding him with bass, drums and an occasional piano or cello garnish. His next album, 2000’s Kiss It Goodbye, added more strings and horns to the production. While both albums were basically straight-ahead rock records, they contained enough twangy guitar and downbeat acoustic material to endear him to the No Depression set.
Then with 2002’s The Silver Line, the twang disappeared and Mills began pushing into more orchestral pop territory layering his songs of troubled love and questionable characters with full horn and string arrangements. Following the release of The Silver Line, Mills put together a ten-piece band of Chicago musicians to perform live (including both a horn and string section), and dubbed them “The City That Works Orchestra”.
Mills next project simultaneously upped the orchestral pop ante and reduced the production time. He gathered 19 musicians in Chicago’s Wall To Wall studio to record (and mix) an album live to two-track in just 3 days. The result, 2005’s aptly titled The Wall To Wall Sessions, was a triumphant testament to the power and magic of musicians simply playing together in a room. The album dismissed modern technology and captured the warmth and excitement of live performance. It also garnered the best reviews of Mills’ career and landed him a high-profile opening slot for a couple of Ben Folds solo tours. So what next?
Mills himself wasn’t sure how to answer that question. Following a brief period of writer’s block, he enrolled in a workshop taught by author/cartoonist Linda Barry. Through the workshop, Mills discovered a new approach to writing and became more disciplined about putting pen to paper on a daily basis. At the same time, he was rediscovering his love of comic books and science fiction. These elements combined to inspire the songs on Mills’ new album Living In The Aftermath.
The GloNo Video crew caught up with Mills at Schubas Tavern in Chicago in April. Watch the video below.
GloNo Video: Chris Mills – Rocking In The Aftermath
Previously: Glorious Noise Video with Chris Mills