For anyone unfortunate enough to not know him, Mark Mills may initially be seen as a dreamy, well-dressed man who sings synthy, ’80s-inspired indie pop. His crew neck tee shirts, comb over and rolled up jeans may comprise his signature look, but as you peel back the layers to this dynamic musician, it is evident that he is also an incredibly genuine, inspired soul who has the utmost of potential in life’s journey and the music industry.
Originally from Terrace, B.C., before moving to Calgary in ‘91, Mills was introduced to music at a young age through watching his sister perform in musical theatre. He was immediately swept away by the romantic notion of singing and dancing on a stage in front of an audience and thus, Mark Mills the musician was born.
With two full-length albums under his belt and brilliant song ideas popping into his head on a daily basis, Mills has been consistently working on his own innovative sound, while consciously not boxing himself in. “I’ve started to just follow my instincts instead of trying to think or intellectualize what I’m doing. It’s been a process of being grounded and following what feels right.”
Although his music is outwardly effervescent, bouncing around up-tempo dance beats Mills considers his music emo in an unconventional way, based on the lyrical intensity he uses, such as, “You had a feeling, I was unsettled/You wore your armour, weary from the battle/And your feelings know the truth cause now I’m only feeling you/There was two things you could do, run away or stick it through,” from the track “Straight to You.”
The vivid sentiment that comes out in Mills’ music has been influenced by the extreme highs and lows he has experienced in life. He is self-admitting to the fact he experiences emotions drastically from one end of the spectrum to the other, without a lot of in between. With highs like the birth of his son, Jacob, or creating a life with his beloved, Annie, and lows like losing his mom in January 2014, Mills has gone through the type of emotional swings that would leave most individuals crippled. But, he chooses to use music as an outlet to mitigate these intense feelings, “I’ve come to a place where my creative process is like self-medicated therapy for me. If you listen to the lyrics sometimes, they may come across as preachy, but I am singing it to myself because it’s a positive affirmation that I turn into song.”
The vulnerability that Mills harnesses in his song writing and performances is enthralling and relatable which has struck a cord in many audience members. He reveals that there have been occasions at shows where audience members have burst into tears or threatened to kick his ass, simply because he exposes a place within himself that they have yet to address within themselves, making them feel extremely uncomfortable yet captivated.
The peaceful strength that Mills exudes is both calming and inspirational to be around and, when asked what he wants to communicate through his art he states, “I want to inspire people to express themselves. Half a breath later we are gone from this world and, for all we know, the only thing we have is this life, so let it out, express yourself and don’t leave anything unsaid.”
This thoughtful artist is undoubtedly on the rise in his music career with the release of a new cassette in April and numerous thought-provoking projects that collaborate with different facets of Calgary’s music scene, as well as outside organizations. As an unforgettable performer and amazing human being, Mark Mills is a name that everyone in Calgary and beyond will be fortunate enough to hear a lot more of in the future.
Mark Mills will release his latest cassette, Triple Fire Sign, on April 17 at the Palomino.
By Kayla Beattie