Dan Mills has been staying up late to write lyrics and play guitar most of his life, and it’s fair to say that all the work he’s done has been in preparation for his new full length recording Something Good. Mills writes profoundly honest songs with a wry wit, performed with a natural easiness only attainable by those who have put in the time. Sincere and bittersweet, Something Good is a love letter to cheap wine and deep love, dive bars and indecision, quiet train rides, and the unwavering hope of the artist.
Mills is a meticulous and prolific songwriter, and at thirty one he’s already written more songs than most writers will yield in their career. Mills grew up playing in bands around Providence, Rhode Island, but in 2007 he set his sights on Brooklyn and drove south. Mills spent most of his time writing, performing at open mic nights, and making rent with odd jobs. “I worked in the mornings as a Mommy and Me performer. I would get home every day around noon and would just write music until I passed out”. Soon he had a weekly residency, a four piece band, and his first proper album, Fiction In Photographs.
As a new staple in New York City’s downtown scene, Mills was unexpectedly recruited for the Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony Award winning musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Under the music direction of Chuck Mead (BR549), Mills was immersed in the gritty sound and rich history of Sun Records. With full time access to vintage tube amplifiers and the spacious Nederlander Theatre, Mills’ guitar playing quickly caught up to his skills as a songwriter. Recruiting a few more band members, Mills cut an even better record called Home Before the Rise of the Tide.
When Million Dollar Quartet closed it was only a matter of time before Mills found himself back behind a microphone recording the songs that eventually became his 2016 release, The Culver Line EP. “This is when – finally – the years of working hard to improve at writing, song mechanics, guitar playing, lyric setting, production…. it finally paid off” he says. “Those songs didn’t bring me great success, but I’m proud of them.”
Those years of working away, refining his craft and defining his voice, have now brought us Something Good. “As I started writing for this record,” explains Mills, “it became clear that I was chronicling a part of my life that I wish I could live forever on repeat… my 20’s in NYC.” The bulk of the record was written at Mills’ basement studio on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. “I have a lot of great memories of wrapping up these songs in that basement, and then trying them out on crowds at Rockwood Music Hall.”
Any city is defined as much by its inhabitants as by its architecture, and any play more so by its players than its stage. As such, Mills looked to the myriad of musicians he befriended since arriving in New York for help in bringing his vision to life. “There is an interesting mix of songs on this album, and rather than producing them all to feel the same I wanted to let them stand on their own. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a song, is simply get the perfect person to play on it”. Something Good features an incredibly talented group of guest artists, including LOLO, Mipso, Adam Day, Billy Woodward, and Jason Annick.
“My favorite records are the ones that I can listen to from top to bottom. Albums where you continue to find small, intentional details in the words and the performances. You feel a connection to the writer. You love it so much, you have to memorize it. To me, there is no better feeling in the world than enjoying an album in that way, and it’s what makes me fall in love with music, over and over. I hope people have that experience with Something Good.”
Mills recently left New York City, and when he’s not on tour he resides with his wife and guitars in Cambridge, MA.