Mike Mills

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Mike Mills
Mills in 2008
Mills in 2008
Background information
Birth nameMichael Edward Mills
Born (1958-12-17) December 17, 1958 (age 65)
Orange County, California, U.S.
GenresAlternative rock, folk rock,[1] college rock, jangle pop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, music producer
Instrument(s)Bass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Years active1978–present

Michael Edward Mills (born December 17, 1958) is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer who was a founding member of the alternative rock band R.E.M.[2] Though known primarily as the bass guitarist and backing vocalist of R.E.M., his musical repertoire also includes keyboards, guitar and occasional lead vocals. He contributed to a majority of the band's musical compositions and is the only member to have had formal musical training.

Early life[edit]

Michael Edward Mills was born to Frank and Adora Mills in Orange County, California, where his father was stationed in the Marines. The family moved to Macon, Georgia, when Mills was around six months old.[3] Mills met future R.E.M. bandmate Bill Berry while they attended high school[4] in Macon.[5] The duo started out in bands together. Early projects included the band Shadowfax, later called The Back Door Band.[5]

Mills attended the University of Georgia in Athens, where R.E.M. was formed.[6]


Mills is credited with being the chief composer behind many of R.E.M.'s songs, including "Nightswimming",[7] "Find the River", "At My Most Beautiful", "Why Not Smile", "Let Me In", "Wendell Gee", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville",[7] "Beat a Drum", "Be Mine", "Electrolite",[8] and "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" In particular, R.E.M.'s 2004 album Around the Sun was heavily shaped by Mills' piano and keyboard contributions.[citation needed]

Mills is responsible for the prominent backing vocal and harmony parts found in the band's back catalog, with his vocal contributions being most noticeable on 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant and 2008's Accelerate. He sang lead vocals on the songs "Texarkana", "Near Wild Heaven", The Clique cover "Superman" and The Troggs cover "Love Is All Around".

Mills performing in 2004

Mills has written and performed with friends on various projects during his time with the band and since.[9] In 1990 he wrote music for Howard Libov's short film Men Will Be Boys.[10] That same year, he recorded with Warren Zevon together with Buck and Berry as the Hindu Love Gods.[10]

In 2012, Mills contributed piano to a Record Store Day single released by Drive-By Truckers member Patterson Hood, in protest of a Walmart development being built in Athens, Georgia.[11]

Mills is a member, along with Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, and Linda Pitmon, of The Baseball Project.[12]

Mills performs as part of singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur's band.[13] On April 3, 2014, while performing with Arthur, Mills broke the news that David Letterman would be retiring in 2015.[14] Nine years later, Mills said: "I spoke to Dave about it later and he said, 'No, it was fine. If somebody was going to do it, I'd rather it be you.' And I said, 'Well, thank you.' It was quite a moment to hear him say that sitting there in the dressing room."[15] Mills took a band self-portrait that he posted to Instagram[16] and did a short interview about "breaking" the story.[17]

Since 2010, Mills has played with a rotating group of musicians for a series of concerts built around Big Star's album Third/Sister Lovers. Known as Big Star's Third, the concerts have taken place in London, Sydney, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York.[18] A longtime Big Star fan, Mills wrote the liner notes for the 2014 reissue of the band's first two releases, 1972's #1 Record and 1974's Radio City.[19]

In 2016, he toured to support a Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra with childhood friend Robert McDuffie,[20] along with guitar players William Tonks and John Neff.[21] The tour resumed in 2022.[22]

In 2023, a mushroom species of the genus Pluteus, Pluteus millsii Justo, Borovička, Grootmyers, Kalichman and S.D. Russell, was named in his honor.[23]

Musical style[edit]

Mills' melodic approach to bass playing is inspired by Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Chris Squire of Yes; Mills has said, "I always played a melodic bass, like a piano bass in some ways ... I never wanted to play the traditional locked into the kick drum, root note bass work."[24] Mills has more musical training than his bandmates, which he has said "made it easier to turn abstract musical ideas into reality."[25]

During R.E.M.'s career, Mills often harmonized with Michael Stipe in songs; in the chorus for "Stand", Mills and Stipe alternate singing lyrics, creating a dialogue.[26] "My voice is the culmination of a lifetime of enjoying harmony," Mills explained in 2023. "When I was a kid singing in the church choir, I was always finding harmony. I usually got the tenor part. I grew up around music. There was always music in the house. So when R.E.M. started playing, I sang. Our approach was that my voice and Michael's voice were extra instruments. It wasn't about a lead vocal and a backing vocal and a harmony vocal. It was just more melody and more instrumentation to add to the mix."[27]


Mills onstage
Mills, 2017

Personal life[edit]

Mills is an avid fantasy sports player, with interest in NFL, NBA, and PGA teams, among others.[32] He is also a fan of his alma mater's football team, the Georgia Bulldogs.

He is married to Jasmine Pahl.[33] He is an atheist.[34]

Mills has one sibling, younger brother Mitch, who is also a musician.[35]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Stipe, Carrey Duet On R.E.M. - Penned Soundtrack
    Retrieved 20 June 2016
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Mike Mills Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Mike Mills Interview from WHO KNEW Celebrates R.E.M.'s Out of Time" – WHO KNEW, YouTube, November 1, 2016
  4. ^ "Mike Mills and Bill Berry: Historic Macon Music Registry". Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  5. ^ a b Evans, Brad (August 12, 2013). "An Interview with Mike Mills of REM". 11th Hour. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  6. ^ Kretsch, Ron (March 7, 2014). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on 'Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee'" (YouTube clip). Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Hyden, Steven (16 November 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  8. ^ reporter, Mark Caro, Tribune (3 June 2008). "Mike Mills reveals R.E.M.'s songwriting process, sort of". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2019-10-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Hyden, Steven (November 16, 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  10. ^ a b Gill, Andy (5 March 1991). "The Home Guard". Q Magazine. 55: 56–61.
  11. ^ a b Kane, Tyler (February 1, 2012). "Patterson Hood, Mike Mills of R.E.M. Record Walmart Protest Song". Paste Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  12. ^ Leggett, Steve. "The Baseball Project - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  13. ^ Glide (November 14, 2013). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Joins Joseph Arthur's Touring Band". Glide Magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  14. ^ Testa, Jessica (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Is Retiring From "The Late Show"". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  15. ^ Ivie, Devon (2023-09-13). "The Most Heartfelt and Goofy of R.E.M., According to Mike Mills". Vulture. Retrieved 2024-01-27.
  16. ^ Ryan, Shane (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Will Retire in 2015". Paste Magazine. Paste Media Group. Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  17. ^ Breihan, Tom (3 April 2014). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Announces David Letterman's Retirement" (YouTube video). Stereogum. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  18. ^ Matheson, Whitney (September 2, 2014). "Q&A: R.E.M.'s Mike Mills chats about Big Star reissues". USA Todaya. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  19. ^ News Staff. "Big Star's first two albums to be remastered and reissued". uncut.co.uk. Uncut. Retrieved 28 September 2014.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Grow, Kory (October 19, 2016). "R.E.M. Bassist on 'Breaking Down Walls Between Classical and Rock'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media.
  21. ^ "Review: R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, violinist Robert McDuffie cook up a rockin’ classical gas" Arts ATL 2016
  22. ^ "Leavell, McDuffie, Mills make ‘A Night of Georgia Music’ one to remember" The Telegraph 6 March 2022
  23. ^ https://www.mdpi.com/2309-608X/9/9/898/ "Holarctic Species in the Pluteus podospileus Clade: Description of Six New Species and Reassessment of Old Names"
  24. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. p. 105. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  25. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. p. 81. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  26. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. pp. 180–181. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  27. ^ Ivie, Devon (2023-09-13). "The Most Heartfelt and Goofy of R.E.M., According to Mike Mills". Vulture. Retrieved 2024-01-27.
  28. ^ "Mike Guests on Jason Ringenberg's New Album Nature Jams". R.E.M. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
  29. ^ "Weekend Update: Record Store Day, Dresden, Will Rock 4 Food, Futurebirds, Finster, and Future Music". R.E.M. 2012-04-20. Archived from the original on 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  30. ^ "Mills/McDuffie Concerto For Violin, Rock Band & String Orchestra Out On Orange Mountain Music October 14". R.E.M. HQ. 11 August 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  31. ^ "Wild Loneliness, by Superchunk". Superchunk. Retrieved 2022-05-06.
  32. ^ Tierney, Mike (April 20, 2013). "Mike Mills: A Rock Star of Fantasy Sports". New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  33. ^ [1] - February 10, 2020
  34. ^ Q, March 1995
  35. ^ "Rock for Learning Features SUGARWALL's Mitch Mills". Rockforlearning.com. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved 2013-04-01.

External links[edit]