Mike Mills

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Mike Mills
Mills performing with R.E.M. in 2008
Mills performing with R.E.M. in 2008
Background information
Birth nameMichael Edward Mills
Born (1958-12-17) December 17, 1958 (age 63)
Orange County, California, U.S.
GenresAlternative rock, folk rock,[1] college rock, jangle pop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, music producer
InstrumentsBass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Years active1980–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 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 later met Bill Berry, who would later be his bandmate in R.E.M., in Macon.[4] The duo started out in bands together. Early projects included the band Shadowfax (later called The Back Door Band).[4]

Mills attended the University of Georgia in Athens, which is where R.E.M. formed.[5]


Mills is credited with being the chief composer behind many of R.E.M.'s songs, including "Nightswimming",[6] "Find the River", "At My Most Beautiful", "Why Not Smile", "Let Me In", "Wendell Gee", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville",[6] "Beat a Drum", "Be Mine", “Electrolite”,[7] 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 also responsible for the prominent backing vocal and harmony parts found in the band's back catalog, with his vocal contributions arguably being most noticeable on 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant and 2008's Accelerate. He also sung 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

R.E.M. had been talking about disbanding since 2008,[8] and eventually did so in 2011. In a 2013 interview, Mills said there is no possibility of an R.E.M. reunion.[9] Mills described it as "31 wonderful years and the opportunity to end it on our own terms".[10]

Mills has written and performed with friends on various projects during his time with the band and since.[11] In 1990 he wrote music for Howard Libov's short film Men Will Be Boys.[12] That same year, he recorded with Warren Zevon together with Buck and Berry as the Hindu Love Gods.[13]

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.[14]

Mills is a member, along with Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, and Linda Pitmon, of The Baseball Project.[15]

Mills also performs as part of singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur's band.[16] On April 3, 2014, while performing with Arthur, Mills broke the news that David Letterman would be retiring in 2015.[17] Mills took a band self-portrait that he posted to Instagram[18] and did a short interview about "breaking" the story.[19]

Since 2010, Mills has played with a rotating group of musicians for a series of concerts built around Big Star's seminal 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.[20] 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.[21]

In 2016, he toured to support a Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra with childhood friend Robert McDuffie,[22] along with guitar players William Tonks and John Neff.[23] The tour resumed in 2022.[24]

Musical style[edit]

Mike 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."[25] Mills has more musical training than his bandmates, which he has said "made it easier to turn abstract musical ideas into reality."[26]

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.[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.[31] He is also a fan of his alma mater's football team, the Georgia Bulldogs.

He is engaged to Jasmine.[32] He is an atheist.[33]

Mills has one sibling, younger brother Mitch, who is also a musician.[34]

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. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Hyden, Steven (16 November 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  7. ^ reporter, Mark Caro, Tribune. "Mike Mills reveals R.E.M.'s songwriting process, sort of". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  8. ^ Jarnow, Jesse (10 November 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Says Split Was Gestating Since '08". Spin. SpinMedia. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  9. ^ Greene, Andy (May 15, 2013). "R.E.M. Bassist Mike Mills: 'There Are Zero Plans For a Reunion'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  10. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (November 14, 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on Saying Goodbye After Three Decades". Time. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  11. ^ Hyden, Steven (November 16, 2011). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  12. ^ Gill, Andy (5 March 1991). "The Home Guard". Q Magazine. 55: 56–61.
  13. ^ Gill, Andy (5 March 1991). "The Home Guard". Q Magazine. 55: 56–61.
  14. ^ a b Kane, Tyler (February 1, 2012). "Patterson Hood, Mike Mills of R.E.M. Record Walmart Protest Song". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  15. ^ Leggett, Steve. "The Baseball Project - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  16. ^ Glide (November 14, 2013). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Joins Joseph Arthur's Touring Band". Glide Magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  17. ^ Testa, Jessica (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Is Retiring From "The Late Show"". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  18. ^ Ryan, Shane (3 April 2014). "David Letterman Will Retire in 2015". Paste Magazine. Paste Media Group. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  19. ^ Breihan, Tom (3 April 2014). "R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Announces David Letterman's Retirement" (YouTube video). Stereogum. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  20. ^ Matheson, Whitney (September 2, 2014). "Q&A: R.E.M.'s Mike Mills chats about Big Star reissues". USA Todaya. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  21. ^ News Staff. "Big Star's first two albums to be remastered and reissued". uncut.co.uk. Uncut. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  22. ^ Grow, Kory (October 19, 2016). "R.E.M. Bassist on 'Breaking Down Walls Between Classical and Rock'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media.
  23. ^ "Review: R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, violinist Robert McDuffie cook up a rockin’ classical gas" Arts ATL 2016
  24. ^ "Leavell, McDuffie, Mills make ‘A Night of Georgia Music’ one to remember" The Telegraph 6 March 2022
  25. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. p. 105. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  26. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. p. 81. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  27. ^ David Buckley (2002). R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin. pp. 180–181. ISBN 1-85227-927-3.
  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. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  30. ^ "Wild Loneliness, by Superchunk". Superchunk. Retrieved 2022-05-06.
  31. ^ Tierney, Mike (April 20, 2013). "Mike Mills: A Rock Star of Fantasy Sports". New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  32. ^ Mike Mills' official Instagram account - February 10, 2020
  33. ^ Q, March 1995
  34. ^ "Rock for Learning Features SUGARWALL's Mitch Mills". Rockforlearning.com. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved 2013-04-01.

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