Local Musician Check-in: Tara Mills

Posted on August 14, 2013 by


tara millsTara Mills has been been playing in and around Charlottesville for quite some years now. Mills and her recent endeavor Yankee Dixie are a fine-tuned bluegrass that will make you stomp your feet, laugh out loud, and even shed a tear. Just as their name suggests, Mills and her group represent a love for “original blue ridge mountain folk.”

For this local musician check-in, Mills shared her inspirations and future for this touring music machine.

A Q&A with Tara Mills

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from? If not Cville, when did you come here?

Born in California, Lived in TX, Grew up in Richmond, VA. Moved to Charlottesville in 2005.

Singing and Writing my entire life. Have played in multiple projects, the most recent of which were Tara Mills with Strings Attached and Yankee Dixie, both Americana original bands.

My passion is writing and singing and sharing my stories with the world through music.

When and why did you start playing music/singing? What instruments do you play?

Been singing and writing my whole life. Played a little piano as a child, picked up guitar in 1998 while in college. Music always came very natural to me. Writing songs, coming up with lyrics and melodies was something I never had to work hard at. I am fortunate to have a gift for coming up with tunes when the mood strikes. Also play a tiny bit of mandolin and now six string banjo.

Most influential artist. Child? Teen? Adult?

Jerry Garcia. I learned so much from him. Was an avid Grateful Dead fan growing up and ironically, was introduced to so many other artists through the dead because Jerry covered all kinds of tunes from Bob Dylan to The Beatles. Also got in to bluegrass because of Jerry. Jerry started out as a banjo player and would frequent bluegrass circles and embraced that style of music.

Today, hmmm, so many great artists. Bill Monroe, Tim O’Brien, Gillian Welch, Avett Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, Graham Parsons

When did you write your first song/what was it about?

Not sure the very first song, but I wrote a song for my fourth grade teacher, Mrs.Hostetler, and handed out copies the class. We all sang it on the last day of school. Also wrote the DARE song in middle school and had a band called Suede that I wrote most of the songs for during that time period. I am sure I wrote other silly songs before fourth grade though.

What influences your writing?

Definitely life situations and experiences and real emotions. Every song I have written is in some way near to my heart, even the made up stories in my songs are based on true personal experiences.

What aspects of life excite you and stir your affections, fuel your passions? (i.e. nature, heartbreak, joy, pain, relationships, serenity…)

Every aspect of life really. Nature is a big one, heartbreak, relationships with friends, family, loved ones. It is definitely easier to write about the negative emotions then the happy ones for me, but I do write about them all. I am big on nature and experiences though.

When did you play your first gig? What emotions and thoughts ran through your head after finishing?

First gig… hmm… well, I sat in and sang in a lot of gigs throughout the years, but as my own band performing my tunes not counting middle school bands…… probably in 2005??? I can’t remember specifics, but I remember at the beginning I definitely used to get very nervous on stage. Now it doesn’t really phase me except pure excitement. I am sure the thoughts that ran through my head were not positive. I am definitely my own worst critic. I am a perfectionist and always harp on the imperfections. I guess that is good and bad as I want to perform well all the times, but I need to feel good about the positives in every performance.

Do you get pumped or nervous pre-show?

Definitely pumped now. I get excited and eager when it is close to set time. I love playing my original music for audiences.

What does a day in the life of a modern day songwriter look like from your perspective?

From experience I know it is a lot of work and a lot of staring at the computer pitching and pushing your craft. Ideally it would entail living in a serene place surrounded by nature and inspiring surroundings. Being able to travel a lot and experience life at its finest. Always having a notebook or phone with voice notes near by to record tid bits of the day, melodies, or song lyrics (My voice notes are FULL with hundreds of pieces of songs). Being easily inspired and romantic and being able to dissect common phenomenons and turn them into meaningful metaphors that human beings can all connect to. Just being real and appreciating and feeling life every day.

What do you want people to take from hearing your music? (as a fan, also what do you want people to take from experiencing your live show)

I want people to be able to relate to my music lyrically and emotionally. I am big on lyrics so once someone delves far enough into the song and hears the lyrics I hope they can in some way relate. I also hope that people can sense the fun I have on stage and also feel that energy and have a fun, meaningful experience. I just want people to have fun and hopefully feel the passion that I feel for my music within themselves.

What does the not-so-distant future hold for Tara Mills?

My band Yankee Dixie has been extremely busy this summer playing a lot of festivals and hitting the road playing a lot of fun shows to new fans on the east coast. I am hoping the future continues with this trend, and the band just keeps on growing and playing more and more shows away from home and we keep building fans. We have a packed fall so I hope we continue to stay busy working and playing our original music.

Describe yourself in 10 words.

Determined, nature loving, romantic, who appreciates all beauty in life.