Carol Forsloff –Country musicians are reminiscent of those old troubadours of yore, who spoke of the world in which they lived, then encapsulated it in song. Glenn Lee Mills is that type of musician whose music eloquently tells us how those songs that tell stories remain forever part of music history.
Mills is one of those straight forward folks who can take a plain acoustic guitar and then sing with that country touch and take the listener to simple edges of life, a life predictable in many ways but with the kind of predictability with which folks all over the world can relate. He also has had a few hard knocks in life, so he is able to relate to those hard times and getting back up when you are knocked down, which are the themes of many country songs. And after those hard knocks, and years of raising his children alone, he is now focused on pursuing his dream in a vigorous way.
I met Mills on a world site for musicians, a site that is growing so rapidly that the bugs in the software sometimes creep in because the sheer volume of folks keeps it expanding and needing consistent tweaking. The man with the plan behind Fandalism, Philip Kaplan, has created a venue that allows new talent to be discovered, musicians to collaborate with each other, and folks behind those doors of their lives to come out with smiles and join or rejoin the music world. Mills is one of those who is able to articulate Nashville songs and his own in a fashion that often ends up on American music venues as a star in the country music ways.
I interviewed Mills recently, asking him questions about his music and his beliefs about where the future of country might be for those who still wish upon a star to be a star themselves:
Q: . When did you start playing music?
A: For as long as I can remember, which is around age two or three, I wanted to play music. It certainly had my attention at that age. But no one close to me played an instrument. It wasn’t until I was around 22 that I learned three chords on the guitar. I had no idea how to play songs written by others, so I began to write my own to fit those chords.
Q: You seem to play a lot of country-western types of songs. What led you to this type of music?
A: Born in 1959, I literally cut my teeth listening to George Jones, Lefty Frizell, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and so on. Like many young people of Appalachia in the early 50s, my parents went north to find good jobs. They met and married in Dayton Ohio. Dad and Mom were both from Southeastern Kentucky, so country music was the natural favorite. Besides hearing a variety of music around the house, almost every weekend on Friday night, Mom would have the car packed and ready. When Dad got home at 11:00pm my two brothers, one older, one younger, and myself were herded into the back seat and the family was off to the hills of Kentucky. On the long drive down, most of the night the AM radio was always tuned to 650 WSM out of Nashville Tn. Home of the Grand Ole Opry. The little boy that I was then, sat in the darkness of the rear seat captivated by the sounds coming from the speakers. I was unaware that I was receiving an education from the true masters of Country Music. The first song that I remember getting my attention was See the Big Man Cry, a song written by Ed Bruce, and sung by Charlie Louvin. It had a line in it that evoked emotion in me. The little boy said; “If I had a Daddy he’d buy that puppy for me.” I felt sorry for him, and at that age, I could certainly feel his pain. Lesson one in songwriting – the listener must identify with a truth in the song.
Q: What other types of music do you play?
A: As the years past, my interest in music expanded. I truly have a appreciation for all types of music. I can sing some Rock, Southern Rock, Lounge, Folk, Appalachian Folk etc. My voice fits the blues pretty well, but I think Country is my strong suit.
Q: You write some of your own music. What inspires you?
A: My main inspiration is love. I find myself gravitating to that subject most, as do many songwriters. I see songwriting as a gift or talent from God. He gives me the talent, I use it to give him a return that he values. I’ve heard some say that country music is just too sad, or it brings them down. Country music is about real life, good times and bad, heroes and heartaches, the lost and the found. I have been given the opportunity as a songwriter, to perhaps, write part of the sound track to millions of peoples’ lives. It’s my job to comfort them when they are down, to express their joy, to pass wisdom on to them, to let them know that they are not alone. That someone else has felt what they are feeling. To put into words what they feel, and would say if they could, and do it in a way that hopefully pleases God. In this way a songwriter serves God and his fellow man. If I do it well enough, perhaps one day, I will be rewarded with recognition.
Q. What is your impression of the direction being taken in country music?
A: . I think the battle continues. Real country music verses Pop. Years ago music was mostly written for adults, Hank Williams to Gershwin to Mozart. Today it is mostly written for the adolescents. I have been told young girls between 13 and 22 or so, purchase the most music.
Q: Do you think it is a valid statement when George Jones and Loretta Lynn talk about how country music is changed and doesn’t sound like those traditions?
A: Yes I do believe they have a point. Many of the values of country music are missing. For instance, before you might sing about drinking too much, and losing your wife and family, but you would never boast about it, nor advocate it. The old song I’m Gonna Get Drunk and I Sure Do Dread It has a moral to it: start spending my money calling everybody honey till I wind up singing the blues. While in a current song Before He Cheats, she boasts without remorse, about getting vengeance on a cheating boyfriend, by vandalizing his truck with a baseball bat, slicing his tires, and carving her name into his leather seats. So, yes I think they have a point. Present values in country music are different these days.
Q: Do you think that is because country music is just simply evolved or is there some misunderstanding about what it really is and what it is meant to be.
A: Well I think country music must evolve, and it has, but there is another force in play. Not all, but a lot of the most popular, so called Country Music that isn’t but is just popular music. It seems the art is gone and money has taken its place. The same has happened with rock music. More mainstream, less individualism, and of course sex is used to openly entice in both genres now. There is no misunderstanding. Real country music follows certain unspoken rules, and traditions. A song might speak of doing wrong, but it acknowledges that it’s wrong. There is often an unspoken, implied reverence for God, and usually a moral to the story.
Q: Who are your favorite musicians today and in the past?
A: Two of my favorites of today are not mainstream country, but are an up and coming part of the Americana genre, and can be seen on youtube. Check out Chris Knight’s Enough Rope, and Stoney Larue’s Empty Glass. In mainstream country, Josh Turner, Alison Krauss, Jamie Johnson and many more seem to be holding with tradition. As far as in the past there are many, but I would say George Jones, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Vern Gosden, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot. I could go on, and on.
Q: What do you like about them in particular?
A: They are all the Real Deal. They play music because they can’t not play music. Their music is honest, and from the heart. They sing and write from experience in life. They raise the bar, and call us all to a higher standard.
Q: . Where you find most of your fans? Do you play in special venues in your local community?
A: The internet has been a great source of finding fans. I live deep in the mountains of Kentucky. This area is rich in good musicians, but until recently, it has been dry as far as alcohol being sold, so there are not many venues to play, other than private gatherings, and a few festivals. I have to travel to be heard. Knoxville and Nashville Tn., Louisville and Lexington Ky. are two to four hours away. I work when I should, and play when I can.
Q. You are part of an international community of musicians. What have you gained in terms of knowledge and appreciation of music in being part of the site called fandalism?
A: Fandalism has been such a blessing to me for many reasons. Not only am I able to get my music heard, I’ve made a lot of fans and friends. We all have the same desire to share our gifts with the world, and that is a noble intention. I think that noble intent is why Fandalism is a success. I have heard so many wonderful talents on Fandalism, such as yourself in Oregon, Nigel Walker in The United Kingdom, and Bobby San Juan in Australia. You can sample the world’s music with the touch of a button! I think the best part of all, is that finally we the people get to choose the cream of the crop. We can all thank the creator of Fandalism Philip Kaplan (Pud) for following through with a great idea! Thanks Pud!
Q: What can we expect of you in the future? What is your ultimate ambition with your music?
A: I am currently writing the songs for a new CD. I hope to begin recording in the fall, and have it completed by this time next year or sooner. As far as my ultimate ambition, I think it’s to make a living doing what I love, singing, and or songwriting and to someday be recognized by my fans, and my peers as a genuine contributor to the sound track of their lives, and the world of music.
Mills is what folks often call “the real deal” and for those who want the good stuff offered on the best country plate in town visit his website at glennleemills.com and at http://fandalism.com/wheelman