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Paralegals Rock! (And Terry Mills Has an Album to Prove It)
By Jeannie Sapp Johnston
Terry Mills launched her debut album last year and is on the verge of releasing a music video, but she isn’t quitting her day job.
Mills has worked as a paralegal the past 30 years but has dabbled in music since she was a child, singing with her five siblings on road trips, playing the piano and, as a teenager, taking on the guitar to learn “House of the Rising Sun.”
“I think my mom was the one who (thought) that would be good education for her kids, to get a good background in music,” said Mills, who is originally from El Paso. “I think having a background in music and piano helps you understand how things are structured; it’s a great foundation. I’m really glad I had to take piano first. For me it was always about, ‘Wow I really like that song, how can I learn that?’ ”
Mills’ day job also fulfills her craving for challenge, she said.
“I’m not really a morning person, so if we schedule an 8 o’clock meeting, I’ll be there, but I’m not sure how much of me will be there,” Mills said. “I like the challenge of the job; it’s been a great job for me. I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve worked for a lot of people who have helped me develop as a paralegal.”
Still, she said, it’s a different environment than the artsy scene of which she’s a part as a folk singer.
“I work in a very conservative world, and I play in a creative world,” she said. “Sometimes we get a little off balance in one, but I think everybody has a left brain and right brain; it’s just being able to use them (both) and use them well.”
For Mills, that hasn’t been a problem. The two worlds in which she lives complement each other, she said.
“When I work and I’m so tired but I have a music rehearsal that’s 2˝ hours (long), it’s amazing how much better I feel after that rehearsal because music unknots everything,” Mills said. “In music, rarely do I ever multitask. You stay there and ride that melody and feel good.”
For the past five years, Mills has been a member of Acoustix with fellow musicians Kelly Wilson, an obstetrician, and Mark Stevenson, who is in a number of other local bands.
“It’s a very minimalist sort of band, and we’ll play a lot of different genres, but we’ll play a stripped down version of it to see if we can do it,” she said. “I play some of my songs with them.”
Acoustix celebrated its anniversary with a party at Miss Hattie’s in July, Mills said, following the June release of her music video for “Psycho Cat,” from her album “Man Behind the Curtain.”
A link to the YouTube video has been posted on Mills’ website, terrymillsmusic.com, “and I’m really, really hopeful that it’ll go viral and bring in interest, that people will download ‘Psycho Cat’ on iTunes,” she said. “With the Internet, you have to figure out how to get your songs out there.”
With the band’s anniversary and the launch of her music video, “it seems like everything is coming together at once,” Mills said. “I’m really excited about both of those things musically.
“I loved music, I liked playing, and I never really set out to do anything with it. But over the last four or five years, it’s just been like, ‘Why not? Why not try that? Why not see where that goes?’ ”
Mills’ philosophy of not expecting things to go a certain way ? coupled with the fact that she doesn’t have to survive off her music ? have aided her well as a musician, she said.
“When you are a professional musician, it’s hard when music is the thing that has to make you money,” she said. “But when it’s something that you’re able to do, it’s something I feel like is an expression of my creativity or my perspective ? there’s not the expectation that it has to be anything” more.
Mills writes songs, she said, because she feels she has something to say.
“I read somewhere a writer said once, that ‘I don’t so much write the songs as I wait for them,’ ” Mills said. “I have had ideas that have been inside my head for years that I really like, but I don’t really know what to do with it yet. Sometimes I’ll work with them and sometimes the whole idea comes and it’s like, ‘OK, I know exactly what I’m doing.’
“It’s about trying to express what I saw happen or what I feel about a certain subject matter. Sometimes it’s as silly as a cat; sometimes it’s as deep as the way people hurt each other with words. It can be very abstract or concrete. It’s trying to be truthful about how life is.”
There’s freedom in not having a deadline for writing songs, she said.
“I may have to work a little harder on this one, or this isn’t working and I may have to scrap it,” she said. “The whole point for me is, don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to say.”
For more information about Terry, please visit her website.
Photography: Jennifer Rios
Source: Go San Angelo
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