You’ve probably already heard the unforgettable voice of Taylor Mills. You might have seen her too: a striking blonde not easily overlooked, even among celebrities and superstars. And now, with her solo debut Lullagoodbye, you’ll be able at last to attach her name to her sound and charisma. For the past few years, Mills has traveled with Brian Wilson, recording on his Grammy-winning epic SMiLE project and performing with him at venues that have ranged from Buckingham Palace to Glastonbury Festival to the Berlin stage for Live Aid 2. No matter where they’ve gone, she has been easy to pick out, as the only female member of his ensemble. She’s performed as well with Billy Joel and shared the stage with the likes of Elton John, John Legend, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Sir Paul McCartney. In this heady company she is no stranger, known for her powerful yet disciplined vocals and pulse-quickening presence. Yet her moment has come to rise beyond these starry circles and shine in the wider world. Lullagoodbye is her ticket to the kind of fame she has long deserved – and your introduction to an artist whose music makes a difference. The liquid, silvery imagery of “Raven” (sweetened by harmonies from Brian Wilson, one of his two appearances on the album), the irresistible chorus hook on “Genie in the Bottle” (featuring another all-star guest shot, from Tommy Shaw of Styx), the intriguing arrangement and imagery of “Keep the Saints from Leaving,” showcasing Taylor’s ability to cover every corner of vocal dynamics and lyrical imagery…On every track, in fact, Lullagoodbye is a triumph for a seasoned newcomer and a stunning introduction to one of the best-kept secrets in music today. It’s also not what you would expect at all to hear from a Midwestern girl with cheerleading, dance, clear-minded ambition, and a golden voice mingling among her roots. Raised in Des Moines, the daughter of loving but strict Baptist parents, Taylor developed her taste for melody as a child. Her listening leaned toward pop and R&B, from the Carpenters to Roberta Flack – singers who tempered technique with personal shades of soul. Taylor knew from the start that she wanted to pursue just one goal: to bring her talent for singing to its fullest possible flower. And so, as quickly as possible after high school, she packed up and headed to the nearest big city that seemed to offer a way to chase that dream. She arrived in Chicago, knowing no one but made connections quickly. Fresh from Iowa, she took her place in a 17 piece band among four more experienced backup singers, all of them grounded in black gospel and R&B. “I listened like crazy and stole everything I heard from them,” Taylor remembers, laughing. This lead to gigs around the city with other bands including the award-winning jazz saxophonist, Steve Cole, whose Atlantic Records debut was number one on the jazz charts. What Taylor learned set her up for the biggest break of her career. When Cole’s drummer, Todd Sucherman, heard that Brian Wilson was looking to hire a female singer for his touring band – specifically, Sucherman remembers, “…someone who was pretty and could singer her butt off” – he knew that Taylor was the perfect fit. That’s all it took to bring her to Wilson’s home outside of Chicago for an audition. “I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “Even though I knew the ‘beachier’ stuff he’d done with the Beach Boys, I wasn’t at all aware of Pet Sounds, SMiLE, or any of the really great stuff that he’d created over the years.” And so, while she might have expected to hear “Surfer Girl” coming over her headphones, she was asked instead to sing along to “Surf’s Up,” one of the most enigmatic, difficult, and gorgeous works in Wilson’s repertoire. “I’d never heard the song in my life,” she says, “but they let me take a few minutes to listen to it. I memorized what I heard and sang my part, and the music director was like, ‘Yeah, I think we want you.’” Her professional association with Wilson endures to this day. So do her personal ties to Sucherman, now her husband. Eventually, once she had established herself with Wilson, they began working together on her solo album. Progress was admittedly slow, as they began their lives together, moved first to Los Angeles and more recently to Austin, and juggled their schedules, with Taylor often on the road with Wilson and Sucherman behind the drums with Styx. Over time, though, they assembled the material, most of it written or co-written by Scott Bennett, also a member of Wilson’s band. (Three tracks were written or co-written by Nicholas Markos, a childhood friend of Sucherman’s and a member of the group Bee; the last one, the wistfully romantic “Wish Me Well,” is a rarity from the Blue Nile’s catalog.) Sucherman recorded the drum parts; Bennett handled everything else. The results, then, are a true labor of love, professionally executed yet intimate – a perfect complement to Taylor’s strengths as a singer. “All of these songs have great melodies and touch something inside of me,” she explains. “But maybe the most amazing thing about them is how they fit together to describe an arc of relationships, from beginning to end. Lullagoodbye isn’t exactly a story album, but it does tell a story about honesty, finding yourself, finding and losing love – things we can all relate to.” Beginning, appropriately, with a visit to the “Center of Your Heart,” visiting moments of doubt and indecision (“Anything”), loss and reaffirmation (“Hello Sun”), proclaiming independence with power and passion (“Consolation Prize”) yet confessing to the wisdom that comes with being wounded in love (“Disappear”) and admitting to ambiguities that may never find resolution (“cradle me with arms of weakness,” the plea to “Cradle Me”), Lullagoodbye takes us through the highs and lows of life, with one exceptional singer as our guide. You’ll see Taylor again, to be sure, with Brian Wilson and other headliners in years to come. But from the first strains of Lullagoodbye she steps as well into the spotlight on her own. Take a good, long look. Open your ears to an exceptional talent. Say hello to Lullagoodbye … and let the secret out: Taylor Mills is here to stay.
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