Train of Thoughts

Mills

Train of Thoughts

In essence, Mills Turner’s story is musical folklore. Born and raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, an hour north of Nashville, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter moved to Los Angeles in 2019, met a manager outside a gig he was kicked out of, and signed to RCA Records—which eventually led to a full-fledged career and a Justin Bieber cosign. Of course, none of that would be possible if his music lacked distinction. Inspired by his new home of Laurel Canyon (once the residence of legendary performers Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, and Brian Wilson), Mills placed value on meticulous musicality above all else, as evidenced on Train of Thoughts, his ambitious second EP. “I've always used the metaphor of the train of thought for songwriting,” Mills tells Apple Music. “You hop on a train of thought and you go until you can't think anymore.” Luckily, none of the songs are rushed, from the confessional acoustic ballad “Hollow” to the seductive R&B of “Slide Thru” and its riff that would make John Mayer jealous. “Our country is divided. There isn’t a lot of hope. I want to be a bridge—making music that people can listen to when they’re feeling bad,” Mills explains. “Ultimately, I want to bring people together that otherwise wouldn’t talk or connect. There’s always similarities to be found.” Below, Mills breaks down Train of Thoughts, track by track.
“Light It” “This song came when I was back home over quarantine. I was living with my parents, and it was a weird thing to come back to; me and my dad got into it a little bit. So I wrote ‘Light It’ in my room at my piano. Something else takes over me in those moments, that frustration. There’s a kid who’s still in high school [in Bowling Green], and he told me, 'I've been going through it. And the song broke me down.' And this kid is an athlete, a football player in Kentucky. That just means the world; it’s breaking the norm. I want to get kids to open their mind to love and understanding.”
“Central Station” “I sing all those background vocals. That’s my favorite part of recording music: listening through and seeing what needs to be highlighted. The way I make music is all based on feeling. I don't really know what I'm playing when I'm playing it. I'm not very smart theory-wise, and so the background vocals are super crucial.”
“Hollow” “I wrote this with Sammy Witte. He has a cool house and studio in Beachwood Canyon, which is a similar vibe to Laurel Canyon. We were sitting in there and I was like, ‘Dude, it's a beautiful day. Let's grab acoustic guitars and go on your back porch.’ I like being vulnerable when I'm writing songs; that's when the best emotions are captured.”
“Creations” “‘Creations’ was me in the garage, just feeling things. Everybody has something to learn about each other and everybody has similarities. That led to the hook, where it’s like, ‘We're all human at the end of the day, have a butterfly of a conversation.’ I'm trying to plant a seed in people's heads to connect.”
“Slide Thru” “I love R&B music and soul music and music that makes you feel things. We put out the first single, ‘Hollow,’ and I wanted to show that I can do things other than acoustic ballads. I wanted to show my versatility as an artist, that I can have a good time and sing on an R&B track as well. This song, my brother actually wrote in the shower. He got out mid-shower, called me, and sang it.”
“Wild Things” “This is a special, special song to me. My brother wrote the song when I was a sophomore in high school. I always loved it. I would forget about it and come back to it. He pitched it to a few artists, Miguel and ZAYN, but eventually he just called me and said, ‘I want you to cut “Wild Things.”’ I had a session with Rykeyz, threw in my guitar parts, and we made it that day.”
“Fight Alone” “I was in a session for another song when my friend Jonny [Shorr] started playing the guitar part for ‘Fight Alone.’ Those first lines—‘I could take you to my mama's house/Don't be scared to run your mouth/She loves you with every ounce’—came out in one sentence. We stopped what we were doing and finished writing it completely. Then we brought in our friend Will Van Zandt, and his friend named Tiger Darrow, a really talented string arranger. It feels so open and free and good.”
“The End” “I was at my house alone. All my roommates were gone. During the day, I would sit on the front porch and read and drink coffee and try to get through the day, as we all were doing in March of 2020. I was really into Bob Dylan at the time. I thought, ‘People aren't writing songs like this anymore’—good folk songs you can enjoy around a campfire. It’s telling the kids of my generation that there's more to worry about than Friday nights. If I can plant a seed in anybody, it's to want more out of life and to chase their passion.”

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