"I dreamed I was Richard Pryor/Running on fire down the Sunset Strip/And as the flames burned brighter, my head grew lighter/And I watched the flesh fall from my fingertips," so starts Wall to Wall Sessions, the latest from Chicago singer/songwriter Chris Mills. It's a bold and auspicious introduction to an album that is large in stature but intimate and fragile in nature. Recorded live with as many as 17 players, Wall to Wall Sessions' ambitious sound is staggering—bringing to mind the finest moments of modern-day Wilco, and nicely book ended with the wit and prose of Mills' clever songwriting. While his current general obscurity might allow you to see him in small venues, if there is any hope and fairness in this world, Wall to Wall Sessions will propel Mills to a much more prosperous future.
Chris Mills performs on Wed Nov 16 at the Towne Lounge.
There is a real epic nature to these new songs—what was the motivation to move so far beyond your previous, and more intimate, work?
I always want to do something new with each record. After Silver Line I started playing live shows with a 10-piece band, with full string and horn sections. I started to get addicted to the grandeur of it all and I think the lyrics started to reflect that. But I don't know that I would say that the writing is any more or less intimate than my previous work. Perhaps it's just less self-involved.
You had up to 17 musicians recording with you on this record—was it ever difficult to manage that many people all at one time?
Actually, it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would. Logistically, it only hurt us in rehearsal. There was a giant snowstorm the entire two days leading up to recording so we were never able to get the whole band together until we actually started to roll tape. But everyone was just committed to having a good time and trying to put in the best performances possible.
Between producing this album and running your own record label, you seem to have embraced a real DIY aesthetic. Was this intentional or just something you had to do?
I've never been very business savvy, but I like to keep as much control over what I do as possible. I also just think the music business is totally fickle and fucked, and haven't really met anyone who actually knows how anything works, but I've met a lot of assholes who think they do, and I'd rather not have to deal with them.