LC Artist Spotlight
By Karynn Brown
Omaha to Philadelphia transplant, CJ Mills, returns to the Lincoln stage with her online performance at Lincoln Calling 2020.
Set to be streamed from the Lincoln Calling website on Saturday, October 3rd at 9:00pm, the soul-jazz-electronic artist is ready to make her mark on this festival.
CJ Mills started her music career in Omaha, quickly rising to the top of the scene with her unique and powerful voice. She experimented with different styles and expressions, finally ending up in a full band that boomed with jazz, soul, and roots rock. However, since she and her partner moved to Philadelphia, PA in 2018, Mills has been striking out as a solo artist, and doing everything she can to turn heads in the big city. The move came at the perfect time for Mills, as she was ready to expand her fanbase and creative horizons. “Nebraska was welcoming for me, helped make me the artist I am today by allowing me to make mistakes and grow into the musician I wanted to become.” she says, but when it came time to move, Mills had to ask herself “what’s next?”
Mills notes that her recent inspiration came from Philadelphia itself. The city is a collective of college students, visual artists, and musicians that put a lot of do-it-yourself energy into everything. Mills quickly learned to create a name for herself by working with new skills of music production and marketing.
“[In a city like Philly,] you can’t wait around for someone to say yes to you, so I started producing my own stuff.” says Mills.
Producing her own stuff began to look like Mills at an open mic night with a guitar, bass, and looping pedal. She mixed songs live on stage and became a solo female performer doing the work of a full band and producer. Her soul and jazz style expanded to include the loops and electronic beats she was teaching herself to produce.
Mills latest two singles, “Focused” and “Hard Words” are the result of her new Philadelphia skills. She even created her own album art, which for her adds another layer of expression and creativity to the music. These two singles are preparations for her soon-to-be-released EP.
While most comfortable feeding off the energy of a live crowd, Mills is excited for the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Calling online. She loves the idea of being able to reconnect with her Omaha fans, family, and friends through the online platform, and bring a bit of Nebraska to Philadelphia as well.
“We need to be resilient to be artists,” she says, drawing inspiration for the breakneck speed at which venues turned from live to online shows. “It was almost as if the scene evolved overnight,” she says, attributing that sentiment to the DIY energy of Philly and its residents’ need to keep pushing forward. That hustling energy is exactly what helped transform Mills into the solo artistry she showcases now.
Lincoln Calling will be one of a few live streamed performances CJ Mills has done this year, and her first show since returning to live performances outdoors in Philadelphia last week. Catch her set on the Lincoln Calling website on Saturday, October 3rd at 9:00pm CST.
Learn more about CJ at https://linktr.ee/itscjmills.