Interview – Joshua Mills

By: Kiah Kaltiainen

Joshua Mills is a recording artist from London, Ontario who has previously released 5 studio albums, along with 2 live albums. With Christmas just around the corner, Joshua has spent the past year working on a brand new Christmas album. In order to be able to afford to record and release this album, Mills took to kickstarter this summer to help raise funds for the project. His album became the #1 most-funded Canadian Holiday album on Kickstarter, and the 6th most funded Canadian music project of all time on the site. We were lucky enough to be able to partake in an e-mail interview with Joshua to get more information on the album.

How would you describe your style of music to someone who hasn’t heard you before?

JM: Well, I guess I’m a unique blend of a lot of musical inspiration that I’ve had in my life. I grew up in a musical family with my Mom and Dad both being a part of a gospel singing group. So all of my early musical influence came directly from that church atmosphere listening to people like Keith Green and Amy Grant. I loved the sincerity in their music. It was simple and honest, and I would like to think that’s what my music is about too.

When you started this project on Kickstarter, you had a $33,000 goal set in place. Did you ever imagine that you would have exceeded that goal by almost $10,000? What was your reaction to the amount of money raised once the deadline finally came?

JM: The goal I set for raising funds for this project was huge. And to be honest, I struggled with trying to set the amount when we were preparing to do the Kickstarter. When we first began recording, the overall budget for this Christmas album seemed within reach… but then I wanted more production, and more voices, and more studio time, and another song, and soon the expenses began to balloon beyond what we could’ve ever imagined. It went from being a $30,000 album to well over $80,000… which is MASSIVE for an indie project. So… that’s what initially led us to Kickstarter, we knew that we needed the help of crowd funding in order to complete the project that we had begun. But when I looked on the site, it seemed like every holiday album had a goal set somewhere between $5,000-$15,000. We needed more than that in order to finish this CD… so that’s when we took a major risk… and set a huge goal… and prayed like crazy… and waited to see if anyone would come along side us and support what we were doing. You know, Kickstarter is all or nothing… so it’s very scary when you set such a huge goal, because if we raised $25,000 that’s a lot of money, but unless you reach the 33k, you won’t go home with anything! We risked it all, and like I said, we seriously prayed like crazy. We were amazed to discover that so many people were willing to believe in this music, get behind the project, and generously support it. We reached our initial goal about halfway through the campaign, and that felt like a massive relief… but then I was amazed when the money continued to be donated… you know we had set some additional stretch goals and we came short of meeting them by $500!! But I wasn’t disappointed at all. We raised enough money, actually almost $10,000 extra, to finish the project and do it with excellence… I guess you could say it was a “Christmas Miracle”!!! Haha. I think social media and crowdfunding are great options for Canadian indie artists. These platforms are opening up the ability for really great music to get really great support.

Can you share with us a bit about how you decided that you wanted to record a Christmas album?

JM: It’s been a desire of mine for quite some time to work on a Christmas project… actually I had been talking about it for 7 years or so with my producer Jack Shocklee… and everything just aligned this year for me to be able to get in the studio to do it. Some of my very best childhood memories are around the holiday season. I’ve always loved Christmas music and the compelling emotions that are connected with those songs. People seem to have a spiritual connection with Christmas music… it makes them feel happy… experience joy… gives them peace… and my music is always deeply spiritual, so it just feels like a natural fit for me to be doing this.

Will this album consist of well-known Christmas favourites, or have you written some original songs as well?

JM: Although I was inspired by the classic holiday records of my childhood, I purposely didn’t want to make an album that had already been done before. So when we made our final selections for the “Christmas Miracle” album, I purposely chose to record classic songs like “The Christmas Waltz” and “Marshmallow World” and others that haven’t been overplayed, yet bring you so much joy to sing-a-long with. This album is all about bringing those miracle-feelings back to Christmas! I was also able to write two original Christmas songs on the CD, one of them called “Gift of Love” was co-written with my wife. It’s a great song that reminds us of the reason why we celebrate the holidays. I’m thankful for the gift of life, the gift of my family, the gift of peace. It’s a miracle. I think the listener will be able to relate and hear this song speaking to them in so many different ways as well.

What was the process like when it came to deciding what songs to include on this album, whether they were covers or your own?

JM: Like I said, I grew up in a very musical household. From the time that we began to set-up Christmas decorations in early November until the week of New Years, we always had a holiday record playing in the house. One of my mother’s favorite Christmas records was the Carpenter’s Christmas Album, it was something that was always in the Christmastime rotation at our home. And I remember the way that music filled our home with happiness and made me feel so light-hearted, like everything was going to be okay with the world. So when I began selecting songs for this “Christmas Miracle” album, I went right back to those nostalgic sounds that inspired such hope during the Christmas season. I wanted to bring those magical-sounds and miracle-feelings back to Christmas for the next generation! In the process of selecting the cover songs, I found myself being taken into a place of inspiration to write a couple original tunes as well. So this Christmas Miracle album is a unique mix of old familiar songs alongside some new ones that I hope will become a part of many people’s new holiday traditions!

What was the most difficult aspect about putting this album together? (Was it the funding, choosing songs, recording, etc)

JM: There were a lot of obstacles along the way… finding the funding for the project, combing through long lists of my favorite holiday songs in order to settle upon a few (which by the way, the album was originally supposed to be ten tracks and it grew to a total of fifteen!), but probably the most difficult aspect was being able to find time to get into the studio to actually record. I keep a very busy traveling schedule… so it required booking studio time in a lot of different locations. The majority of the tracking was done in Nashville at ShaeShoc studios, and most of my vocals were recorded at Capitol Records in Hollywood… but we also had to use studios in Orlando, Tampa, Vancouver and London, Ontario. So even though it got hectic at times, I got to meet a lot of really great people on the journey. I’m very thankful for the entire process… and even more thankful that it’s completed! Ha.

When can fans expect the release of this album and where can they buy it?

JM: The “Christmas Miracle” album is being released on October 14, 2014 and the first single, It Snowed, goes for radio adds on October 17th. It’s available for download on iTunes and Amazon MP3… as well as being able to purchase a physical copy of the CD or songbook on my website:

Here at Canadian Beats, we like to throw in a few fun questions to help the fans and our readers get to know you better, and keeping with the Christmas theme of our interview, I have to start by asking: What is your favourite Christmas song?

JM: I love “The Christmas Waltz”. That’s why it’s the first song on the album. There’s something so beautiful about that song… the way it makes me feel at Christmastime… and when we recorded it, I wanted it to sound like a music box opening up, inviting us into a winter wonderland of song!

What is your favourite Christmas tradition or memory?

JM: My most favorite tradition was walking with my family through Victoria Park in downtown London, Ontario every Christmas Eve, looking at the twinkling lights and holiday displays. We did that every year when I was younger… and I still continue that tradition with my family now (I have a 12 year old son and 2 year old daughter) and we go to look at the Christmas lights every Christmas Eve before tucking them into bed. But… my favorite holiday memory… oh, gosh, this may sound horrible, but it was hilarious when my sister Katie accidentally drank the turkey grease that was sitting in a plastic cup, thinking it was the holiday punch! Most definitely favorite holiday memory… haha.

Who are some of your favourite Canadian artists/bands right now?

JM: I came across a Canadian artist named Meaghan Smith on youtube a couple years ago, and I just fell in love with her music. Oddly enough she was born in the same hometown as mine… London, Ontario. Her song “It Snowed” was added to the “Christmas Miracle” album very early on… I knew I wanted it to be a part of my holiday project, and now it’s the first single being released from the CD. Of course, Bryan Adams and Michael Buble will always be some Canadian favorites as well.

What is the most surprising song on your ipod or phone that most people would not expect you to have?

JM: Let me check… I’ve got “Hands Up (Give Me Your Love)” by Ottawan… ha ha… keeping it old school! Memories of the roller skating rink!

We all have those songs that we hear and then they just get stuck in our heads. What was the last song that was stuck in your head?

JM: The entire Frozen soundtrack. “Let It Go” has been stuck in my 2-year-old daughters head this entire year… it’s requested everytime she rides in my car! So… it gets stuck in my head as well! But, that’s part of being a good Dad… right?!

Before we finish up, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

JM: Check out the new Christmas Miracle album… and give it away as a gift to your friends and family this holiday season! Thank you for all of your support, you guys are amazing! Also… thank you Canadian Beats… I think you guys are amazing too! Keep up the good work.

Joshua Mills on social media:

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