Darby Mills, best known as vocalist with Headpins and now Darby Mills Project expands on her singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
Cher, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt, Ann Wilson and once I joined my first band at 17, I was introduced to Janis Joplin. However, my earliest influence was my Dad! As for wanting to be a singer in a band, no, I thought I’d be an actor!
Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
Yes!! I had auditioned for many bands, some not so notable! In 1978 I was 6 months out of High School working at a Record Store when an audition call came in two cities away. They were a Dance Band from NYC. Thirty or so singers came to the cattle call and I ended up with the gig. We toured for a few months but unfortunately Funk/Disco, as fun as those shows were, was just not where my heart was. While out on the road with ‘Business Before Pleasure’ I ran into and joined “Steelback”, Classic Rock baby! One year later I was offered the job with the Headpins. My career jump-started pretty fast!
You have appeared on a number of albums. Do you have a favourite and why?
I do have a favourite. ‘Flying Solo’, it’s been renamed, re-mastered and re-released. It was originally called ‘Never Look Back’, recorded in 1990 on the Warner Music Label. By 1992 radio was swinging way left and Warner chose to cancel my contract. These songs were and are still the most demanding vocal performances of my career. In 1993 we reformed and rebuilt the Headpins, without Too Loud (RIP), and toured for the next 24 years. In 2014, for the first time in years I pulled out ‘Never Look Back’ and cranked it up. Female singers where back on the radio and I was starting to realize time and just how much there is left. The CD held up and I started thinking this could be it. Thankfully management so wisely retained my rights to the CD as a concession to dropping the contract. In 2015 it was re-mastered and re-released.
You appear to have some gigs lined up in Canada these days. Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
Absolutely. I’m now 62 years old and I’ve been hitting the stage since I was 17. I’d be lost without it!
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip-top shape all these years?
I see you were involved in teaching Tae Kwon Do. Do you still teach and is this good for your fitness for live work?
I trained at Tae Kwon Do for twelve or more years, my family all trained. Both my sons and I are Black Belts or higher. I also ended up teaching for 7 years and YES, it totally helps with body strength and stamina. I left the TKD School when the decision to leave the Headpins and go Solo became unavoidable. It was time to focus on what I was here for.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
An endless number!!!
You are mostly known for being the singer in Headpins. Is there a possibility that you could work with them again in the future?
Unfortunately the split was not cordial, both parties have moved on. As so many bands of the past eras have started to do, replace and move on. It won’t be long before there are no original members left in any 80’s Rock bands. There are Classic established bands in Canada where the original members have decided to retire but they have leased out the band name for others to tour on. Don’t let any shows you’d like to see go by if you can help it, tic toc……
Love your version of “Get What You Give”. Do you enjoy singing different styles of music?
I do! I formed a local band here in the Okanagan Valley. We cover songs from the 60’s and 70’s long forgotten by most. I’m having a blast singing material from those days, so very different for my voice. It’s a fantastic group of seasoned players, where you grab a glass of fine wine on a sunny evening, lay back, and just dream of happy times. Can’t beat it!
Ballads or Rockers, which do you prefer?
You play “Trick Of The Light” from the album Circle Of Friends which was conceived by our editor Bruce Mee. How was the experience for you being involved in that project?
‘Trick Of The Light’ is HUGE, imho. I’ve found that my voice is naturally getting deeper as I age and this song fits right into what my next venture is aiming for. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet with Bruce as I recorded the vocals in Vancouver. The team at Escape Music did a fantastic job putting this project together. Cheers Khalil. I so LOVE this tune. It’s DMP’s show opener and it kills!
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK?
I’d love to make it back to the UK. I hear the crowds still like to ROCK in your world!
How is the music scene in Canada at the moment?
The politics of Dancin!!!!!!!!
What’s next for Darby Mills Project? Can we expect new music?
Yes, new music is coming together. DMP has just finished filming two new videos. We’re excited about both. One is a song I’ve been stumped writing for years and I’ve finally decided to let it out. It should be finished and released by the New Year, if not sooner. There are special guest performances on this as well. This is my third effort at Scripting, Directing, Filming and Editing a video. On a whim we booked a Green Screen and went for it. I have learned to do almost all the jobs related to this business having been locked away for two years. Who says you can’t teach an old dog……………………..cheers, let’s do this!
Interview by Stuart Dryden