One of Blacksburg’s own, Kat Mills, juggles being not only a mother, but also a singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Mills, a longtime New River Valley favorite, will be performing at Gillie’s Late Night tonight at 7 p.m.
As a 20-year veteran of the music scene, her dream is to sing back-up in a national tour, but for now, Mills enjoys being a “big fish in a small pond.”
Mills has played at Gillie’s many times in the past, and according to Brittany Stone, the restaurant’s manager, the singer and venue are a “natural pairing.” Mills can be seen around Blacksburg grabbing a bite to eat with her daughter, Ida, and occasionally performing at the farmers market.
Because she has been singing since childhood, Mills has a varied musical background.
She has been involved with choirs, school bands and musicals, and even started playing the guitar at 13 years old.
“That’s when it shifted to something real,” Mills said.
Mills continued to dig deeper into reading music, playing several instruments, and studying harmony, composition and music history. However, she said her most important lessons have come through experience.
While in high school, she began writing songs and started her solo, acoustic career. Early in Mills’ career, she had a breakthrough after creating the song “Telephone Man.” At the time, Mills felt she had found her voice.
Quitting her job in 2000 to devote her life to music, Mills’ choice to go solo was based on practicality, because there would be no schedules to work out or money to divvy.
However, Mills has worked with others in the past. She was in a folk duo in high school, a disco band in college and a bluegrass band for five years.
Working solo and with other musicians, Mills has toured extensively along the east coast, performing anywhere from coffee houses to larger venues, such as FloydFest.
Mills said she enjoyed aspects of both the intimate nature of a small setting and the screaming fans of the latter.
“I love being wherever it is, as long as people show up and are respectful,” Mills said. “I want to feel a connection to listeners and to the divine, no matter the venue.”
She said her pipe dream is to open for a big-name performer such as Tom Petty on a national tour but still feels blessed for the family, community and music she has in her life.
Mills’ greatest influence is Bob Dylan.
“It sounds cliche, I know,” Mills said. “Dylan’s lyrics take you places. You will find wisdom there.”
From her days at Vassar, north of New York City, to her life as a mother, which put her music on the back-burner for awhile, Mills loves the life she has made for herself.
“My daughter has given me a new life I never would have known. She’s teaching me to be a better person every day,” Mills said.
For now, Mills is gearing up for yet another performance tonight.
“Each (song) is like a little piece of my time on this planet, and I like getting to live those moments again when I sing them.”