out perform // outlast // out work
Music. It is the phantom force that weaves through our minds and transports us outside of ourselves. Music can sway our thoughts and emotions before we even know what’s happened. Airwaves flow around us like ocean currents as we listen in our cars or homes or events. No matter what your favorite style, people across the world can agree on one thing: music is magic.
Back in 2012, I decided to take a break from popular music and start exploring the artists that didn’t play on my “Today’s Hits” station. I wanted to learn not only about new artists, but also about the process of making music itself. I wanted to dissect it and get a clear understanding of the anatomy of a song. I started asking “What do I like about the background sound?” and “What do I like about the lyrics written here?” After all, most of the songs we hear today are actually a compilation of work by the producer, the singer, and the writer. It was on this journey that I fell into the alien landscape that is Spence Mills’ work. Today, Spence’s YouTube channel is exploding with interest. Over 13,000 people are current subscribers, and his instrumentals have raked in nearly 2 MILLION views. A mere one song later, I was hooked. Spence’s music, so far, has been exclusively instrumental. He produces in a variety of different styles, from sampling popular songs such as Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” to creating original beats from scratch. Some tracks are electronic. Some are 808 and piano. Some are aggressive and some are reflective, allowing for a wide and diverse fan base.
After the incredible response we received during the “Out of the Woodwork” Holiday Contest, I finally gathered up the courage to try to contact this amazing artist. The fan inside me was dying for a response, but I truly did not expect one. When you’ve got thousands of fans, chances are your inbox is usually full. Imagine my surprise when I wake up to a message from the Wizard himself! Spence was by far the most cooperative artist that I have ever worked with. He was humble and thorough, asking questions and providing insights into who he is and what he’s about. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
As all Spence Mills fans know, this man is all about the people. Unlike most producers, Mills does not add tags to his music. Instead, he encourages his fans to use his instrumentals to promote themselves, and actively looks into the work they’ve done with it. He does not sell his work, but offers it all to the public for free. Macklemore would be proud.
My curiosity and Spence’s cooperative attitude eventually led to quite the interview. Ever wanted to know more about him? Your dreams are about to come true!
[Chancy] “What are you currently promoting?”
[Spence] “Right now I’m working on my first full length instrumental album entitled ‘If The Devil Wrote Songs’. Up until now I’ve released instrumentals as they’ve been finished, and then compiled them into compilation albums. I’ve wanted to do this for the greater part of my life now, and I’m excited that it’s finally coming. I didn’t want to just do a handful of unrelated songs and call it a record, because that’s not how I think albums should be made. I’ve always believed that an album should tell a story. There’s a definite cohesion and concept behind ‘IDWS’.”
[Chancy] “What is your vision for your work? What’s your slant on things?”
[Spence] “Music helps me vent out emotion. It lets me get lost in my imagination as I get caught up in whatever track I’m working with. It’s really an escape from the world. Even if I’m unsatisfied with what I make after a week, which I usually am, it still helped me as I was making it. That was enough for me for years, until I finally mustered up the courage to upload my work online for people to openly critique. Surprisingly, the majority for feedback was positive. I get messages from strangers from all over the world telling me how my song helped cure their writers block. That’s an insane reality, and that’s what I aim for most. I don’t strive for fame, and I don’t make music that is going to shoot me up the charts. I make music for people to connect with and make their own stories over. People ask me all of the time to make more “true” rap beats, but that’s not what I do. I think the genre needs to go a whole new direction that’s less egotistical and more personal, at least in the mainstream. I hate what sells and I’d love to be able to break that mold. Most of the songs I hear on the radio could be titled ‘Unrelated Reasons Why I’m Better Than Everybody.’ A hefty majority of the verses are random thoughts strung together. Simile, simile, metaphor, punchline. I’m not a fan of that format at all, but that’s just me.”
Spence also agreed to give us a few trivia facts about himself:
* [Spence] “I’ve had no musical training outside of the internet. I first started producing when I was 16, with just a copy of Fruity Loops. Until I was 18, I manually drew in every note. I eventually started using my keyboard to record, and now I have no idea how I ever had the patience to do it without one.”
* [Spence] ”Spence Mills is not my real name. Spencer Mills was the name of the road I grew up on until I was 15. The reason for dropping the R was due to a typo when I made the artwork for my first video, and I decided to keep it.”
* [Spence] ”My first release online isn’t on YouTube. It’s on ReverbNation.com under the name Spencer Mills.”
* [Spence] ”I made 1.8 gigabytes of music before finally beginning to release anything.”
Equipment Spence uses:
-Yamaha HS8 Monitors
– Axiom Pro 49 Keyboard
– Presonus Audiobox
– Beats Studio Pro headphones and Sony MDR-XB700′s
– Korg MicroKorg
– Cheap condenser microphone
Links to the world of Spence Mills:
Fans will also be excited to hear that Spence’s new track “Hailstorm” can be found over on the “Exclusives” tab, right here on chancyjohnson.com! This is the only place you will be able to listen to it until it is officially released in one week! It pays to read this blog.
A huge thank you goes to Spence Mills for allowing me to write this article about him. Always a fan, Spence! I would also like to thank everyone who has enabled writers like me and artists like Spence Mills to pursue the things we love through their support. You have truly blessed us.
Feeling good, I’m Chancy Johnson, here to bring them~
Out of the Woodwork.