Conducting interviews with musicians in my Snug Harbor coffee shop is simply wonderful. For one, its a perfect opportunity to have an uninterrupted, one-to-one conversation with a talented individual. I have learned about their musical background and influences, if they’ve performed in real life and if they are songwriters, as well.
I had recently caught up with MillTycoon, who had been a guest on my former chat when it was held on Terric. I had accepted an invitation to one of his Second Life gigs and returned it with an interview request. Mill is quite talented as a pianist and he interacts well with his audience.
In real life, Mill calls California home and he told me that he’s been performing since he was 13 years old. He doesn’t remember a time without music. Those early classical lessons from 7 to 12 years old and jazz from 12 to 16, were taken with a little coaxing by his parents. As for his love of musical theater, “The Sound of Music,” and “Annie” were his favorites musicals and still hold a special place in his heart.
How it began….”I could play the piano, so I managed to get some performances in a children’s theater and at parties,” he explained, tapping into his memories of those early years. “Mostly things were set up by my family in one way or another. I always could play by ear, so when left to my own devices, I would also play rock. Bruce Springsteen was a big favorite of mine at the time.”
Then came compiling his mental database of music…Firing up his playlist were cassette tapes for birthday presents and listening to the Top 100 popular songs on the radio.
“I could play every big hit on the radio from 1984 by the end of the year,” he said.
Though, when it came to advancing his education, music wasn’t his major. He focused on American Studies as an undergrad.
Mill stated, “Sort of a general Liberal Arts degree, which covered classes in American movies, history, literature, demographics, and a music minor, which was sort of curtailed. And then I got a PhD in Music years later.”
He explained that his education was one of the rare cases of a student who didn’t have a music major degree as an undergrad, then decided to apply for a PhD. His master’s degree was included into that larger degree, so he had nothing until he had a PhD.
“I taught as a TA (teacher’s assistant) for the university for several years, then some community classes, as well as piano and voice lessons, which I still teach,” he told me.
Mill stated that he heard about musicians performing in Second Life, but he hadn’t explored it until his girlfriend wanted to come in-world to sell some of her merchandise.
He doesn’t recall how he began performing here just that he did a search for venues with a piano and started asking the owners if they needed a piano player. He confessed that it took three months before someone hired him. His girlfriend and Kyle Bronsdon, a piano player, taught him the technical aspects in order to perform in a virtual world.
“They helped me when I was starting out,” he admitted. “I would go to Kyle’s venue and hear him all the time.”
On Second Life, Mill has rezzed a little upright, but for about three years now, he’s been playing a white grand piano. (Who wouldn’t like to play one?)
“In real life, I have a digital piano called a Korg M50, which is hooked into a mixer with my microphone, and then into the back of the computer,” he explained, adding that he asks for open-ended requests and attempts to play anyone. “Tony Bennett, Katy Perry, Patsy Cline, Tom Watts, songs from Miss Saigon, The Cars, Weezer. I play wherever people direct me. I play by ear so a lot of songs are easy, and I work hard to learn and maintain the rest of them. I have a giant book of condensed lyrics that I made, sprinkled with notes all over the margins so I don’t forget certain things.”
As for his performance schedule on Second Life, he plays five gigs every two weeks, only one of which is weekly. So that gives him a little time to hear his favorite Second Life artists, such as Jeffah, Isabella Rumsford, Sing, Luciano, Kyle Bronsdon, Mamaa Sais, and Jen Waddington. Sassy, co-proprietor of CYD Productions, is his manager.
He also has written about 130 songs throughout his life. But his serious writing endeavors actually began in 2004. Mill has five albums worth of material that had been developed from that point on, including a brand new album that was due to come out when I interviewed him.
For 29 years, he’s entertained an audience. What does music mean to him?
He’ll tell you, “Its hard for me to say what music means, since it’s always been in my life and I have never known life without it. I get songs stuck in my head for hours quite often. It is almost like asking someone what food means to them. There is great food and there is filler, but it’s a constant in life.”