Taylor Mills went from landlocked Iowa to working with the surf music king
Des Moines native Taylor Mills spent years touring and recording with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. This weekend Mills will get her own spot in a hall when the Iowa Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Arnolds Park inducts her for her work.
Mills got her start performing in Des Moines. As a young girl she sang at her family’s Baptist church, but as she got older she branched out to singing songs by pop acts like The Carpenters, Roberta Flack and Whitney Houston.
At first she had to sneak popular music past her parents, but when she turned 18 she entered the Bill Riley Talent Search at the Iowa State Fair, winning by singing “Out Here On My Own” from “Fame.”
“Once I got older, everyone loosened up a little bit, I think they knew that’s what I should be doing,” Mills said during a phone interview. “I think I convinced everyone it’s what I should be doing. I said ‘Trust me’ and they did.”
After high school she sang with acts like Liz Smith and recorded with Keith Brown of Crystal Sound Recording before relocating to Chicago in 1993. There she sang with cover bands, playing for huge weddings and corporate events. She spent years gigging around Chicago before the drummer for one of those bands, Todd Sucherman, heard about an audition for a tour as a backup singer for the notoriously reclusive Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson.
Sucherman was the drummer for that initial tour and before long, he and Mills were dating.
Mills said that early on there were concerns that Wilson might not even show up for concerts. Because of that, the initial tour was short.
“It was just around the Midwest, dipping our toes in to see if we can do this,” Mills said.
It lead to 13 years of working with Wilson during live shows, as well as the 2004 album “Smile” and 2008’s “That Lucky Old Sun.” Thanks to her work with Wilson, Mills got to share the stage with Paul McCartney (who was inducted into the Iowa Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2014) and perform Queen Elizabeth II (still awaiting induction).
Wilson returned the favor, provided backing vocals for Mills’ debut album, “Lullagoodbye.”
These days, Mills isn’t doing any touring. She and her now-husband, Sucherman, relocated to Austin, Texas to start a family. She won’t be present for her induction to the Iowa Rock n Roll Hall of Fame; Mills’ mother and sister will appear on her behalf. She hopes to return to Iowa for a visit soon, but with a young child at home it’s been easier for family to visit her.
Though Sucherman was in Iowa recently; these days he’s the drummer for Styx, which performed Aug. 15 at the Iowa State Fair.
Despite not being able to attend, Mills is excited to be recognized for her part in musical history.
“I was thrilled and shocked and excited, especially for my family and my mom,” Mills said. “Now she can see that after all the time and effort put into this, something cool came out at the end. I’m proud, because I’m an Iowa girl, too. It’s fun to say ‘I’m from there’ and that I get to be a part of that.”
Other central Iowa inductees for 2015
The Inner Lite:
A Marshalltown band that had a 1969 hit “Hold Onto Him,” written by Ritchie Cordell, whose had written hits like “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony.”
Hoyt Sherman Place: One of several Iowa music venues being inducted this year. The historic theater hosts regular concerts, with upcoming shows including Alloy Orchestra (Sept. 17), Robert Cray (Sept. 25)and Punch Brothers (Sept. 30).
Carey Crowson: The owner of Crowson Piano Service in Ankeny and the music director for Hope Lutheran Church, Crowson has performed with The Cavaliers, Tony Valdez, Backfire and Kyle Jackson.
Scott Cochran: Already recognized by the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, Cochran has performed with acts like Matt Woods & The Thunderbolts, Tuffy Nuff, TomCat, Mal Hombre, Borderline and others.
FreeStyle: A Des Moines band that has been performing together for more than 35 years, regularly playing 40-50 shows per year. The group has opened for Little Richard, Dione Warwick, Sawyer brown and others.
Iowa Rock n Roll Induction Spectacular Weekend
When: Events start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Iowa Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, 91 Lake St., Arnolds Park