Women Making Music: Millie Palmer – A Creature of the Land

She’s grateful to both her parents for exposing her to music from day one. Although neither parent pursued careers in music, her mom Geri played piano and guitar and dad Mike played trumpet. She’s especially grateful to her mom for encouraging her to follow her passion and bliss; always willing to support her in whatever she wanted to do.

Millie Palmer

Millie Palmer

For Millie Palmer, music was the natural choice. Piano lessons, playing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at age 5, and playing the flute in the middle school band, helped stoke the fire inside. The desire to sing came early, easily and spontaneously. “My mom said that by the time I was a year and half, I already knew 100 songs

By the time she hit her teens, the desire to perform was so intense that in order to focus more on playing and singing, she started home school studies. Then by the time she was fourteen, she was already attending open mics and jams, finding her music mentors within the community scene. “Stephanie Morgan and Chuck Lichentenburger really helped me blossom as a musician.” Around that same time, her mother bought her a fender electric guitar for Christmas.

Millie graduated with a degree in Jazz Studies from the University of North Carolina Asheville where she learned many valuable, applicable life lessons. “College was my opportunity to be thrown into different situations and absorb anything and everything.” During the years she was acquiring her BA, The UNCA Jazz choir received an invitation to perform at the White House three years in a row while she was a member. But even more exciting, UNCA is where she met her husband, bassist Will Beasley. Sharing music conversations both in and out of the classroom, on and off stage, their friendship grew romantic after gifting each other mixed CD’s of some of their favorite songs. Their first musical collaboration was an all original band they put together called Millie and the Sirs.

“The first song I ever wrote was an instrumental piano song called ‘The Beach.’ It was about a starfish I’d found in the sand and I didn’t realize until I brought it back home that it was still alive. It ended up dying and I felt so incredibly responsible and sad about it that I wrote, dedicated, and played the song at a funeral and burial I’d staged for the poor starfish. I draw most of my songwriting inspiration from heartache and hard times in my life. I’ve never been able to write when I’m happy. When things are difficult for me, writing is a way to process hardship.”

After graduation, she took three years off to nurse and be with her terminally ill mother. When her mom passed away in May of 2014, she figuratively and literally went inside to grieve her greatest loss. A song that came beautifully and naturally helped her to get up and come back outside – called “Creature of the Land.”

“It was a stepping-out song for me and it helped me feel like I was ready to be a person again. Some of the lyrics are ‘walk out the door and step into the sun, breathe in the life of the living beyond.’ It’s a song about us being creatures of the land, a happy song of sorts – a song about how things can be hard, but you can get past them and start to feel okay about breathing again.”

Will started playing upright bass a while back, in part because the material Millie’s been writing since college, and since her mother’s death, lends itself to a more acoustic, bowed sound. The songs for the next original project collaboration promise to be as varied as Millie’s inspirations and influences. “Because I’m inspired by many different types of music, it’s hard for me to play or write just one way or within a box. I write melodies that are not conventional sounding; where the progression of a phrase might end ‘on the 9 or the 6.’ I throw in weird time signatures for a bar or two. I’m super inspired by Jazz of course, but also Bluegrass and by many singer songwriters.”

Speaking of her admiration for the singer songwriter, earlier this year an idea came to her that has proven to be, well, pretty genius! She successfully pitched this genius idea to the Mothlight in West Asheville. It’s currently slated to be a bi-monthly or quarterly series that began this past August, one she’s calling Band of Songwriters. It combines a rhythm section with singer songwriters, meaning each one featured rehearses six or seven of their songs with the Band and then present their set of tunes on the Mothlight stage! The next Band of Songwriters is shaping up to be as popular as that first one. On Wednesday, November 18th, Millie and the Band will be hosting and backing up singer songwriters Taylor Martin and Hannah Kaminer, starting at 8pm. Details on the Mothlight’s website.

Before that show, Millie has a show of her own. After studying the art of songwriting recently with Darrell Scott, Mary Gautier and Guy Clark, and performing with Christian McBride and Sheila Jordan, she’s excited to showcase her newest original tunes. Millie Palmer and the Dragonflies make their debut at The Isis Restaurant and Music Hall’s Main Stage on Thursday, November 12th at 7pm. The Dragonflies: Evan Martin on drums, Will Beasley on bass, Cailen Campbell on fiddle. Millie puts her guitar down for this one, and just sings it all out of her heart.

You can keep up with our beautiful “native nightingale, creature of the land” by visiting her Facebook music page, and you can hear her beautiful voice singing a select few of her compelling original songs at www.reverbnation.com/milliepalmer.

www.reverbnation.com/deepriver or www.facebook.com/deepriverasheville
Peggy is a Blues and Jazz vocalist, songwriter, and vocal coach.

Peggy’s November schedule:

Saturday Nov 14th 7pm with Michael Jeffery Stevens The Classic Winesellar, 20 Church Street, Waynesville, NC 28786

Saturday Nov 28th 8pm with Patrick Boland & Zack Page, The Great Hall at Omni Grove Park Inn 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville 28804

Peggy Ratusz
Written by Peggy Ratusz