PICTOU – One of Frank Mills’s more embarrassing moments happened while he was on tour with Rita MacNeil.
Frank Mills will take to the keys on Dec. 11 at the deCoste Centre at 7 p.m. SUBMITTED
He remembers wanting to hide under his piano when he started a song in the wrong key and MacNeil called him out on it.
That was just part of her sense of humour, a side of her that Mills admired.
“She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said about the woman who brought him out of retirement and back on tour.
The pair did a Christmas tour last year, their second major group of shows together.
Mills said that it would be weird this year to go on tour without her.
His first show of 19 kicked off in Sarnia, Ont., on Nov. 26.
He brings “A Music Box Dancer Christmas” to Pictou on Dec. 11.
With him comes his newly released CD that he dubs “keyboard karaoke.” It’s a two-disc album – one with 13 digitally re-mastered Mills classics accompanied by his orchestra and one that is just his orchestra without him.
It comes with sheet music so piano players can take on Mills’s roll at the keys.
“It’s a treat for anyone who plays piano.”
He got the idea from someone he met in a recording studio while they were singing along to a pre-recorded symphony.
He said it adds a new dimension to learning how to play.
Although Mills loves to perform, music isn’t his only passion.
His ski property in Vermont offers a relaxing and pristine way of life for him.
“Music has always been in conflict with farming.”
He enjoys cutting his own firewood as it always leaves rooms for improvement. He said if he only did music, he’d be in trouble.
He doesn’t want to be faced with the possibility of a plateau.
“The wood pile always beats me.”
He now tours once a year, knowing eventually he’ll have to go back into retirement.
The 71-year-old doesn’t have a solid plan yet for when that’ll happen.
“As long as people will listen to me, I’ll play for them.”
Throughout his long career, he has played both in a band and on his own.
One of his biggest successes, and the song he’s most known for, wasn’t an immediate hit.
He had already been part of a band called The Bells and left in 1971 to pursue his own record.
His 1973 album ended up sitting dormant for several years due to his label going into bankruptcy.
Finally in 1976, Polydor records released the album and two singles off of it.
After an Ottawa DJ played “The Music Box Dancer,” it started on its path to selling close to six million copies.
“Hindsight is a cheap science,” Mills said in response to why it took off like it did.
However, he believes it may have something to do with the type of music playing at the time.
It was the disco era, and there wasn’t much out there for people over the age of 50, he said.
“It filled the void of melody,” he said, offering listeners a happy song that wasn’t disco.
Tickets for Mills’s deCoste Centre show are $49.50.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda