Tag Archives: CJ Mills

From Springfield to Syria, We Have It Covered

March 8, 2018 by

Pick of the Week—Sunday, March 11: Did you think you missed out on all the film festival fun? Don’t worry, you’re not too late. Sunday offers your last chance to catch a taste of the 13th Annual Omaha Film Festival at their Writer’s Theatre. These staged readings start at noon and last until 3 p.m., covering a range of works featured throughout the run. Who knows? You might even see someone you know up there making their acting debut. So get thee to Marcus Village Pointe Cinema this weekend. To get a complete list of what (and who) you’ll see, click here. Check out their Sizzle Reel here.

Thursday, March 8: Syria seems always to be in the news lately. But what do we really know about the Syrian people? If you’re curious and would like to learn more, head to UNO’s community engagement center to hear Wendy Pearlman, Understanding Syria Through Refugee Stories, a lecture and discussion regarding the lives and personal experiences of Syrian refugees. Pearlman is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University and author of several books. Get more details about this event here.

Friday, March 9: OutrSpaces has a new home. And no, it’s not on the moon. Instead it’s in Omaha’s latest revitalized area, Little Bohemia. Their Launch Party on 13th Street will feature CJ Mills and Chalis Bristol. This facility brings together members of the local creative community, providing resources and a venue for those who need it, whether the moon is up or not. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. Get there early to learn about the space and the artists. A suggested donation of $10 will go to supper the artists, with further donations going to support OutrSpaces in their second year of bringing people together. Find out more here.

(Photo by Ariel Fred)

Friday, March 9: With rumors of the possible closing of The Apollon Art Space, don’t miss any opportunity to see some of their creative verve at work. Nasty Women Omaha Presents: What the F!?K is Next? is one such unique show. This pop-up group exhibition focuses on demonstrating solidarity within the arts community. No matter what your sexual orientation, race, religion, or background, you are welcome here. (Children are welcome, but keep in mind some content will be graphic.) The art show starts at 7 p.m. with performances starting at 8 p.m. Best of all, 100 percent of the proceeds go to Youth Emergency Services (YES). Learn more about what to expect here.

Saturday, March 10: We’ll give you any excuse to get out of the house and get some exercise, but this weekend’s St. Patty’s Run for the Gold 5k/10k from Freedom Running Company will get you out even further. And it will be worth it, as this race begins and ends at Soaring Wings Winery, where you can enjoy a free beer or glass of wine once you finish. Plus, all finishers will receive a medal and a long sleeve shirt to help you keep warm once you cool down. To get more info and to register for the run, go here.

Weekend Picks

January 18, 2018 by
Photography by Contributed

PICK OF THE WEEK: Thursday, Jan. 18: Scotch aficionados, rejoice. Tonight is the first night of Joslyn Castles Speakeasy Series, and they are kicking it off with a Scotch Tasting. Omaha’s own Scotch expert Mary Tomes of the Dundee Dell will be there to guide you through. Certified cheese professional Miranda McQuillan will be on hand with pairings for the flight of six Scottish whiskeys you’ll get to try. Start the evening with a rare tour of George Joslyn’s “mancave” basement. What better way to combine a love of history and booze? To keep an eye out for future speakeasy events, ring the buzzer here.


Friday, Jan. 19: If you’re in the mood for some hip-hop, but you like to keep it refined, A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop featuring Wyclef Jean is a show you’ve got to see. Not only do you get to see the Grammy Award-winning former Fugee present his fusion hip-hop with a live orchestra, you’ll also get to see Omaha’s own Kethro and CJ Mills open for him at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Get your tickets here now, and don’t forget to show your support for the local acts.

Saturday, Jan. 20: In what looks to be an annual event, this Saturday you can get out and show your support for women and resist what has become the status quo by attending the 2018 Omaha Women’s March. LGBTQIA people and any people who don’t quite identify with those labels are all welcome here. Design your own sign beforehand at Urban Abbey downtown, but be sure to get to the starting point on 14th Street by 1 p.m. Don’t forget the after party at Slowdown starts at 6 p.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to warm up before dancing any lingering anger away. March on over here to find out more.

Saturday, Jan. 20: If you haven’t been to The Trap Room yet (and weirdly, some of you haven’t) you now have the perfect excuse. This Saturday is the Inaugural Trap Room Showcase with Brad Hoshaw. Listen to some sweet acoustic music while sipping the finest cocktails made by the finest bartenders in town. The music only lasts from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., so be sure to get there and find a comfy seat early. For more details, click here.

Sunday, Jan. 21: Get your nostalgia fix this Sunday with the Tom Petty Celebration/Benefit with Ventura Boulevard at Chrome Lounge. Ventura Boulevard is a supergroup of Omaha musicians coming together in their love and appreciation of Petty and his music. This doesn’t have to be your last dance. Come out and help them celebrate the weird one’s life while supporting a good cause, or causes in this case, including two of Petty’s own favorites. Time to move on—over here for more information.


CJ Mills

December 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a fresh autumn night, chatter filled a Lincoln home-turned-music-venue. A few guests trickled through the front door. “No big deal,” CJ Mills thought. It was just a handful of people. Moments later, more appeared. The trickle turned to a flood. All of a sudden, there were 80 people jam-packed against the makeshift stage.

An astonished Mills stood two feet from the standing-room-only crowd. “I couldn’t breathe,” recalls the 31-year-old singer from Omaha. “I went out the side door to take a few deep breaths.”

The moment was surreal.

This was all new to her. The jam-packed house party. The live acoustic sessions. The impromptu performances and scheduled studio time.

Life as a new musician moves fast—a constant hustle.

Three years earlier, Mills (a self-proclaimed introvert) could have never fathomed performing in front of other people. Yet, her soulful, bluesy-folk voice has garnered quite the reputation as a crowd-pleaser. Singing her most cherished words—short poems in lyrical form—only heightened the level of intimacy.

cjmills1Mills has a profound gift for turning raw expressions of human frailness into something bordering on sacred. There’s something about her voice that commands complete attention. She can make a song cry.

She began singing in church as a young child. “I had always been singing since I was a kid. My family was very religious…Because I could sing, I was always made to,” says Mills, who began writing poetry during her early years.

“As a kid, I was huge into reading,” she says. “When I did something well, my mom would take me to the library or buy me a book.”

Soon after, Mills felt compelled to write her own short stories, which turned into poetry she later sang. That was, perhaps, her earliest simultaneous personal and artistic growth.

As a teen, singing wasn’t much of a highlight. She attended Marian High School, then ran track at Kansas State University, but was injured her junior year. While weightlifting, she squatted heavy one day and suffered a bulging disc. “Only time heals that wound,” she says.

Six months to be exact. With all the down time, she saw a decorative ukulele and taught herself how to play. She progressed to a guitar rather quickly. “I didn’t like the way it was strung,” she says of the first right-handed guitar she purchased, “so I flipped it upside down and restrung it so I could play it left-handed.”

Ambidexterity is kind of her thing. “I’m pretty even-handed. I write with both hands,” she says. “[But] I could not play that guitar. I don’t know why. Seemed so odd to me. After a month of trying, I Googled how to restring it.”

In terms of playing chords, she learned by listening to others. She was influenced by the stylings of Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, and Tracy Chapman. “Simple chords, yet, powerful lyrics,” she says. Their music spoke volumes to how Mills hoped to be perceived as an artist someday. Writing songs was a natural next step.

Mills graduated from college, then went on to the workforce. She became a health inspector, not the restaurant kind. More like the Breaking Bad kind. Off stage, she has been sent to investigate meth labs.

Mills has been playing live music for about three years, and with a band for one year. The band—featuring Mitch Towne, David Hawkins, and Max Stehr—has been a great collaboration of like minds, she says.

Mills began to develop her own individual style after college. Blending a mixture of reggae, folk storytelling, jazz melodies, and atmospheric harmonies. She performed her first show at Pizza Shoppe Collective in December 2013. There, she met All Young Girls Are Machine Guns frontwoman Rebecca Lowry, who took to Mills. She asked her to take the stage with her at a local venue.

Now for the whirlwind. Mills released her illuminating debut EP Quiet in 2015, which appeared on multiple lists of the year’s best Nebraska releases. She played the inaugural Femme Fest (organized by Lowry) that same year and returned as the festival’s headliner on Sept. 2.

Since then, Mills has stayed busy playing shows in Omaha and Lincoln. The music newcomer was featured at this year’s Maha Music Festival. Most notably, Mills was nominated for two Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards: Best Singer-Songwriter and Artist of the Year.

Although she’s insanely talented, she’s modest and humble. “The only time I feel comfortable with music is when I’m by myself creating music or on stage playing it,” she says.

Back to that special autumn night. Mills turned that ordinary Lincoln house party into a musical theater.

She composed herself before stepping back on stage, frenetically rapping as she moved through her song “Retail Star” before launching into “I Can’t Be.”

Visit soundcloud.com/cjmillsmusic for more information.