In our “Meet the Maker” series, we’ll introduce you to local personalities from each of the towns where Nest offices are located. These makers enrich our communities and color the landscape of our towns. For this installment, we travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to meet Kat Mills, a singer/songwriter.
Walking through the wood front door feels like taking a step back in time to a simpler, groovier kind of life. Singer/songwriter Kat Mills greets us with a warm smile and hot pot of coffee. Freshly baked pumpkin bread sits on the table, her southern hospitality in juxtaposition with her effortlessly cool, hippy vibe. This contrast lends to the intrigue of this multi-layered artist.
Born in Alexandria, Virginia, into a musical household, Mills got her start at young age. Her piano, a gift from her mother. Her guitar, a gift from her father, who taught her to play. Mills reminisces, “We started with the basics, and he taught me the secret, ‘Learn the key of E, and you can play all the great blues songs.’” And she did. By high school she was regularly busking downtown and honing her craft.
“At that age, I was fearless. I learned what people would stop for, what they responded to,” reflects Mills.
She covered folk artists like Simon & Garfunkel and Edie Brickell. She developed her own style and sound, penning original songs. She headed north to the Hudson Valley of New York where she attended college and played in a disco band for a while, then a newgrass band. It was in New York that she met her husband, Nicholas Polys, a guitar and banjo player. Nineteen years of marriage later, he is still her number one fan—and she, his. They returned to Virginia and settled in Blacksburg with their daughter, Ida.
Mills now revels in the simple, small-town life. She soaks in the sunlight that streams through her windows, working on new songs. Being a big fish in a small pond allows her to perform locally and tour nationally. Her sound is straightforward and raw. Her introspective songs are honest and exposed. Playing mostly solo, her guitar acts as a sidekick to her favorite instrument—her voice. Influences of decades past like Pete Seeger, the Beatles, and Dylan are peppered throughout. Topical, political, and social commentary unfold. For tour dates, visit katmills.com
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
We ask each of our makers to share what’s in their toolbox—the five things they can’t live without:
1 – Notepad – to keep track of dates, schedules, ideas, lyrics…
2 – Her Guitar
3 – Capo – (A device used on the neck of a stringed instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch).
4 – Ring to represent her marriage. “There’s no way I could have this life without the support of my amazing husband.”
5 – Record collection – a constant source of inspiration.
Check back for our next installment when we learn about surfboard creation from a surfboard shaper in Wilmington, North Carolina.