'Dear John' letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song

Love letters from girls back at home are colloquially known as “Dear John” letters…but they’re not always true. In 1972, Jim Croce released “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels),” a song about a one-sided conversation with a telephone operator. The singer is trying to find an old flame who seems to have run off to Los Angeles on a tryst with his old friend. The caller expresses his disbelief at being betrayed by someone he once trusted. It’s an all-too-common story, especially among those serving in the military — Jody ran off with the singer’s girl. 

In fact, Jody is exactly what inspired Croce to write the song, except it wasn’t about his old flame, it was about everybody else’s on the base where he was stationed, back in the days when a phone call cost a dime.


Operator, well could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

Croce enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1966 with hopes of being able to avoid active service and a potential trip to Vietnam. He ended up serving on active duty for a few months, having to go through basic military training two times. Explaining that he was not good with authority, he once said he would be totally prepared if he “had to go to war with a mop.”

Still, he had a unique experience in the Army, one he probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some years later, his wife relayed the story of Jim waiting in the rain at the Post Exchange, listening to soldiers make calls on the payphones. He would overhear many, many “Dear John” stories as the soldiers called their ex-lovers to find out if the fateful letters they’d received were serious.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song

Jim and Ingrid Croce during Jim’s Army service.

Croce, who died in 1973, remarked:

There wasn’t a phone booth; it was just stuck up on the side of the building and there were about 200 guys in each line waiting to make a phone call back home to see if their ‘Dear John’ letter was true, and with their raincoat over their heads covering the telephone and everything, and it really seemed that so many people were going through the same experience, going through the same kind of change, and to see this happen, especially on something like the telephone and talking to a long-distance operator, this kinda registered.

Later, after Croce left the military, he worked in a bar and noticed the same phenomenon happening at the bar’s payphone. People always wanted to check up on someone but end up talking to the operator.

By the end of the song, the caller tells the operator he’s over the whole thing, but it’s clear that the caller isn’t. After all, nothing is going to change in one phone call. Jody worked fast, even in 1972.

MUSIC

Why ‘Rooster’ was the greatest song to honor a father’s service

Alice in Chains was a widely-successful Grunge band in the 1990s. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they helped define an entire generation of musicians. While songs like Would? and Man in the Box are their most well-known, Rooster is the most beloved within the military community.


Jerry Cantrell Jr., the guitarist, co-vocalist, and songwriter, was the son of a Vietnam War veteran, Jerry Cantrell Sr. The younger Cantrell watched his father deploy twice and never talk about what happened in Vietnam. He watched as his father struggled with PTSD throughout his childhood until, eventually, it destroyed his family.

So, he wrote a song dedicated to his father and his experience in Vietnam.

Also Read: This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’

The name, Rooster, is a play on three meanings: It was a childhood nickname of his father’s. ‘Rooster’ was also a nickname for M60 machine gunners because the muzzle flash looked like a rooster’s tail. It’s also a play on how the Vietnamese saw 101st Airborne Division soldiers who wore the Screaming Eagle on their sleeves. It’s said that because bald eagles aren’t native to Vietnam, the locals referred to 101st soldiers as “chicken men” or “roosters.” All three meanings perfectly describe Jerry Cantrell Sr.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Trust me, as a vet who served in the 101st, this song became our unofficial anthem. (Photo courtesy of the National Archive)

The lyrics run deep with symbolism calling back to Vietnam. Cantrell Jr. was only able to piece together little things from what he heard his father occasionally say.

“Walking tall machine gun man.

They spit on me in my homeland.

Gloria sent me pictures of my boy.

Got my pills ‘gainst mosquito death,

My buddy’s breathing his dying breath.

Oh, God, please won’t you help me make it through.”

Also Read: How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, he was asked if his father ever heard the song. He did, but only once live. Cantrell Jr recalled,

Yeah. He’s heard this song. He’s only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I’ll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won’t talk about it, but when I wrote this, it felt right… like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.
MUSIC

Why musicians can’t make videos aboard Navy ships

The USS Missouri has a long and storied history. She earned numerous battle stars for her service in three American wars. She was the site where Japan signed its formal surrender, ending World War II. The last battleship produced by the United States, she was decommissioned in 1955 and reactivated in 1984 to support the Gulf War. She even made appearances in the 1992 movie Under Siege and in 2012’s Battleship.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Even when you put actors on a Navy ship, the first thing they learn to do is skate.

Its most infamous moment came in 1989, when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” in front of the ship’s crew wearing a one-piece bathing suit and stockings that didn’t leave much to the imagination.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
At least she was wearing a jacket.

 

Almost no one but the director (and, presumably, Cher) was happy with the video. According to the book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” MTV pretty much banned the video outright because of the visibility of Cher’s butt cheeks. The network later rolled that back and would play it only after 9pm – though MTV still pushed the envelope as “Safe Harbor” programming for broadcasters in the U.S. began at 10pm.

See how safe the harbor is in the music video below.

The outfit, of course, completely surprised the U.S. Navy, who had given their blessing for the shoot. Once he saw the singer’s costume on the set of the video, the Navy’s entertainment liaison for the Missouri asked the director to choose something else for Cher to wear. The director, of course, declined.

 

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
The crew seems fine with it.

After all the flak the Navy took for the video, it decreed that never again would musicians be allowed to film music videos on ships of the U.S. Navy. In an attempt to placate the Navy, Cher later filmed parts of the song in a less-revealing outfit and without the crew present, but the new video was too little, too late.

For Cher, the song completely revived her 20-plus year long career. It was her second consecutive number one hit on the Billboard charts and was a certified gold record.

MUSIC

This musician made a music video with the SEAL who killed bin Laden

The first DJ to play Tim Montana’s Butte America on country radio in his hometown of Butte, Montana, was Tom O’Neill, the brother of Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill (the man credited with killing the terrorist Osama bin Laden — maybe you’ve heard of him). Turns out, Tom wasn’t the only fan of Montana; while Rob was deployed to locations like Iraq and Afghanistan, he took Montana’s music with him.


Montana is a musician with a “rip-roaring, swamp’rockin’ vibe” — and he’s just getting started. He maintains a can’t-quit attitude that has lifted him from obscurity to Rolling Stone magazine. On one New Year’s Eve, an industry executive told Montana he’d never write a hit on his own. That night, he skipped the celebrations and wrote Low Class, just to prove the guy wrong.

Tim Montana makes his network television debut on Letterman | YouTube

In his youth, Montana had hoped to become a SEAL himself, but an injury prevented him from serving. His patriotism and support for the military, however, never faded (he says we’re all red, white, and blue-blooded). After Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed, Montana discovered there would be a Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit and Auction in Fort Worth, Texas. He immediately picked up the phone and volunteered to play for free.

He took it one step further and teamed up with Gibson to auction off a custom Chris Kyle Commemorative Les Paul Standard Special. It sold for $117,500.

So yeah, the guy makes sh*t happen.

And he’s chosen to use music to make his mark. He told We Are The Mighty there’s no way to know what music can do, but it’s cool to think about the possibilities.

“Music evokes emotion. It evokes thought. It captures a moment.”

He maintained his connection with Rob O’Neill, and featured the SEAL in his latest music video for Hillbilly Rich. Check it out:

 

Montana is getting ready to wrap up his latest tour. Check out the details right here, and keep an eye out for this musician, who keeps an eye out for vets.

MUSIC

Navy vet ‘Full Metal Jackie’ Carrizosa is way cooler than you

Navy veteran Jacqueline Carrizosa is awesome.


She was a rescue swimmer in the Navy, she’s a motocross athlete, and she knows how to use a gun — so yeah, she can more than hold her own.

We Are The Mighty sat her down to find out about her taste in music, and it was everything we’d hoped for and more.

Carrizosa has the kind of self-confidence that lets her to talk about her many successes and adventures, still with the perfect blend of self-deprecating humor. You get a taste of this when she gives a sample of her Atreyu scream, right after nonchalantly mentioning her “50-cals” and right before laughing at herself.

“In my mind, music definitely has a strong power and it has the ability to move people for the better.”

Check out her full video right here!

And for your listening pleasure, the
“Full Metal Jackie” Battle Mix:

MUSIC

Why Elvis Presley’s Army career was remarkably unremarkable

There’s no doubt that if there were any American to have truly “lived the dream,” it was Elvis Presley. He was born into poverty and rose to stardom. His songs were omnipresent, his films were everywhere, and, on his 21st birthday, he became eligible for the draft.


On Mar. 24th, 1958, the day his fans would call “Black Monday,” Elvis Presley was sworn into the U.S. Army. He had all the power and money in the world and he became a regular ol’ Private, just like everyone else. He even gave up his beloved hair.

The Pentagon was well aware of his star power and offered him a role in the Special Service. Basically, he would have been free to continue his music career, receive special treatments, and, essentially, just wear a uniform as a formality. The Navy offered to create an “Elvis Presley company” and the Air Force wanted him to just tour recruiting centers.

But that’s not how The King rolled. Even though thousands of fans wrote to the Army asking for his release, he thought it would have been “unfair” if he got out in any way other than completing his two-year commitment. He became a cavalry scout and left for Friedberg, West Germany.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
You know, just a regular Cav Scout… with 50 million fans. (Photo by Mark Holloway)

That’s the most beautiful thing about The King of Rock and Roll’s service. He trained just as hard as everyone else. He qualified as an expert with his rifle. He took up karate classes to pass the time, which later became a life long hobby. He even donated his Army pay to charities while using his rock-star money on the men in his unit.

Presley made it very clear he was there to be a soldier first. Towards the end of his career, they offered him a role in the film, G.I. Blues. It was essentially a musical comedy, starring Elvis, that told the story of his joining the Army. Paramount came all the way out to Friedberg with hopes that they’d get some “on location” shots of Presley, but he wouldn’t be discharged for another few months. So, his stunt double took his place for all the scenes that were shot in Germany.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Hail to the king, baby! (Courtesy Photo)

Sgt. Presley made a lifelong friend in fellow soldier, Charlie Hodge. Hodge had been a small-time musician before his service (nowhere near the levels of fame of Elvis enjoyed in his prime). When Elvis left the service in 1960, Hodges came with him. Hodges was one of the few friends Presley could count on and became a key member of the Memphis Mafia and the TCB until Elvis’ passing in 1977.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Coastie and musician won the chance of a lifetime

U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”


He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA. 

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song

Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.

“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”

Also read: The votes are in – this Coastie is the MISSION: MUSIC winner

For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.

Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.

“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”

Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvbQUBaGlwo

(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)

MUSIC

This song perfectly describes how troops feel when they miss their families

The go-to song for so many troops on long deployments missing their friends and family back home was originally written for a little boy.


Singer Richie McDonald wrote the song for his son who was 4-years-old at the time while the band was on tour in 2001. His son asked, “Daddy, when are you coming home?” It makes you wonder how many times our servicemen heard those same words in the years to come. The song was soon adopted by many in service. And ever since, the band has dedicated it to our military every single night.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Photo: WATM Daphne Bye

Lonestar started playing military shows shortly after 9/11 when their song, “I’m Already There,” hit the airwaves. Many of our military men and women adopted it, writing letters describing how much those words and melody meant to them. “It’s so gratifying to know that we did something that can make somebody’s life better from being away from their families,” says Michael Britt, lead guitarist.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Bobby Blackhat Walters

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.


‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
From left to right: Bobby Blackhat Walters (USCG) and guitarist Tom Euler

After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.

“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Articles

How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.


Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.

Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Image via Sharon Williams and the Military Museums of Calgary

Metallica is one of the most beloved bands by U.S. troops and they have fully embraced the troops in return. They have invited veterans and their families on stage and they’ve also been “honored” by the use of their music in Guantanamo Bay.

But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.

Related: 7 killer songs that use Morse code

The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.

(MetallicaTV | Youtube)

“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left.  The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.

Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.

Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Article via The Winnipeg Evening Tribute

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.

His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.

Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”

After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.

Rock on, Curley. Rock on.

MUSIC

How Taco Bell influenced a rapper to become a Marine


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.

“I joined the military because I was working at Taco Bell and ironically as a [taco] wrapper,” TMR recalls. “I wanted more, so I became the manager. I [wanted to go] the same route as the [Taco Bell] founder did and become a Marine.”

Related: How to kidnap Marines — according to a combat training role player

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”

Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.

After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.

Also Read: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

The Marine Rapper ‘s Action Figure is a bouncy, hyper, fast-paced journey that chronicles the making of his identity. Each song is accompanied by a music video that will be released weekly on YouTube starting Sept. 29.

TMR’s Action Figure will be available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and everywhere where digital music is sold Sept. 29. In addition, a limited run of signed physical copies and merchandise will be exclusively available on TMR’s website: themarinerapper.com

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
The album cover. (Source: TMR)

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s video below for a taste of what you can expect when his record drops Sept. 29 for yourself.

YouTube, The Marine Rapper

Hosted By:

MUSIC

‘In the Navy’ was almost an official Navy recruiting song

At some point in your life (especially if you’ve ever been in the Navy), you’ve heard Village People’s 1979 disco classic, “In The Navy.” Whatever you know about the group and this song, know these two things: First, their characters are supposed to be the ultimate, macho, American men. Second, the Navy asked the band to use this song as the Navy’s official recruiting song.


‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song

Following up on the success of the band’s previous hit, “YMCA,” the United States Navy approached the band’s management to get permission to use it in a recruiting campaign. The song was written well before the Navy asked about it and, in the service’s defense, it seems like a pretty innocuous song, praising the life of a sailor.

“… Search the world for treasure ,
Learn science technology.
Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true ,
On the land or on the sea.
Where can you learn to fly…”

A deal was struck. The Navy could use the song for free in a commercial so as long as the Village People could film the music video for the song aboard a real U.S. Navy ship. The Village People performed the song aboard the frigate USS Reasoner at Naval Base San Diego. The song peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.

But seeing as the band was, for the most part, an openly gay band in the late 1970s, upon closer inspection, the lyrics seemed to be filled with double entendre. To the Navy, it began to be seen as an anthem for promoting homosexual intercourse while underway.

Everywhere the Navy looked in the song, there was some sort of implicit reference.

“… If you like adventure,
Don’t you wait to enter,
The recruiting office fast.
Don’t you hesitate,
There is no need to wait,
They’re signing up new seamen fast…”

According to the band, however, that’s not true at all. The principle writer of the songs, frontman (and faux-policeman) Victor Willis has said there are no intended homosexual references in any of the songs, not “In The Navy” or “YMCA.” The Navy (and general public) was applying those meanings on their own.

In fact, Victor Willis isn’t even a gay man. The lyrics are just a play intended to make people think there’s more to the background than there really is. In the end, it’s just supposed to be a fun pop song.

Still, the Navy decided to stick with its old “Anchors Aweigh” for recruiting purposes. In the long run, it was probably for the best. The Navy kept its tradition intact and both the Village People and the Navy benefited from the song’s enduring popularity, especially in terms of pop-culture homage.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

‘Dear John’ letters inspired a classic Jim Croce song
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

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