Can you guess whose daughter this is?
Meet Jess Mills – rising star of British music, and offspring of some very well-connected people
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Saturday 07 January 2012
She has been called cooler than Ellie Goulding and shares a record label with Florence and the Machine and Jessie J but while she stands on the cusp of similar success, her biggest fan at a gig in north London next week could be her mother, aka Tessa Jowell.
Jess Mills, daughter of the shadow Olympics minister and David Mills, the corporate lawyer, is an electro songstress signed last year to Island Records. After a gig at Koko, Mills, 30, embarks on a nationwide tour before releasing her debut album this summer.
Her backers believe 2012 will be the year Mills makes it after almost a decade of playing music, and none are more excited than Ms Jowell. "She's beside herself, she is just so excited for me," Mills said. "My dad is too."
Koko is a stone's throw from her childhood home in Kentish Town and despite her mother being in the public eye more than most politicians, she said family life "was totally normal. Most of the political stuff was kept away from me."
Mills was at university when her father became embroiled in a public scandal. Her parents separated but have remained close. He was found guilty of receiving money from Silvio Berlusconi in an Italian court in 2009, before the ruling was overturned a year later.
The singer called it "a terrible time". She said: "We're an incredibly close, loving, supportive family. That was what helped us get through it. That these matters were thrashed out in the public sphere was perverse. It's difficult when people assume your private life is public property. I want to keep my privacy." Her family was crucial to developing her taste in music, she said. Her father played the clarinet, and there was "always classical music playing in the house". Her mother's record collection included The Kinks, The Hollies and Joni Mitchell. Her brothers and sisters also introduced her to reggae and house.
Mills's break came after she had toured with Leftfield as a guest vocalist, playing to crowds of 40,000 people. "It was an amazing 18 months," she said. Her style is built around "the spirit of electronic music. From moments of euphoric adrenalin to more intimate and immersive music." She said her songwriting influences include Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and Robert Smith of The Cure, who wrote to her with praise after she covered the song "A Forest".
Mills became friends with Niomi "Ms Dynamite" McLean-Daley at school, where she remembered the pair "doing dodgy dance routines in assembly". They remain in contact.
The singer was signed to Island after the tour and following work with her previous band, His Girl Friday.
"I have spent a long time writing and performing; I have put a lot of work in," Mills said.
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