The career path of Toronto-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Don Mills (real name Miloš Angelov) has certainly been unconventional. It’s taken him from studying classical violin in Serbia, to work with top Canadian R&B and rock acts, and now production and songwriting work on hit tracks and albums from such major international hip-hop and pop artists as J Cole, Juice WRLD, Maroon 5, Rea Garvey, and Giveon.
This is not a route Mills could have predicted, but he was always confident music-making was in his future. “Both my father and grandfather made a living from making music, so this is like the family business. It’s embedded in me,” he says.
Mills studied violin, then percussion, at Stanković Music School, and often performed with the Belgrade Youth Symphony, prior to moving to Toronto with his family at age 17. He then transitioned to playing bass, and after a stint studying at Humber College, soon became an in-demand player with Canadian R&B artists. “I played with Zaki Ibrahim and filled in for artists like Divine Brown and the Philosopher Kings,” he recalls.
His chops were also honed through regular gigs at famed (and now defunct) Toronto nightclub and muso hangout The Orbit Room, with Wade O. Brown’s The A Team and Hot Fire, and then via session work with such artists as Fito Blanko and Ray Robinson.
“I always wanted to do multiple things in music”
A stylistic detour came when he was recruited by rocker Matthew Good for his band. “I joined just prior to recording the Live At Massey Hall album in 2008, and that led to a really good run of eight years,” says Mills.
His move into writing and production came organically. “I always wanted to do multiple things in music, beyond being the bass player,” he says. “I was always an audiophile who loved listening to well-recorded music. From doing sessions, I watched producers do their thing, and I got interested in that. Around 2008, I bought my own computer, with a Logic setup and decent speakers, and went from there.”
It’s only been in the last four years that production has become a key focus for Mills, and he credits star producer— and now regular collaborator – Boi-1da as a major inspiration. “His making big records sound so good really inspired me to get better at producing and writing, and to start creating music for other genres,” he acknowledges.
A collaboration with Boi-1da on the co-writing of a Juice WRLD track, “Maze,” (featured on the 2019 No. 1 album Death Race for Love) was a turning point, and the duo continue to work together. “We’ve just scored a song for an upcoming Halle Berry movie, Bruised,” says Mills.
He recently signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV in the U.S., and work offers are flooding in. He’ll be featured on upcoming albums by Alessia Cara, Giveon, Ne-Yo, and more, and he confides that “I’ve just finished a movie soundtrack, a big American production, my first movie score as a writer-producer.”
Canadian artists with whom Mills has worked as a producer, co-writer, or player in recent years include Tyler Shaw, Dan Talevski, Banners, and Maya Killtron.
Amidst his busy schedule, Angelov has found time to write and record his own material, released online under his Don Mills moniker, and through his own imprint, Politik Records. “I didn’t want to let good songs not come out, so this is a channel for my music to get out there,” he says.
These cuts reflect his stylistic versatility (“all genres excite me”), and feature guest vocals from the likes of Nuela Charles, Bryn, and longtime pal JRDN. “This is more of a fun thing for me than a money grab, or an attempt to make a career as a solo artist.”