by Millie Voliva-Wiggs
TMS is country music trio of women who can easily cross over into other genres, including pop and alternative country. These three singers/songwriters/musicians are also sisters — Deanna, acoustic guitar, keyboard; Betty, bass guitar; and Marylou, drums. All three lend their voices to lead and background vocals.
By the time they were preteens, Deanna began to write songs and the girls discovered “harmonizing.”
Their Sibling harmonies are tight, almost inseparable vocals. TMS voices blend so well that they could carry a song without instrumentation. They have mastered the ability to mix dynamic elements in a song such as tone, volume, rhythm, pitch and intonation. The results produce the kind of engaging sound that audiences expect in vocal blending.
You could say TMS (aka the Mullins Sisters) were born with a microphone in their hand. Both their parents, Carlis Dean and Paula Marie Mullins, were in music and often took the girls on stage with them. While older sisters Deanna and Betty were more like age 7 or 8 years old when they took on instruments and performing with the family, younger sister Marylou, who was barely 4-years-old, was not about to be left out.
She recounts the day, “It was at Irvington High School and my Dad asked Deanna to come up and sing “Don’t Cry Joni” by Conway Twitty. Then he asked Betty to come on stage.
“I looked at my Mom and said ‘Can I go?’” she asked. “Mom said, ‘Sure go ahead.’”
“So I crawled up the big steps and us three girls sang “Ashes of Love” by Jodi Miller,” Marylou concluded.
And while Betty’s first instrument was drums, she soon lost interest in favor of the bass guitar. Percussions peaked the interest of younger sister Marylou and it wasn’t long before she took over the drummer position.
Their musical roots began deep in the Bluegrass/Gospel stages held by their father.
“Our Dad’s side goes way back into the coal country of the Appalachian mountains,” says Deanna.
Dad also played the banjo.
While their mother was a bit more stage shy, she also came from a musical family, more from the country music side and she played bass guitar.
They grew up signing, playing and writing songs while performing in their family band until their dad passed (at a young age). The girls went on to play with various other bands — and mostly without each other.
All the while, their mother continued to remind them, “All of you are great, but together you can’t be beat.”
So in 2015 they decide to take mom’s advice and made the decision to come together and take their combined experience to form a trio.
“It was time and the cards kind of fell in place at the right time in my life and theirs,” says Betty.
Mary adds, “I was so excited as my sisters were playing in a band together at the time and I just wanted us three together like our Dad and Mom always dreamed. So, we went for it!“
After all, it was really their dream too.
Joining the girls is the Troublemakers Band: Darren Simons (aka Papa Bear) drummer, vocals; Billy Moran (aka Man with a plan) lead guitar, vocals; Derrin Foster (aka Brown Sugar) lead and acoustic guitar, vocals .
Deanna is the main songwriter for the ensemble but admits she enjoys the added help of the group in the songwriting process, “Sometimes the melody, lyrics, and structure come at the same time. Other times, I write ideas down and set aside time to collaborate or work on a song alone.”
Deanna, Marylou & Betty Mulllins
“My sisters and the guys help with tweaking songs after I/we write them. Together, we usually can finalize the song,” she adds.
The sisters have broadened their musical focus over the years to develop a diverse booking of classic country, modern country and their own originals.
From “Ashes of Love” to “Your Cheating Heart,” the girls were ready to take their music to another level. So they reached out to Nashville producer Kenny Lee, introduced him to some of their music — he loved it and was eager to work with them. In the summer of 2015, TMS released their debut
album titled Yesterday's Gone.
That same year, to the sound of rave reviews, their first release “Lyin' To My Heart” quickly climbed the Indie Music Charts and won "Song of the Year.” The trio went on to win another award in 2016 for “Vocal Group of the Year “ and was nominated in the 2017 for “Modern Country Group of the Year” at the Nashville Independent Music Awards.
While life can sometimes get in the way, this band takes it all in stride.
“Our challenge is to understand that we all have lives outside of music and compromise with decision making,” says Deanna. “Our band actually has personalities that work well together, so we usually are able to overcome and agree on just about any challenge presented.
Their band combination just works and they realized how much they compliment one another in more ways than one.
“We learned not to just focus on excellent players. Personalities make or break all bands,” they remind us. “Make sure you have players that share the same vision, commitment and passion as you and aren’t just playing to make a dime. It’s all about the heart you put into
everything you do — no matter how big or small. It all matters.”
Along the way their family and friends have been steadily supportive allowing them to do what they love — music. They are appreciative that they understand and respect their commitment to music.
TMS and the Troublemakers is not just a band — they are family. Family sticks together. The biggest challenge the girls have these days is what outfit to wear — it’s a girl thing.
When it’s all said and done they know what’s important.
“When we hit the stage all that matters is that we give 110%,” Betty notes.
That commitment has given them the tools they need to set themselves apart in the music business.
No other harmony group sounds quite like them and they are grateful that their calendar is filling up every day.
… and the beat goes on.