B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Rhett Miller: My wife says I’m a fox?
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Miller: I discovered when I was young that music gives meaning to an otherwise incomprehensible universe.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Miller: The show is made up of a performer and an audience. The performer must always be aware of the audience and their needs.
B&L: Let’s talk about your brand spanking new record, “The Messenger.” What sort of goals you had for yourself when you set out to make this record?
Miller: I wanted this record to sound different than anything I have done before. I wanted to challenge myself by working with musicians whom I had never previously met, much less worked with.
B&L: It comes out THE DAY you play your first show with us. What excites you about having this thing out in the wild?
Miller: I started writing this record over a year ago. We recorded it in the snowstorm at the end of February 2018. This record has been a long time coming. I’m so happy it will finally see the light of day.
B&L: One of the tunes is entitled, “I Used to Write in Notebooks.” I still carry around a small pocket notebook. You’re out? Did the iPhone win?
Miller: Not only did I used to write in notebooks, I still do. I’m a firm believer in the written word, literally. I use my iPhone for lots of things, but pen and paper will always win out.
B&L: Is songwriting an easy or arduous process for you? Are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of writer, or do you schedule “office hours”?
Miller: I don’t have any set rules when it comes to songwriting. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I make office hours and it helps, but sometimes I have to get whatever I can finished before I leave for soundcheck. I’ve gotten really good at working in crowded and loud spaces.
B&L: Was there a moment or experience in particular that led you to chase life as a professional songwriter / performer? What was the “yeah, that’s what I want to do” moment?
Miller: I went to see David Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour. There was a moment as he stood on the side of the stage before returning for his encore during which I realized I wanted his job. 18,000 people chanted his name as he sipped tea and caught his breath.
B&L: What do you appreciate about the dynamic of going from fronting a well-known rock band (Old 97’s) to taking the stage as a solo entity? Do you feel vulnerable up there on your own without the band, or do you embrace the opportunity? (Perhaps both…)
Miller: There is a certain power to being a member of a rock band that I miss when I’m playing solo, but there is a freedom and intimacy to the solo shows that I miss when I’m in the rock band. That isn’t to say that I’m never happy. I love both aspects of my job.
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written yourself?
Miller: Just today I listened to “English Rose“ by The Jam and wished for all the world that I had written it. “Waterloo Sunset“ is another.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on November 9th and 10th?
Miller: A wide range of songs from my band and solo catalog. I will tell a few good stories and a few bad jokes.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Miller: Eggs? It seems we are always running out around here.
Rhett Miller will celebrate the release of his brand-new album, “The Messenger” at the Word Barn on Friday, November 9thand Saturday, November 10th. Both shows start at 8pm sharp. For tickets and information visit: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3622186.