In Conversation With Rhett Miller

Austin, Texas born roots-pop singer-songwriter Rhett Miller is about to embark on an endless trail of promotion to support his excellent new self-titled record which hit stores on June 9.

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In addition to being a solo artist, Miller is also the vocalist-guitarist for the Old 97’s, a group which has earned cult-status fame among Americana music fans. His solo work stands apart from the 97’s if only due to the poppy edge brought to many of these songs. And while his new record maintains that pop edge, there are some gloomy undertones and lyrics to be found among the dozen tracks on the record.

When Miller set sail to make his new record, he had envisioned it as being a stripped down, acoustic record. But in the first 20 seconds of the record’s first track Nobody Says I Love You Anymore, it is clear that the all-acoustic vision which preceded the record didn’t end up becoming a reality.

“I’ll be the first to admit that my finished product is rarely anything like I imagine it being in my head,” Miller laughs from his home in New York. “The move from this record being an acoustic record into the one it became wasn’t a conscious thing at all; as the record progressed, it just grew into the record it became.

“The real turning point when the record became what it is, is when John Dufilho from Apples in Stereo got behind his drums. He’s a monster but he is not a muscle drummer by any means,” Miller explains. “John came into the studio, listened to the songs and ultimately helped dictate how the songs ended up.”

Miller goes on to say that some of the songs he expected to be album tracks (or the non-singles) ended up being some of the strongest and his favorite songs on the record once Dufilho added his touch to them.

“Take a song like Nobody Says I Love You Anymore and you’ve got a song that is a waltz but is set to these John Bonham-sized drums. To watch things like that happen while making this record was incredible.”

The darker tones to Miller’s new record partly stem from the death of his grandmother as well as that of his hero, author David Foster Wallace. Wallace committed suicide in September 2008 and though the two had never met, his influence on Miller was deep:

“I read all of his works, with the exception of Infinite Jest; it was just way too much for me to digest,” he says. “And it is funny as over the years, I had often considered reaching out to him to see if he would be interested in somehow collaborating and maybe do a video together or something like that … Obviously, I’ll never have the chance now.”

In addition to having a new record ready to promote, Miller is getting set to launch a unique tour with his pals the Old 97’s. The tour set-up is unique in that both Miller and Old 97 band mate Murry Hammond are opening the show with individual acoustic sets before the whole band unites on stage to play a full-on set of Old 97’s material.

The tour dates with the 97’s runs through to the start of August after which time Miller is going to be heading out with his band for a headlining tour.

Miller also spoke of a potential couple of big tours that are in the works for him.

“”¦But I can’t say who the tours are with,” he says, his smile palpable through the phone. “I definitely don’t want to jeopardize anything by saying anything more than that.”

With a record as strong as his latest in his arsenal, we have a feeling that Miller isn’t bound to remain an opening act much longer.

Rhett Miller’s new record is in stores now as well as through the usual online music e-tailers like iTunes and Amazon.

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