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Rhett Miller Continues Solo Success With The Dreamer

Rhett Miller Continues Solo Success With The Dreamer

By Mike Duffy

Better known as the frontman for alt-country warhorse Old 97’s, Rhett Miller also boasts a solid solo career that dates back to 1989’s Mythologies.

Since releasing that album when he was only 19 years old, the baby-faced 40-something has kept his non-97’s project humming along with records bearing such titles as The Instigator and The Believer.

Miller’s latest continues that trend with The Dreamer, which came out earlier this year via his own Maximum Sunshine Records.

The Dreamer by Rhett Miller

Miller explained that the name stems from the idea of searching for love, attaining it and then figuring out what it all means.

“There’s a song in the middle of the album called ‘Swimmin’ In Sunshine’ that has a chorus that goes, “What do I know about love?” Miller recently explained while driving to another tour stop. “If this record was a concept album — and it’s not as I don’t really work like that — that would be a big part of it.  What have I learned? 

“I kind of see the first half of the album as being that agonizing search.  Trying things out.  Then as the record draws to a close, our hero seems to find love.  Even once you’ve found it, it’s still complicated and a series of trials.”

With The Dreamer, Miller has served up 13 tight root-rock songs with tinges of surf music and even pop.

The Serial Lady Killers, Miller’s band that consists of Tommy Borscheid (guitar), Angela Webster (drums) and Greg Beshers (bass), are the perfect accompaniment, too. 

Borscheid’s work on slide guitar (listen to “Lost Without You”) and a 12-string (“This Summer Lie”) add a deeper element to the sound, while Webster and Beshers keep the action moving with jangly backbeats.

There are also vocal contributions from Roseanne Cash and Rachael Yamagata. Interestingly, Miller hooked up with Cash via Twitter.

“We met there, actually, and it was suggested that we might enjoy writing together,” Miller said.   “She sent me some lyrics, and I was so eager to impress her that I wrote the rest of the song – the other verses, chorus and melody – and sent it to her the next day.  We went back and forth and tweaked it, but it was pretty quick work.  For somebody that I didn’t know before that, it felt immediately comfortable.”

Like most artists, Miller had to think when asked if he had a personal favorite on The Dreamer, but he nailed down the plaintive “Sleepwalkin’” when pressed for an answer.

“I’m proud of all the songs, but for some reason when I wrote that one, I couldn’t get it out of my brain for a long time,” Miller said. 

As a guy that is known for a constant album-tour-album-tour work flow, Miller is relishing his current jaunt across North America.

And while Miller is definitely excited to showcase the new album at his Rhett Miller and the Serial Lady Killers shows, fans can typically expect a set that spans Miller’s prolific career.

“It’s a nice mix, because we’ll play about 10-12 Old 97 tunes and do six or seven off the new record and a bunch off some of our older stuff,” said Miller.  “It’s about 30 songs a night, so it’s a full two hours of music.”

Miller performs for Fender Vision at SXSW. 

While that might sound like a lot of heavy lifting, Miller isn’t worried about fatigue.

“I’m used to it.  With the 97s, I always did almost two hours,” he added.  “It’s funny, because some of these songs aren’t as wild as they have been in the past, so they don’t feel as strenuous as a 97s super rock show. Ask me how I feel in a month, and we’ll see.”

Miller also doesn’t want to call his solo endeavors a “side project.” 

If anything, it is a full-time way to spit out the creative ideas that don’t jive with the Old 97’s.

“The 97s is such a democracy.  I get voted down all the time, whereas the solo records give me a chance to not be the little brother for a minute,” he said with a laugh.  “And, it’s all these different kinds of music that I get to don’t get to play in the 97s.  That’s more of a stricter operation, it’s almost like a garage band with the big, meaty rock songs.  So I get to do what I want with the solo thing.

“But if I am doing one thing for so long, I miss the other.  I don’t know if my career has benefitted from doing both.  It’s even been suggested to me that I’m dividing my talent or whatever.  I don’t think about that stuff, though.  I just do what feels right.”

For more information, visit Miller’s official website

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