David Miller waited until he was in his 40s to dive headfirst into his music career.
Now, some may say that music is a young man’s game and perhaps it is, however, waiting until you near middle age to enter such a questionable and at times ruthless business may lead you to practicing some patience and business savvy, meaning you won’t go gangbusters into some sketchy contract full of empty promises regarding record sales and sold-out venues.
Miller’s time in the music business has been driven by a thoughtful and grassroots approach, where his business dealings come with handshakes and a trust like that found between friends.
Miller and his band, The Other Sinners, will perform tonight at The Nugget Mountain Bar for another installment of iAM MUSIC Fest; performers on that bill also include Robert Kent Voss, Sean Farley and Be It A Martyr Be It A Martyr.
Miller dabbled in a music career when he was in his 20s, but a “real job” and family kicked that to the sidelines. When his “real job” became not so real, music became that “real job.”
What: iAM MUSIC Fest presents Robert Kent Voss, Sean Farley, Be It A Martyr Be It A Martyr, and Miller and The Other Sinners.
When: 4 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Nugget Mountain Bar, 48721 U.S. Highway 550.
More information: Call 749-4412.
“I said, ‘if this isn’t a good time to jump in the ring and get a little bloody ... I think this might be it.’ And that was seven or eight years ago. Now I’m 50 and still at it,” Miller said. “So I’m surviving, just slugging it out. Grassroots, that’s really what it’s been. I’m on my third tour van now, slightly improved from the second model, which is slightly improved from the first model. We’re just figuring it out as we go.”
“Figuring it out as we go” includes a grind-it-out work ethic and keeping things as DIY as possible. He just recently signed a contract with a management company, the only “music business” move he’s made in his career, instead spending years favoring word of mouth and old-fashioned networking to make connections for tour purposes around the country.
“Almost all of my touring has been that kind of thing, hard work on my part and meeting some really wonderful people along the way,” he said. “Musicians, music lovers, promoters and people along the way have opened some doors. It’s more organic. It feels great.”
Miller grew up playing music in the church while also digging on rock music he heard on the radio. He and his band’s sound now lies somewhere between Southern roots music and classic R&B, a mixture of classic Southern rock and 1960s soul.
“We’re hard to nail. I’m a songwriter, and even with the band I tend to write a little bit more in a certain vein. I call it ‘Southern soul,’” Miller said. “I grew up on rock, you can hear that in there, Southern rock influence, some blues, and I love Memphis soul. Stax is what I want to be when I grow up. There’s something about that label that is real special to me. I love hearing its rawness and the passion, and that’s hopefully coming through in my music.”
Miller may not be as involved in the church as he was as a kid, but he hasn’t abandoned the music; upbeat gospel music will always drive his brand of boogie blues, Southern rock and American roots music.
“That fusion of rock ’n’ roll and gospel and blues coming together, that’s the sweet spot for me,” he said. “That’s what touches me the most, that’s what motivates me the most. When I hear that in other music, it draws me in more than any other kind or style of music.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.