Colin Miller

Colin Miller‘s earliest memories are of growing up in rural Virginia, where his parents were inn-keepers at a converted turn-of-the-century mansion. This experience instilled a sense of small town hospitality—that is, to Miller, the idea of expending energy as a means of being good to people, caring for them like you would yourself. This impulse has made its way into his music: his lyrics are tuned to allow empathy, commiseration, shared emotion and feeling. Hospitality doesn’t just mean making someone feel at home, but at home with you, which is different, and more meaningful.

Hook, out this March on Oof Records, is an endeavour to externalize this definition of hospitality. It’s named after the 1991 movie starring Robin Williams, which sparked fascination and terror for Miller at the idea that Peter could lose himself in an effort to displace painful memories. As he’s grown older, Miller has found himself growing increasingly  forgetful and ever more afraid of forgetting. Making music has thus become not only a way to express but to catalog his emotions accurately. He would watch the movie daily as a child who’d been moved further down the Appalachian trail to Asheville, NC, at age eight, where he still lives today.

On the first single, “I Need a Friend,” Miller’s unique ability to capture this feeling in his lo-fi yet lush guitar-rock is as clear as dust lingering still in beams of window light—Miller singing the words “I snuck in the basement and hung there like a scent,” warmly overtop twangy guitar strums and a faint, organ-like synth, before giving in to transience with the follow-up line, “just for a second.“

His house is an artist’s haven, different musicians moving in and out, Miller however being a mainstay for a decade and having a strong relationship with his elderly landlord (the song ‘In the Dark’ being an ode to their surrogate grandfather-grandson dynamic). The EP exists as an extension of Miller’s own home—of Asheville and also his specific place in it, living on an old tobacco farm that now simply grows a meadow of tall grass for hay instead of the cash crop. The music is an open field—the exploration of which is facilitated by Miller’s attention to recording as a craft. It is in this vein that Hook shows the benefits of space and isolation. Miller’s patience is present in the tape hiss; the sense of consolation is felt in the hum of a tube amp. It is within these amalgamated analog and digital recordings that Miller’s experienced engineering becomes an instrument in its own right, as he seeks to achieve a tone of understanding.

While most of his recognized work is for his engineering and production, having worked on Indigo De Souza’s record I Love My Mom and Wednesday’s record I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone (Orindal), Miller’s goal has always been to focus on and prioritize his own music. Listening to his songs, it comes as no surprise that for the majority of his songwriting career, his songs were secrets that he shared only with himself and a few close friends.

Hook, particularly, came out of a period of Miller feeling truly alone, trapped in his relationship, and surrendering his own comfort in order to soothe others. But his songwriting process is a salve, a means of forgiveness and moving on. Yet in writing these songs about external relationships, Miller found himself writing about his relationship with himself, this being the only relationship that couldn’t be shirked or moved on from. This emotional catharsis can be sensed on tracks like “Cut the Field”—a song about cutting out toxic relationships like a dead root and ending up alone—with it’s driving, near desperate cymbal crashes and kick drum at the forefront.

Inspired by his mother’s laugh, his brother’s handwriting, keeping his plants alive, and a craggy overlook behind his house with initialed hearts carved into the trees, it’s clear that Miller lives and creates with a ruminative intention. Similarly inspired by his father, a self-taught animator, Miller learned the importance of patience. The records that have inspired Miller have, too, been about an isolated person who finds the means to make something alone, like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, the rebellious basement-rock spirit of Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes, and the makeshift studio recording style of My Morning Jacket’s The Tennessee Fire. It was the technology as much as anything else—that the musicians were enabled to make art at home—that manifested these records. And it is the technology, as well as a pervading sense of home, that fans the flame of Miller’s impeccable folk songwriting.

Hook will be released March 19, 2021, via Oof Records.


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IMAGES: To download, click above. Credit: Julie Douglas.

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SINGLES:
“I Need a Friend”

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