There seems to be a pattern afoot with Old 97's. Every time the group makes a new album, it is quickly followed by a solo set from frontman Rhett Miller.

There seems to be a pattern afoot with Old 97's. Every time the group makes a new album, it is quickly followed by a solo set from frontman Rhett Miller.

And the pattern seems likely to continue this year, as Old 97's' "Blame It on Gravity" will arrive May 13 via New West, and Miller is mulling another solo album.

For Miller, all the new music caps a rocky hiatus from Old 97's and a round of label drama. First, he was dropped from the Verve Forecast artist roster after Universal drastically overhauled the imprint in 2006.

"I know the way the Universal corporation works, with the monthly meetings and the bottom line thing, but I got the phone call while I was holding my infant daughter and someone tells me the record is dead. I sold 30,000 units of it. I was so proud of that record. It was such a devastating moment," Miller relays.

The experience of recording 2004's "Drag It Up" was just as much of a challenge. "I'd say looking back at the last record, there's only two songs that would have made this record. The quality just wasn't there," Miller says. "On 'Drag It Up,' I let the other members run the show; I took a total step back. [1999's] 'Fight Songs' was called that because we fought about everything, and I was pushing everyone. The last one, I didn't push. I just let it happen and then they could feel what it's like to carry the load. Afterward, they were more willing to let me in. I'm the youngest member of the band, so there has always been this push back."

"Blame It on Gravity," according to Miller, is a much more collaborative effort and includes a pair of sole songwriting credits from bassist Murry Hammond ("This Beautiful Thing," and "Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue"). The set features some more rough-and-tumble tracks reminiscent of the band's earlier records. "I'm so hyperbolic about this freaking record," Miller enthuses. "It's epic and beautiful."

The band is scheduled for a handful of Midwest and Texas performance dates, including June 6 at the Wakarusa Festival in Lawrence, Kan. Miller is also working on a musical based on "A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories about Human Love," by writer Ben Greenman.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print