Old 97s' Miller Looks To Ex-Grays For Solo Debut
Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller is recording tracks in Los Angeles for his solo debut, with former Grays principal Jon Brion producing and that group's drummer, Dan McCarroll, lending a hand on some traOld 97s frontman Rhett Miller is recording tracks in Los Angeles for his solo debut, with former Grays principal Jon Brion producing and that group's drummer, Dan McCarroll, lending a hand on some tracks. "The band wanted to take some downtime; they've got new babies and marriages happening." Miller tells Billboard.com. "And I sort of wanted to make a solo record, which I thought would be kinda no big deal -- like a side-project-y, kind of fill-in-the-gap. But the record label [Elektra] just went ape s***, like, 'Oh my god.'"
Backing Miller on several instruments is Brion, who has produced albums by Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann, among others. "He's this kind of crazed mad scientist, multi-instrumentalist," Miller says. "So he's playing everything that I'm not playing." Aside from McCarroll, in-demand session man Josh Freese (Vandals, A Perfect Circle) is also backing Miller on drums.
In recent years, Miller has gigged regularly at singer/songwriter showcases organized by Brion and held at Los Angeles' Cafe Largo. While playing a series of gigs at the club two years ago, Miller wound up coming up with the bulk of Old 97s' last album -- last year's "Satellite Rides" -- in his attempts to debut a new song each night.
The set may also include a guest appearance by Ryan Adams. "Ryan is coming by the studio, but I haven't figured out if there's anything we can do on the record together," Miller offers. "But he wants to, which is good. I'm just not much of a jammer. But I'll at least play him some stuff. And maybe he'll talk me into doing a guitar part or something."
The album should be finished by the end of April and in stores in August or September via Elektra, says Miller, who adds that this record will actually be his second solo set -- if you count the one he released while attending high school in Dallas. "Only 1,000 units came out. And that was the only pressing and hopefully there will never be another one," he confesses. "I was listening to a lot of David Bowie and Aztec Camera, so it sounds a lot like a British dude.
Until early this year, Miller was maintaining homes in L.A. and New York. But, after seeing the World Trade Center collapse in front of him (he and his girlfriend lived two blocks south of the towers) he has since moved permanently to L.A.
"We were there that day and we had to flee in between the collapsing towers and smoking pieces of metal landing in our hair and breathing through our shirts," he says. "We were homeless for six weeks, and when we came back, we were only able to go in to move our stuff out of the building, which is the first building outside of the frozen zone. So, technically, we could have gone back in to live -- and they were half-heartedly trying to convince us to -- but [for] anybody, especially anyone who was there that day, there's just no way."