Old 97's Rhett Miller Sets Fourth Solo Release

Old 97's Rhett Miller Sets Fourth Solo Release
Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller is planning a June 9 release for his fourth solo album, a self-titled affair on Shout! Factory that he recorded during January and February in Dallas.

"I like the idea of bouncing back and forth" between solo and band albums, Miller tells Billboard.com. "I don't know if that's annoying to Old 97's fans who aren't necessarily fans of the solo stuff. I kind of have to do these records; otherwise I'm in this very democratic (band) situation where I just get voted down constantly, and I get frustrated because I've got a backlog of songs I'll never get to do otherwise."

Miller -- whose last solo album, "The Believer," came out in 2006 -- worked on "Rhett Miller" with Salim Nourallah, who produced the Old 97's 2008 release, "Blame it On Gravity." Players on the 12-song set include John Brion on bass and guitar, Apples in Stereo's John Dufilho on drums and Billy Harvey on guitar.

"Every musician I hired was a producer. All these people could have easily produced this record themselves," Miller notes. He initially thought it would sound like "an acoustic, campfire album" but says that Dufilho in particular helped him achieve "a big scope of sound, just sonically."

"It's a weird record for me," Miller explains. "There's a big difference between the biggest, loudest song, 'Happy Birthday Don't Die,' and the quietest, 'Bonfire' and 'Sometimes' -- bigger than I usually have." Several tracks are currently be considered as the album's first single.

Lyrically, Miller says "Rhett Miller," which is dedicated to his late grandmother, Narene Miller, is "kind of a dark record. In my mind I was in a pretty dark place the last year or two -- just life, you know how it is. I decided I'm not gonna say any more about it than that." Yet, he adds, "my secret has always been to take those kind of difficult sentiments and couch them in a bouncy tune."

Miller plans to tour in support of "Rhett Miller," both on his own and with Old 97's. In fact, he says, the band, which will be on the road this summer, is thinking about incorporating solo sets by Miller and bassist Murry Hammond as part of an "evening with" concept.

"It'll make for a long night, but I think the fans would like it," says Miller, who also hopes to play some solo dates with the band that recorded the album. "It's a nice way to introduce our fan base to my solo stuff and make the label happy I'm not abandoning them and the band happy that I'm not abandoning them."