An interview with singer/songwriter Sheri Miller who has just completed an EP of thought provoking/soulscratching tunes called ‘Mantra’
NBT: In your bio: you talk about listening to your mom singing Opera, and your uncle playing you tapes full of music from artists like Etta James, Diamanda Galas and Gypsy music. Now that is highly dramatic, very emotional and often even scary music. Do you think some of that wonderful drama has snuck its way into your own songwriting?
Sheri: Oh definitely. I love edgy, dark, magical drama- I’ve always been fascinated by the witches, monsters and “criminals” in fairytales, as I always feel a bit of compassion towards their situation (Hansel and Gretel was my favourite fairytale). I love embodying characters in songs and falling into that alternate dimension of being while performing. Diamanda Galas is an incredible dramatic artist who sings in eerie high registers, is not afraid to offend “untouchable” taboo subjects like religion and government, and is a bit of a mystical shaman of sorts. I love her bravery. Etta James is pure guts, heart, and crimson roses with thorns. Her soul and bluesy-ness has rubbed off on me, I’m pretty sure. Or so I hope!
NBT: Who is more ‘You’ the strange almost calm internal of a Margaret Atwood or the thrilling but sad self-destructiveness of a Charles Bukowski?
Sheri: Human beings are complex, diamond-faceted creatures, so I’d have to say both. I do have strange calm-ness at times, Margaret Atwood in a way, when I’m really in touch with myself, and connected. But I must admit I do have a sadder, more self-destructive side too- a tortured artist or self-saboteur, the Charles Bukowski side if you will. I think everyone has a saboteur in themselves- not myself exclusively- but I try my best to watch myself all the time, so the murderous saboteur doesn’t pull me into the sewers of self-loathing, so easily. How did this conversation get so deep? Jesus Christ!!
NBT: If you wanted to, you could play somewhere almost every night of the week, when starting out how important was playing gigs to your development as a songwriter?
Sheri: Huge!! Playing gigs and open mics completely sculpts you as a songwriter and artist. I played open mics constantly in the beginning, and booked shows anywhere that would have me. If you’re a player, you play, that’s what I say. Play on, playa, in the words of Blackstreet.
NBT: Joni Mitchell, quoted earlier this year, said ‘To be called a confessional writer is repugnant to me’ what are your thoughts on this. How personal do your lyrics get, or are they all ‘stories?’
Sheri: Well, Joni Mitchell, I think, is maybe one of the best musical artists that’s ever lived, so it’s interesting to hear her viewpoint. I know what she means by the “repugnance” of the term confessional writer. As writers we combine imagination, vision, life experience, and the world we walk through into our stories. Confessional seems so one-dimensional to me. My lyrics are extremely personal while still being “stories.”
NBT: Which of your own songs still thrills you after playing it a thousand times and why?
Sheri: Well, all of my songs can be thrilling after playing them a thousand times, if I can get into my headspace and character the moment I first wrote the song. That’s where the emotional connection and the thrill lies. Connection=thrilling.
NBT: I believe the future of an independent artist is very much linked with a good internet presence and a great deal of playing live OR Is the internet dumbing down, perhaps even killing traditional forms of popular music and business (as the major labels would have us think) or is it an attractive and viable way to get noticed. What do YOU believe is the way forward for an artist such as yourself in this 2008 world?
Sheri: Wow. Provocative questions! Well, I’ve been known to have slight psychic tendencies, but the future is unknown and exciting and a tabula rasa for artists! I believe we’re creating the future now- there’s no more dress rehearsals. I think having a great Internet presence is huge for artists now, and I’m constantly working on that myself. The Internet is amazing in that it’s unlimited and you can connect with billions of people. Who knows one day it may even me inter-planetary. (I watched X-Files last night, so that’s my extra-terrestrial side talking).
If you’re an artist or songwriter, trying to create art in 2008, here’s my advice- make something honest and authentic- that is true for you. Then put it out in as many places as you can on the internet- starting with Myspace, Facebook, etc. and going from there. More than ever before, you can be as weird and bold and daring and artistic as you want, and create your own musical world! Go for it!
Sheri can be heard sharing songs and thoughts on this weeks NBT Podcasthttp://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/
If you’d like to check out Sheri’s brand new CD, “Mantra” to buy as an album or download, please go to http://cdbaby.com/cd/sherimiller , iTunes or Amazon.com For more info on Sheri, please go to www.sherimiller.com or http://myspace.com/sherimiller