Magical Drama

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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 

The NBT Review 2

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Jaik Miller Band   Jaik Miller Band (Truth Movement)

 Something about this release makes me think of vinyl, American new wave mixed with the grit and glory of a country rock free at last from the self-pity and the tears. This new recording recalls the ghosts of the first two Tom Petty releases and almost famous and always cool artists like John Hiatt and Graeme Parker.

There is a timeless and easy grin feel to this, no airbrushing the anger and the heartbreak, but… that grin, that energy, never falters.

4447 is pure single, a song the listener knows and loves from the first rolling verse, sliding easily into the air and waiting for national fame when the band (WILL) eventually play Austin City Limits. (not being of the US of A, i have no idea if that show is still going but oh i hope so).

That is not to say there is no darkness on the edge of Miller’s town, many of the tunes come weary from the fight (Furthermore) and ready to brawl ( Social Disease) and in ‘After Last Call’ you can feel the heaviness of the night and the stories of the bar as clearly as any Waits ballad.

There are no clever, ‘oh look at me’, twirls in this, but every instrument including Jaik Miller’s spine tingling vocals recall the very best of Vic Chesnutt and the subtle playing of the DBs.

http://www.myspace.com/jmbrocks

 

Colour Cold – Safe From Silence (Independent Release)

 Thousands of bands, from all over the world, attempt this style, knowing that if they succeed, their music will be the soundtrack to countless first loves, college adventures and the thrill of discovery within that forever time before the nine to five takes over.

So every time a new band comes up and starts to reveal their creation, it gets harder and harder to notice them amongst the many.

Colour Cold a band from Bloemfontein a small city in the heart of South Africa, not only manage to catch the listener’s attention, but with skill and subtle artistry capture their hearts as well.

Listening to the songs, being caught up in the lyrics, I became aware just how much depth and strength there is on display here. The band is not scared to tackle the darkness and the insecurities of those around them, but never fall into the trap of easy over dramatics that seduce too many bands.

With a production that is crystal clear and shouts and struts when needed, and shines but never dominates and a skill with melody and emotion, this band manages to be both commercial (the song ‘then let live ‘ DEMANDS to be  a number one hit everywhere it is played) and sincere.

This is no facebook/myspace/mtv manufactured band slinging out major company gloss, this is a band that will last and last.

http://www.colourcold.co.za/

 Plasmabat – Twilight Music (Independent Release)

 The opening music evokes images of a sun-filled afternoon speeding towards night. The thrill of the heat on our bodies, and the knowledge that this will not last forever. It is the perfect opening to a creation called ‘Twilight Music’

Minimal instrumentation by Hugh Caley gives the imagination time to dream and wander about in the spaces in the sounds, seemingly stopping time and making the experience of listening to this for the first (and indeed the 12th, 200th) time, extremely rewarding.

On standout track ‘familiar shadows’ the term ‘Frippertonics’ is used in the press release and while the ghosts of both Robert Fripp and Brian Eno recordings certainly reside here, the mood has an essence and a soul all of its own.

What makes this album stand out is a sense of tension perhaps even fear lying not quite so hidden under the calm

http://plasmabat.com 

You will be able to hear all these artists on the NBT podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Going out on the 19th march