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 

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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

The NBT Music Columns:EMBRACED MUSIC

glenn braceMy mother told me the second she handed me this little tiny tin guitar that was blue and clunky, my eyes lit up and I never let it out of my site.      I was 3.Music had grabbed me very early and permeated every thing I did from then on in. My school years were filled with a rampant succession of bands and practicing till my fingers ached, and if I left my hand in my pocket to long it smelled like a foot because of the calluses. ( grins)But I was getting better. I guess competition between my friends who played fueled my determination to be better at my craft and I dreamed of touring and making GAJILLIONS of dollars as a result. I was a lanky moth hurtling toward an unsteady future that my parents took every opportunity to talk me out of.  I can remember being 13 and getting my first electric guitar and powerful 5 watt practice amp, and thinking about a name for what I would do. My last name being Brace I kept thinking “BRACE YOURSELF” and still may end up using that for the tour I do in the USA and Canada in 2008.I was looking at my hand holding the neck of the guitar and it hit me EMBRACED MUSIC. That’s it. I didn’t think any more about it till I registered the name as my business and had released two CD’s under it.Technology being what it is today it has allowed a guy like me and several thousand other musicians around the globe to create from home and record at home. We no longer have to get down on our hands and knee’s and beg to have a record deal and use a really fancy recording studio. We can do it ourselves. No dead line. No pressure. The only pressure we have is the pressure we apply to ourselves and our level of professional integrity that goes into the music.  So when you have a product what happens? Well for starters you sell it at gig’s to keep the wife happy and bring in some dollars for the duplicating costs that can be expensive. What is the reward from all of that? Having some one who has bought your CD come to a gig and sit up close and listen to you play and you watch them sing the song with you. That’s incredible. Then you know they actually took the time to listen and take in what you had to say. How cool is that!?! In my travels from being a Brick layer, Type Setter, Steel Mill Worker and Photographer I have always …..ALWAYS come back to music. It’s always been there for me. My guitar has been a great friend, confidant, mistress and some one I could dream out loud with since I was nine years old. I want to thank Martin and NEXTBIGTHING for playing my songs and letting you hear how much I love doing……just that…….playing my guitar. The internet has brought the whole world into mine and your houses and computers for you to relish the delicious plethora of different styles and taste’s that music has to offer. It’s a fantastic tool and I intend to use it for all its worth. (grins) In the coming years I can see myself creating music from home, touring and teaching people how to get the most out of their guitars and photography. I have reached a wonderful time in my life when I can LET EVERYTHING I LOVE, BE EVERYTHING I DO. That’s the key good people, find something you love and be really good at it , then its not a “job” it’s a passion.If you would like to see some of my web sites then follow the address’s listed here. I have written a novel and started writing my second one and have four CD’s to my credit of original material and continue to draw of what life has to offer from the way this crazy world is going. Love to hear from you soon so join any of my sites and stay in touch, be   well and happy. Yours Respectfully and Sincerely  Glenn Brace In AustraliaVIVA INDEPENDENT MUSIC!!!! 

www.glennbrace.com 

http://www.myspace.com/embracedmusic 

http://www.perfspot.com/embraced 

http://www.sonicjive.com/glennbrace 

The NBT Music Columns : The Gender Of Music

barbara-gilles.jpg By Bárbara Gilles  The Gender of MusicAccording to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher Protagoras used the terms masculine, feminine, and neuter to classify nouns, introducing the concept of grammatical gender. In Spanish the article defines the gender; unlike English, which has a unique article for all genders. In English we say “the music”, just like we say “the man”, or “the woman”. But in Spanish it´s said “la música”, which gives Music a feminine gender. So it is in German : “die Musik”. Music is often taken for some kind of muse, or fairy, who inspires, elevates and brings relief to humanity. We are used to personify it–or her– as a woman. A sort of virgin (when I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me… ) maternal, holy, divine, immaculate, sacred, magic, powerful, superior, different from us. Music surely is something mysterious. It´s made by man, but sometimes it makes us feel like no human could. It´s a language itself. It can speed up our heartbeats and shock us with a story. We might even think that we love the composer, although we never met him or her. Music without words… That´s even more unexplainable. I once read that we, humans, social beings, naturally record information in our brains since the day we are born, taking note of everything we perceive with our five senses, in order to understand our environment. Our memory is our secret weapon. We remember our mother´s voice, her tone, her smell, her touch. And we are able to recognize her and answer to her. That´s our first achievement in understanding any language. Ok, any other animal can do that. But then we are able to recognize and remember different sounds, then words (and their meanings), then sentences… and voilà: Language. The book I read said that we enjoy listening to something and understanding it. Either because we heard it before, or because it surprises us. When we are in a foreign country and suddenly we hear someone speaking our language, or dialect, it draws our attention immediatly. Well, music sometimes is like a mathematical problem, in which we are to pay attention to every detail to get away with a solution. Do you remember the feeling after solving a math problem? Satisfaction. We understand, and it feels like heaven. We are proud, we connect with this abstract message. If Music is a language, it´s about communicating. It really has a message. Its elements can be combined in infinite ways and make us dance, laugh, cry, want to break something or want to love or be loved. Janis Joplin said that nothing compares to music, not even making love. But… is there any way to combine both things? Is it possible to make love to music? Back to where I started, how would you personify music? I often get the feeling that I love music and I would want to hug it and embrace it, just like it does with me, as if it were a person! I don´t know, maybe to say thank you, or something that only could be expressed with a hug. Freddie Mercury said about the legendary soprano Montserrat Caballé: “I love Music, and she is Music.” What if music was a man? That could work better for me in that way. In such picture, I see myself hugging him and confessing that he is the love of my life. But… wait a minute. Music sometimes has a face. It´s the face of the true human love of my life. I love him. I love music. Is Music him??? I doubt it, but he surely is a strong muse. Where did that relation come from? Well, because both are kinds of love which are sometimes a pure deep hate, or confusion, irresistible attraction or any form of having fun. It´s something dinamic that changes every day, but, as far as I know, it gets better and better, deeper, more passionate, more interesting every day and every night. Sometimes, not always, I put a face to Music, and it doesn´t really matter which, or its gender, because I keep on falling in and out of love with her-him-it-us-you.