For musician Scott Miller, keeping it simple takes hard work
It wasn’t so long ago that music videos regularly featured exotic locations, scantily clad models and over-the-top pyrotechnics.
Contrast that with the video for Scott Miller’s “Cheap Ain’t Cheap,” in which the Tennessee-based musician is shown stuffing padded envelopes with CDs and applying mailing labels.
It’s not exactly high art, but it’s definitely not a gimmick. As the owner of his own label, F.A.Y. Records, Miller often has to do nuts-and-bolts work.
“It’s out of necessity,” says Miller, who appears Wednesday at Club Cafe, South Side. “This is what I do, and in some ways it’s freeing. There’s a sense of purpose to it.”
Certainly, Miller’s music hasn’t suffered for lack of a support staff. His most recent release, “For Cryin’ Out Loud,” showcases his keen songwriting, his passionate vocals and an ability to wed rock with roots, country and other Americana-based genres.
The result is a diverse soundtrack: the bluesy toe-tapping “Sin in Indiana”; the soul-dappled “Heart in Harm’s Way”; “Iron Gate” and its anthemic, Who-like intro.
A new song Miller has posted on his Web site ( www.thescottmiller.com ) is indicative of his penchant for strong, compelling narratives. “Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WVa” is about a small town in southwestern part of the Mountain State. An accompanying video — some of it shot from a moving car — shows frolicking deer, the local school, farmhouses and fields from the town which has a population of 383.
“I like a story,” he says, noting Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis” and Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon” as examples. “And I think story songs still work. … That’s what always, always gets me.”
Miller started out with the Nashville-based V-Roys before launching a solo career. His earliest releases were raucous, noisy affairs; notably “Thus Always to Tyrants” (2001) has a certain grand aspect.
But as the years have passed, Miller has tried to go back to his roots.
“I think some of it has to do that with the V-Roys — we really fought to keep our records simple, the sound as very basic and simple as we could,” Miller says. “I think on the ‘Tyrants’ record with (producer) R. S. Field, it got bigger production than I ever thought it would be. I’ve sort of tried to rein it back a little bit since then. But on ‘Citation’ when I worked with Jim Dickinson (the famed producer who died last year) a couple of years ago, we used more reverb than on any other record combined. But you couldn’t tell. So, I think I’m getting better at that really basic sound of the early Smash Records (that featured Roger Miller, James Brown and Bruce Channel, among others) and really sparse production. I really enjoy that.”
With: Christian Trich
When: 7 p.m Wednesday
Admission: $10 advance, $12 day of show
Where: Club Cafe, South Side
Details: 412-431-4950 or Web site