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The breathless lives of Buddy & Julie Miller

By Jon Weisberger, October 2001

Buddy Miller doesn't sound especially breathless as he talks on the telephone from the Nashville home he shares with his wife, Julie, but if he did, it wouldn't be surprising. After all, Miller wears enough hats singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer that holes in his schedule are guaranteed to be few and far between even under the most relaxed circumstances, and the past couple of years have been anything but that.

That makes the seamlessness of their new, self-titled album all the more remarkable. Though they've collaborated on disc before, "Buddy and Julie Miller" (HighTone) is the first time they've been co-billed.

Ironically, it comes with a CD on which Buddy's contribution was more restricted than it's been in the past; though he sings and plays, most of the songwriting was done by Julie, with whom he shares but one credit.

Miller's busy schedule is the culprit.

"It's a little tiring, but I'm not complaining," he laughs. "I've had a real busy last couple of years, and as much as I wanted to participate, she had all these great songs started already, and I thought well, they'll all fit in really well. It's been sort of a nutty time for me. It's all been relentless."

"The Emmylou (Harris) gig opened up a lot of opportunities and doors for me, and at the same time I got that gig, my first record was coming out, and some people liked that," says Miller, who played guitar for Harris.

"So, there were writing opportunities and producing opportunities, and I'd work with Emmylou on tracks that she was recording, too. And then I played with Steve Earle for about a year, so everything kind of happened at once."

Julie's calendar has been similarly full.

She and Buddy have frequently opened for Harris, and she's appeared on a number of others' recordings, too.

"I like doing it all. The only problem is, I don't like get really good at any of them," Buddy modestly says. "I don't do them all the time, so I kind of get okay at something, and then it's time to move on to something else. But I love it all. I like singing and I like playing. It's all great."

"We just had people asking us when we were going to make a record together."

The two met after Buddy ended up in Austin after playing bluegrass, country rock and psychedelic music around the country. He joined Rick Stein & the Alley Cats, whose female singer was Julie Griffin. A few years later, they moved to New York where they had a regular gig at the Lone Star Cafe.

After personal problems, Julie returned to Texas where she joined a Christian commune. Buddy stayed in New York where he worked with Shawn Colvin among others and eventually married Julie.

The couple headed west where Julie recorded several Christian albums for the Word label.

In Los Angeles, Buddy connected with Jim Lauderdale, joined his band and hooked up with HighTone, which released his first solo album, "Your Love and Other Lies" in 1995.

Julie debuted two years later with "Blue Pony," followed later that year by Buddy's "Poison Love." Buddy released "Cruel Moon" in 1999, the same year Julie released "Broken Things."

"Our music is sort of different from each other. Hers is more rockin', and left to my own, I'm more of just a country player. If I wasn't playing with her or Emmylou, that's what I'd end up doing. So, when we go out and play, it kind of becomes a different thing altogether, and so we thought, let's try a record and see what it sounds like." '

"It's hard for me to switch gears, so this one was a tough one to do. It was just done in our days off, in between tours. The last few days were real tough - it was basically 60 hours, no sleep, because we had to get it done, and my ears get tired. It wasn't really fun. I'll not be able to listen to it for a long time."

Indeed, it seems likely that the album might not have been done at all were it not for the Millers' home studio.

"I've been collecting stuff for the last 15 years or so," he says. "So I just had some gear, and we started doing Julie's music at home first. We realized it sounded pretty good, and people liked the way the records sounded."

"I've just got a bunch of good stuff and just enjoy working at home. I can invite friends over and sit around and play, and hopefully it'll turn into a record."

"We have a real old house that was actually a triplex at one point. When we got it, we opened up the upstairs, moved in there and used the whole downstairs as sort of a studio area. So, it works out good. Fortunately, Julie's way into it. A lot of wives would probably just flip if their husbands wanted to turn the whole house into a studio, but she's into it, and any gear I want to get, she just figures it's great, it works along with what we do."

"We cut the basic tracks live, but we have a strange thing going, especially with this record, because we'd cut a lot of songs that weren't written," Miller laughs. "For instance, Brady Blades, Emmylou's drummer, lives in Sweden, but when we tour, I try to get him over here to play whether we have songs or not. So, we'd have the music for a song that we knew we were going to want to do, but we didn't have the words written, so we'd record the track and then later on finish it up. We do things like that. I'm not against overdubbing everything's a good thing, it just shouldn't be abused."

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