WV native John R. Miller brings debut album to Huntington Music and Arts Fest
John R. Miller is yet another musician connected to the Mountain State that is making his mark in the roots music world right now. Hailing from the Eastern Panhandle, Miller will release his debut album, “The Trouble You Follow” on the day before he performs at the Huntington Music and Arts Festival this Saturday.
Miller began to appear on the music scene with the successful and progressive roots band The Fox Hunt, which challenged him to learn to play the guitar and bass to a modern and fun approach to old-time roots music.
That led to many a day spent at the annual Appalachian String Band Festival held every year in Clifftop, WV. The connections made through this event included time spent with fiddler, Chloe Edmonstone, with whom Miller would collaborate often in the following years.
While Miller was playing with Edmonstone’s group Locust Honey and other bands such as the Prison Book Club, the Hackensaw Boys and The Fox Hunt, he was also writing songs of his own.
Now, on his new recording “The Trouble You Follow,” recorded at Paul Cogle’s studios in Falling Waters, WV, Miller performs an impressive array of original compositions fleshed out by Edmonstone on fiddle, Danny Tait on drums, former The Fox Hunt band mate Matt Metz on mandolin and Jason Summer on pedal steel guitar.
“I grew up in a small town called Hedgesville, West Virginia, which is just north of Martinsburg,” said Miller. “When we were little kids, I had some friends that played guitar and sang, but my family didn’t really play music at all. My Dad did have an old classical guitar that I dragged out of storage out of curiosity. However, when I started getting into music, I began to teach myself then, getting together with friends that I knew from school, and we even formed some bands when we were younger. Eventually, in my carelessness, I ended up putting a hole through the top of that guitar. The guitar was sitting out in my room, and I had no real respect for anything at that point, and I was carrying something and I dropped it and it punched a hole through the top of it. I put the guitar back in its case and put it back in storage because I knew it would be a while before my Dad would notice it. But, later on, my little brother grabbed the guitar and my Dad found me out.”
Miller, 32, began to take songwriting more seriously by the time he was 20 years old and eventually would hit the road with The Fox Hunt and other bands. On this debut album “The Trouble You Follow,” his songwriting is at its peak with tales of leaving people and places that you love behind being an underlying theme.
“About half of the songs on this new album are totally new and the other half were sitting around for a few years,” said Miller. “My music tends to be put in the Americana category, which has its connotations as the term can be overused. But the Americana genre is not a bad fit as the name covers a broad swath of music that has similar sonic and aesthetic attributes. My music is not in the usual singer/songwriter format as the full band behind me makes it feel different than a typical singer/songwriter album. Looking at this album as a whole, a lot of the songs are about not feeling comfortable with the place that you are in. A lot of the songs are about leaving a place, or wanting to leave, or having left and not being sure you should have left. None of that was intentional as the songs were written over five years of time, and in different places.”
Miller’s travels find him living about 20 minutes outside of Nashville now, after moving around a bit while chasing his muse. Still, his love of his native state of West Virginia is real.
“I was living in Shepherdstown for about ten years, but a lot of my friends were moving away and I went through a breakup,” said Miller. “I realized there was not a lot keeping me there, so I followed some friends to Nashville. I had to find a place to work for a little while. But, I love West Virginia dearly. I do intend on returning. I can’t think of any other place as home. There is very rarely any other place that I want to be. As soon as I cross that state line, it is a sigh of relief every time.”
More information on John R. Miller and The Engine Lights and the new album The Trouble You Follow can be found at www.jrmillermusic.com/.
The Huntington Music and Arts Festival takes place this Saturday, Sept. 1, from noon to 10 p.m. at the amphitheater in Ritter Park. Tickets are $20 at the gate and kids 12 and under are free. The lineup includes John R. Miller and The Engine Lights (around 4 p.m.) along with Maggie, Flat Tracker, Ducain, Magnolia Boulevard, Johnny Conqueroo, Short & Company, The Dividends, Bendigo Fletcher, Qiet, William Matheny & The Strange Constellations, Ona and Rozwell Kid.
There will also be acoustic sets by Zach McGlone, Karis Blanton, Aaron Boyd, Patrick Stanley, Chloe Edmonstone, Chelsea Nolan, Will Jones, Josh Nolan, John Clay, Casey Campbell, Justin Wells and Arlo McKinley.
More information can be found at hmafestival.com.