Catching Up with Sam Miller

Sam Miller - Pyragraph

Sam Miller in Munich. Photo by Will Miller.

Sam Miller is on an epic two-city tour of Albuquerque and New York. Always writing music, he makes well-rounded songs that stick in our heads and feel darkly clever or thickly empty like a black hole. Black holes aren’t empty though, they’re the most powerful force in the cosmos!

Last time Pyragraph talked with Sam on the Self-Employed Happy Hour podcast, he was winding up the apex of his time in Seattle where he was a big carrot in the scene of Seattle’s music stew, mainly on Capitol Hill, recording bands, playing in others’ bands, focusing on his own solo project, and playing with his band at the time, Jenny Invert. He had just finished his album, You Need To Hear It, which he wrote, performed, recorded and produced himself, with some occasional guest musician friends, often working all night till sunrise.

I used to feel, like, kind of awkward about booking a show.

“I don’t care what time the sun sets or comes up,” Sam told me back when he was still in Seattle. “What does that matter?”

Now he’s living in NYC in a basement with housemates, a keyboard, a guitar, a head full of new songs, and not much else. He sublets the place out half the time ’cause he’s always playing bass for Ryan McGarvey in northern Europe. He writes new material during downtime while on tour. Or down in the basement.

“I’ve been recording the songs to document them but I haven’t even started recording the final verion of everything,” he said. “I wanna do that with a band in a room, capture a live essence. The last album doesn’t have any of that, it’s all produced by a simultaenous writing-and-recording process and I’m trying to kind of steer away from that with the next album. There are still songs I haven’t written that I know it needs.”

When Miller first got to Brooklyn in fall of 2014, he played a Halloween show dressed as Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas and that’s how his current band came together.

“I love Jack Skellington—I find an affinity with his character,” he said. “And actually, when I prepared for that show, I met Leon (a hip-hop violinist), I mean—I’d already met Leon—but that’s when I started playing with him, and Aaron Romero, my roommate, from Young Lungs who plays keyboard and trumpet.”

Paul Glover plays drums. He was also in the Albuquerque band Young Lungs.

“We dressed up in these shitty costumes, shitty versions of characters from the movie. I looked more like the Joker than Jack Skellington,” he said. “I started going to this open mic at Sidewalk Cafe, got in touch with a booker and did a show down there, and it went really well so I booked another show and this time on a weekend coming up on September 4th.”

Sam Miller - Pyragraph

Photo by Will Miller.

It’s his first weekend show in New York—open mics are a good way to land gigs.

“I started doing the open mic, first a Tuesday, now doing a Friday—it was just a really nice place, the perfect level of freedom,” he said. “You don’t feel like there’s this pressure with putting the show together or having to play a certain way or something.”

In Seattle, you feel more pressure because every show counts against you if you don’t bring in the numbers or at least captivate all who did show up. It’s a tighter system. Well, that’s what Sam says but I would agree. As a newcomer, Seattle can be a hard nut to crack!

“New York is just an exciting, inspiring place to be on the daily,” he said. “I enjoy playing any size of show, any type of show, and I hope to continue building a little community around me with like-minded songwriters and other musicians I like paying with. It’s still at that stage for me where I haven’t seen all there is to see, I haven’t been around enough, I’m still excited to check out what other people are doing.”

Sam is sounding a lot more confident these days.

“I feel like my project is really coming together, putting out that CD last year really helped kind of solidify the idea that I’m doing this as a solo artist. I’ve gotten some positive feedback on it and a little slight anticipation on it for my next album and that’s where I wanna be. I’m more than halfway through, mentally speaking. The new album is on its way. I feel really good about it. I used to feel, like, kind of awkward about booking a show. I’d almost kind of sit around and wait for someone to ask if I wanted to play a show. Now there’s no question in my mind as to whether it’s what I want.”

Upcoming Sam Miller shows in ABQ and NY:

Humble Coffee Co.
August 8, 3pm
Albuquerque, NM

Low Spirits
August 8, 8pm
Albuquerque, NM

Sidewalk Cafe
September 4, 11pm
East Village, NYC

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