Clip: Q&A with Rhett Miller
Face Time: Q&A with Rhett Miller
May 5, 2005
BY THOMAS CONNER Staff Reporter
Anybody remember alt-country? The Old 97s came out of Dallas in the
mid-'90s to briefly rule that nebulous genre, and they did so by straddling
both sides of the Rio Grande -- the chugging Tex-Mex shuffles from the
borderlands (dig their chugging cover of "El Paso" from the "King of the
Hill" soundtrack) as well as the radio-ready pop hooks that, well, make Rio
dance upon the sand. The band enjoyed a steady rise on Elektra Records,
with hit discs in 1997's country-punk "Too Far to Care" and 1999's tuneful
Lead singer Rhett Miller is the most bookish guy with a gee-tawr (his
lyrics have referred to authors Raymond Carver and Don DeLillo), and in
2002 he stepped aside for an even poppier solo outing, "The Instigator."
But the Old 97s are still together -- with a new disc, "Drag It Up," in
stores now and Miller currently recording his second solo disc with noted
rock producer George Drakoulias.
Q. Before the Old 97s signed to Elektra, you were briefly on Chicago's
Bloodshot Records. How'd you find your way this far north?
A. Chicago was the first town to really embrace the Old 97s. Our success is
really because the good people of Chicago took us seriously. I remember a
show we played at the Double Door with Robbie Fulks, the Waco Brothers and,
um, Eleventh Dream Day's other band, and the club was packed. It was one of
our best shows.
Q. Old 97s fans seemed to freak out when you did the first solo album,
fearing the end of the band. Did you have to deal with cries of "traitor"?
A. I was buying something on Amazon one day, and I thought, "Hey, I wonder
what the customer reviews say about my album." I pulled it up, and there's
Murray, my best friend, giving this scathing review of "The Instigator." It
was brutal. And he called me a frat boy. Man, I dropped out -- I was
getting beaten up by frat boys.
Q. What does the band think of your solo career?
A. They're fine with it. Two of the guys are stay-home dads, so they're
actually kind of grateful not to be on the road. ... We've been together
for 12 years, which is like 90 in dog years. I need to get away every now
and then to make a crazy rock 'n' roll record -- which is what this next
one will be.