We interviewed Auckland singer songwriter Miller in June, just as he released his debut EP, “Shoot Me In The Heart”. We found it to be an accomplished set of songs from a young man with undoubted musical ability and an ear for a melody. They were mostly slower songs, but catchy, with Miller revealing a nice turn of phrase in lyrics. (“Praise the Lord and thank God for ammunition”, from the title track, seems a particularly apt line given recent events in the USA)
Now Miller has taken another big step, this week appearing for the first time with a full band. The venue was the cosy and intimate setting of Golden Dawn bar in Ponsonby.
My immediate impression was this was a band who seemed like they’d been together for a while – they were a tight unit who sounded completely comfortable with Miller’s songs. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the arranging, with Miller still playing solo on acoustic guitar at times, before his band members would kick in to give the songs a fuller sound. The band was made up of Nathan Boston on lead guitar, Michael White on bass, Dean Tinning on drums and Bonnie Hurunui on backing vocals and percussion. Miller played all the instruments on the EP, and here he added lead guitar and keyboards to his main duties of lead vocals and acoustic guitar.
It was a short set of seven songs, with the band playing the bulk of the EP, as well as a new song, “Nothing” and a re-working of “Stand By Me”. I thought this a brave choice, given it’s so well known and so many artists have covered it. But he stayed true to his style and it worked.
And the question of style is an interesting one. I’ve seen Miller referred to as an indie folk/pop artist, which is fair, especially with the slower songs. The duet with Gala on “Full Moon Melody” was a straight out romantic ballad up there with the best of them. But there also seemed something else on offer. During one up tempo phase of “Nothing” I made a note that Tom Petty came to mind. That choppy rhythm guitar was what triggered the thought. And generally, with tastefully constructed lead breaks from Nathan Boston and from Miller himself, and with the soulful backing vocals of Bonnie Hurunui, you got a feeling that the band could go in several directions. In fact it would be an interesting exercise to hear Miller use his folk voice in a grittier soul/blues setting.
Miller himself is at ease fronting the band, as evidenced by his banter with the audience. And he was excited to have the opportunity to present his music, live. There was a lot to enjoy here, and, even better, a lot to look forward to.