Singer-songwriter Scott Miller has a year to settle back in in Staunton, Va.
"I came back the week of my 25th high school reunion and it's been like that every day since. I see faces and I can't remember if I liked them or not!"
For 21 years, Miller made his home in Knoxville. He arrived in 1990 after graduating from the College of William & Mary with a degree in history and Russian studies. He was following a girl whom he realized didn't really want to be followed, but he stayed in Knoxville just because he liked it.
The feeling was mutual. Both as a solo artist and as a member of the V-Roys, he became one of the city's most popular and beloved artists. Miller and his wife, Thea, returned to Virgina in 2011 because his father was ailing and Miller needed to take over duties on the family farm. He now oversees the acreage (corn, hay and 40 head of cattle) and works recording and touring into the schedule.
After three albums for Sugar Hill Records, Miller began releasing music on his own label with the 2009 album "For Crying Out Loud."
Earlier this year, Miller released an EP with fiddler Rayna Gellert. The EP has led to regular collaborations on stage and has gotten good reviews.
"I wasn't kicking it out because I had do," says Miller. "We did it because I wanted to and isn't that how it's supposed to be done?"
Miller is currently planning his fall tour and working on a full album of songs written with producer/musician/writer Doug Lancio.
"I really like writing to his melodies and stuff," says Miller. "It's a different kind of music and I like having the pressure off. He goes in and does a drum track and a guitar track and it's all full of reverb and moody and stuff like that. He'll play it back and something will come to me from it or I'll have a couple of half-finished songs and put them together and see what comes out of it. He's been into (Malian group) Tinarawen, this African stuff, and I really enjoy it — but my fans are going to hate it.
"If I was smart I'd go in and make a record with the Black Lillies or something, but I ain't smart. Don't point me the direction I should go! I won't. I'm an idiot."
Miller has only co-written a few songs with one other artist — his old buddy and fellow former V-Roy Mic Harrison.
"He is my only one and true love!" says Miller with a chuckle. "I always loved Mic, and he and I had the same ideas about songs and could think for each other."
He says learning to write with another artist is a big step for a guy who stubbornly worked alone.
"I think it's sort of how I was, even in addiction (Miller overcame alcoholism two years ago), you won't seek help from anybody else. You think you can do everything yourself. Part of that, I'm just not comfortable around strangers and stuff. Boys, I really picked the wrong business! But half of that anxiety was driving a lot my abuse."
Miller stated that when he left Knoxville that the city would never notice that he'd moved. True to his word, Miller has been a regular presence in the city hosting the "Scruffy City Roots" concert series.
He says he's not used to being the host of anything and he never learned to "smile with his eyes" — a talent producers at "Blue Collar TV" insisted he needed when he led the house band on that show.
Miller says "Scruffy City" has its challenges.
"They wanna do this big jam at the end, so you gotta get all these acts together and find a song that everybody agrees on and make sure everybody can do it."
Miller has tried to avoid the obvious, like, say, having everyone sing "The Weight." For one finale, Miller chose to have the artists each read a verse from the classic Robert Service poem "The Cremation of Sam McGhee" with the Black Lillies' Cruz Contreras playing an instrumental of "North to Alaska" behind it.
The artists on the show, however, weren't familiar with the poem.
"You know it. I know it. Who the (expletive) hasn't heard of this poem? I got all these strange looks from everybody doing the show. You know what I found out? All of them, homeschooled!"
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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