So the 97’s will have their next album completed… this FALL??? Hmm, many thanks to sharp-eyed Wrecker Brian Sanderlin who spotted this nugget in the July 18 Chicago Tribune:


Miller finding a second wind

Singer poised on cusp of stardom

By Allison Stewart

Special to the Tribune

July 18, 2003

Rhett Miller, solo artist and occasional frontman of the alt-country quartet the Old 97’s, has a baby on the way, which partly explains his recent string of unorthodox, but potentially lucrative career choices. They include an opening slot on the Tori Amos tour, a gig singing “Homeward Bound” for a Mastercard commercial and, most improbably, an upcoming date playing Las Vegas with Uncle Kracker, an event Miller seems to be regarding with equal parts wonder and dread, though he’s much too polite to say so.

It’s been 10 months since the release of his amiable, impressive solo debut, “The Instigator,” and things have gone only partly as planned. Though Miller made the album with the assistance of famed Los Angeles record producer Jon Brion and seeded it with near-irresistible pop hooks, it was met with only moderate interest by radio programmers and the complaints of Old 97’s purists, of which there are many.

“I guess it’s gone well,” Miller says. “I didn’t see the American people going [crazy] over it like they did over John Mayer or something. I have heard the grumblings like I knew I would hear, but every record I’ve done has had that. Old fans come up to me and say, `I wanted to hate this record, but I love it.’ I mean, it’s still me. It’s not like I made a dance record like Jewel.”

It would have been easy to imagine that Miller, who is famously attractive and sweet and sings wistful love songs that reference Don DeLillo, would be embraced by mainstream audiences as a less irritating but equally charismatic version of Ryan Adams… Miller [also] isn’t sure what his label thinks, but it probably isn’t good: Elektra Records, to which he is signed both as a solo artist and as a member of the Old 97’s, might release him from his contract. Or, more awkwardly, drop the 97’s and keep him. The band recently regrouped to play some shows around their hometown of Dallas and to lay down some demo tracks for a new album, though any actual release date would hinge upon the resolution of their contractual issues.

Miller, who over the past few years has taken an increasing leadership role in the band, hints that his experiences recording “The Instigator” might influence the upcoming sessions. “As much as I liked recording like a garage band, I do feel like I want to experiment a little, maybe bring in some guest musicians or something.” To illustrate, Miller gave everyone in the Old 97’s, one of the most exemplary, meat-and-potatoes country-rock bands in existence, copies of Bowie’s glam rock concept album “Ziggy Stardust.” (While the band’s reaction to this is lost to history, Miller swears they were thrilled.) Miller also hopes bluegrass stars and sometime tour mates Nickel Creek will make a guest appearance, schedules permitting.

The band hopes to have the record finished in early fall; Miller’s baby is due in November, and the singer, who recently bought a house in upstate New York with his wife, is preparing to spend the winter as a full-time father.

“I’m definitely ready. After all these years on the road, I’m dying for it, actually.”

Rhett Miller

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.

Price: $15 (all ages); 312-559-1212

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

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