Archive for November, 2011

An Open Letter from Rhett

November 25, 2011

Hi y’all,

Rhett Miller here. I’m writing to invite you into something very special.

I’ve been making albums for 16 years, and hopefully I will be doing it for at least 16 more. I love it. I love watching Jon Brion wheel into the studio some instrument that nobody knew existed, I love the silence of Kingsway Studios at 3am, I love the sight of Murry juggling while waiting to do another vocal take.

But there are other records I’ve wanted to make, more intimate and immediate ones, records that I’ve spent most of my life dreaming about making. I always assumed they would remain in the realm of dreams, mostly due to logistics and whiny bureaucrats and the expense of distribution. And then, like most of you, I woke up and realized that those barriers were gone.

So now I’m going to make those records.

In fact, I’ve already started. I’m in the midst of recording a set of songs that might be the best I’ve ever had. They are simple. They are strong. This will be called a solo record, but I’m not making it alone. I brought some of my favorite musicians into one of the most beautiful studios in the world, and I’m loving the results so far.

I can’t wait to share these songs with you. No middle-men, no gate-keepers… Just me and my friends, making music and delivering it to YOU.

Please don’t get me wrong… The record labels with which I’ve worked were stocked with badass music-lovers, and I’m not ruling out working with them in the future, but there have been massive changes in record labels and the record business. And now, thanks to the good old internet, I’m able to communicate directly with the fans. That is the coolest thing about all of this. The fourth wall has been brought down. The posing and false mystique of the old system is done. It’s a brave new world and I’m stoked.

I want to guide every aspect of the process this time around. So I’m producing the record myself, and I’ve started my own label, Maximum Sunshine Records.

And I need your help.

Let’s do it.

Join me on PledgeMusic.

Rhett

A special guest fan review by Dr. David Welsh:

It was a big night for what has become a November tradition at Dallas’ Granada Theater: the annual Benefit for Cystic Fibrosis. For the past five years, Rhett has headlined this event dedicated to raising awareness and money for the fight against a crippling disease. Tonight set a new record for ticket sales, which should help the organizers go well past the $100,000 already brought in by previous performances.

Those willing to donate extra money for VIP passes were treated to a preshow meet-and-greet. Rhett opened a spontaneous mini-set with “Our Love,” then followed with the rarely performed “Sometimes” (at this reviewer’s personal request). The 50+ people in attendance sang the missing Murry parts perfectly on “Indefinitely,” which then provided the foundation for a frantic “Four-Leaf Clover.” Rhet was his usual gracious self, chatting with fans and posing for endless photos.

After the intimacy of the preshow, the doors opened and the Granada began to fill. Opening act The O’s were a marvel of sound and energy emanating from two dudes playing banjo, guitar, kick drum, tambourine, and lowebro pedal steel. Beautiful harmonies and a deprecating sense of humor all done up in a Louvain-meets-Everly-Brothers style seemed a perfect appetizer for an Old 97’s show. Sarah Jaffe followed. Her earnest brand of heart-wrenching vocals oozing sensitive vulnerability clearly pleased her many fans in the audience. This reviewer was concerned that if Jaffe’s set lasted any longer, he might start to grow ovaries.

Rhett finally took the stage at 10 PM. He planted his musical flag with the opening blast of “This Is What I Do,” and then never looked back. The setlist included three songs from his previous solo releases, two covers from his upcoming solo release (The Interpreter), a range of Old 97’s material concentrating on TFTC forward, a Christmas favorite, and a brand-new song performed for the very first time (perhaps titled “Sleepwalking”?) featuring the instantly classic couplet: “she had a prominent nose; she took off all of her clothes.” He performed a cheesy duet (the 80’s synth-pop chestnut “Only You”) with local radio personality Gordon Keith; and brought a young lady up from the audience to accompany him on “Firefly.”

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Although between-song banter was kept to a minimum, we did learn that the Old 97’s were set to accompany Billy Bragg on a tour supporting Mermaid Avenue until their visas were cancelled at the last minute. Rhett’s rendition of the Woody Guthrie-penned “California Stars” from that album was a memorable moment in a memorable evening. Lyric flubs and broken strings were minimal during the 70-minute performance, but the energy on stage was high-octane throughout. Dramatic spit-takes erupted during “Doreen” and again for the encore of “Big Brown Eyes.” The sound quality was impeccable, the crowd was adoring, and a good time was had by all.

~ David Welsh

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The entire setlist was as follows:

1. This Is What I Do
2. Niteclub
3. Won’t Be Home No More
4. Singular Girl
5. Here It Is Christmastime
6. Rollerskate Skinny
7. California Stars (cover)
8. The El
9. Doreen
10. Question
11. [new one] “Sleepwalking”?
12. Designs on You
13. Barrier Reef
14. Only You (cover) duet w/Gordon Keith
15. Firefly
16. Champaign, IL
17. Perfume
18. A State of Texas
19. Our Love

**encores**
1. Big Brown Eyes
2. American Girl (cover)
3. Timebomb

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Rhett is hard at work on a new solo album to be released next spring, but in the meantime there’s an excellent new album coming out very soon. You can now pre-order “The Interpreter: Live at Largo” on iTunes. Rhett talks about this mostly live, mostly solo acoustic album in the video below.