Archive for August, 2012

Track 09 – “Just Like California”

“Just Like California” is a simple fantasy about being in love with a girl named Clementine who lived in California until the San Andreas Fault gave way, dropping the whole state into the Pacific Ocean. There must be a million songs based on that premise, right?

California carries such a weight of mythology. I don’t know whether I’ve written more songs about it or Chicago, but… CONTINUE READING on RHETT’s SITE


Track 10 – “Curtain Calls”

I wrote “Curtain Calls” while visiting my brother in Colorado. He lived in Breckenridge at the time, and my sister and I made the trek out to see him in the summer of 1996. One night, we went to a local nightclub and made the scene. As so often happens with nights like that, I came home feeling lonely. So many people, so much mirth, and yet, in the end, we are all alone. After everyone else had gone to bed, I sat out on the back porch beneath one of the biggest skies I’d ever seen and wrote “Curtain Calls.” Like so many songs I was writing at the time, it dealt with the allure of the itinerant life of a musician, the life onto which I was embarking, and the strong ambivalence I felt about it.

An unrelated memory:
“Curtain Calls” was almost the last song I ever wrote. The next day, my brother and a few of his friends were planning to kayak down a river with rapids classified as “Class C,” whatever that was. He asked if my sister and I would like to use his neighbor’s aluminum canoe and join them. It sounded like fun and he assured us that it was no big deal. I won’t drag the story out, but suffice it to say it was, in fact, a big deal. The aluminum canoe hit a rock on the first batch of rapids, and sprang a god-awful leak. There was no bank on either side of the river and I repeatedly had to drag a sinking canoe to whatever purchase I could find while my little sister clung desperately to its bow, the river pulling at her in a terrible game of tug of war. The bright spot? This was back in my days of smoking, and every time we perched atop a rocky outcropping to regroup, I’d unzip the glacine baggie in which I’d been clever enough to secure my Camel Lights and furtively suck down nicotine. My sister and I now laugh about our close call that day, but I think my brother still feels lousy. Maybe he should.

Bonus Question:
Mason jars make an appearance in this song. I’m a big fan. What other of my songs feature Mason jars? And to what similar use as in “Curtain Calls”?


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Track 12 – “House That Used To Be”

“I am going to tell the truth, even though I might be excoriated for doing so. I wrote this song with the assistance of a Rhyming Dictionary. It was a goof. I gave myself a challenge: make a list of rhyming, two-syallable words, compound words or phrases that sounded juicy and turn that list into a song. “Graveyard/Co-starred,” “Corn silk/Spilt milk,” “Quaaludes/Corkscrewed,” etc…

At the time, I had recently moved into the only house in which I have ever lived truly by myself. With the Elektra advance, I bought a fantastic stereo system that I still use to this day, and rented a big two bedroom house a block off of White Rock Lake. Suddenly, I felt very alone. And this list of weird-sounding phrases (“Freight Trains/Great Danes”) built itself into a perfectly reasonable lament one night around 3 a.m.

Moral of the story: There are no rules.

Use a Rhyming Dictionary; Rewrite all the lyrics to a Dylan song; Put the word “Old” in your band’s name.

Just make sure it feels right in your heart.



Track 11 – “Niteclub”

“During the year or two leading up to the recording of Too Far To Care, I was living with a young woman who was poised and destined to move to New York City to pursue her dream. And then she did move. And the fuel that her departure provided my young songwriting machine burned hot indeed.

I remember writing this song, or its lyrics anyway, in a phone booth in a nightclub in Cleveland. It was her 22nd birthday, and I was not with her. But I was where I was meant to be. The crocodile tears I’ve cried could end the drought in Texas.

When I sing “Niteclub” these days, I marvel at its prescience. The nightclub did steal my youth. And the nightclub does follow me around, unchanging and eternal. And while I’m busy loving my job, I’m also lamenting the life it precludes. You know, the normal life? The 9 to 5?

One lyric in particular has evolved in a sad, marvelous way. When I wrote “telephones make strangers out of lovers,” I was looking at a pay phone (remember those?), and thinking how the false connection it provided served only to increase the emotional distance between lovers. Now, when I sing the song, I look out over the audience and it only takes a moment of searching the crowd to find a couple standing side by side, both looking at their phones. These days, the telephone makes strangers out lovers who are in the same room.

Bonus question: Name the nightclubs in which the Old 97’s have performed over the years that have since, in fact, burned down.

Hint: I think two were located in Madison.



Get over to Omnivore Recordings now!

Omnivore Recordings will honor the 15th Anniversary of Too Far To Care with a series of special editions. Produced by Wally Gagel (Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, etc.) and featuring guest artists, Jon Rauhouse and Exene Cervenka, Too Far To Care has become a classic of the alt-country genre. The 2-CD set includes the remastered original album plus four session outtakes on disc one and a second disc of original pre-album demos featuring some never-before-heard Old 97’s songs! Additionally, a 2-LP set of the original album, makes its vinyl debut, with the four session outtakes, which are also on disc one of the CD. The first pressing of 1,500 will be released as a limited edition on translucent aqua-colored vinyl with an open-ended black vinyl pressing to follow.

A second single-LP and digital album, called They Made A Monster: The Too Far To Care Demos, carries all the demos from disc two of the CD. This album will have a first-run, limited-edition pressing of 1,500 on translucent yellow vinyl, with an open-ended black vinyl pressing to follow. The demos album includes a download card and is available separately as a digital album.



Pre-order yours today>




“Four Leaf Clover” debuted on Hitchhike To Rhome, the first Old 97’s album. We made Hitchhike in about four days, which meant it was an absolute whirlwind. I had written “Four Leaf Clover” in the days leading up to that first session, and the band and Hitchhike’s producer, Alan Wooley, felt that even though we had only worked up a minimal arrangement, the song was too good to leave off the album. In the ensuing years of road work, “Four Leaf” grew into a massive rock song, light years beyond that humble first recording.

While putting together the songs that would become Too Far To Care, I was searching for a duet to record with my new friend, Exene Cervenka. I had started work on an old-fashioned duet that I thought we might sing, but Exene proclaimed it “too pretty.” That song later became “Fireflies.”

Exene listened to the rough mixes we had recorded in Tornillo, TX and chose “Four Leaf Clover.” We decided she would take the lead on the second verse, and Exene suggested a lyric re-write. Thus, “nothing to impress you” became “nothing to attract you.” Much sexier. That Exene has a way with words, all right.


Via Rolling Stone:

Rhett Miller was among the various musicians who came together to honor the late Johnny Cash April 20th in Austin, Texas, and with good reason: Miller named his band, the Old 97’s, after Cash’s version of the country classic “Wreck of the Old 97.” In this video, filmed at the performance, Miller tears through the song with the house band. Don’t miss the impressive round of guitar solos, the loose piano jam or the fun-loving spirit of everyone on stage.

Miller’s performance is part of the Blu-ray disc and CD/DVD set, We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash. The set also features Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Shooter Jennings, Brandi Carlile and mores, and was released August 7th.

Read more>

From Rhett’s Facebook page:

“I’m totally excited for the Too Far To Care anniversary tour, but I must warn the starry-eyed lovebirds who have been writing me with requests for assistance in their wedding engagement… Old 97’s no longer stop down the rock show in order to focus on one couple in the audience who may or may not be getting engaged at that moment.
Nor do we host pre-show engagement parties.
I believe in love (as the song testifies), but I am not the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. I merely sing and shake my ass. That said, we will play “Question” every night on this tour. In fact, there is a good chance it will be the first song we play after “4 Leaf Clover” closes out the TFTC portion. And we will pedal through the chord progression a few times before the song kicks in. That would be a great time to screw up your courage, get down on one knee (mandatory), and dive into the bliss of matrimony.
Hooray for love.” -Rhett