Ben Miller plays tracks from Any Way, Shape, or Form and talks about touring with ZZ Top and letting the song tell you what it needs.
Also on this episode you'll hear roots rock from the Christian Lopez Band, country music from Lee Sims, country rock from J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, indie rock from Kelly Pardekooper, Country from Laura Benitez, blues from Dick LeMasters, gospel from James Hand, rock & roll from Ronnie Fauss, and some blistering jump blues from Joel DaSilva and the Midnight Howl.
- This Romance / Christian Lopez Band / Pilot / 3:47
- Rag Top Baby / Lee Sims / Deep in the Heart of Me / 2:56
- Young Women And Old Guitars / JP Harris And The Tough Choices / Home Is Where The Hurt Is / 2:26
- Milk in Sunshine / Kelly Pardekooper / Milk in Sunshine / 2:26
- Good Love / Laura Benitez and the Heartache / Heartless Woman / 3:29
(Note: I forgot to credit Laura with this song on the podcast episode. Sorry Laura!)
- One Bird, Two Stones / Dick LeMasters / One Bird, Two Stones / 4:29
- My Savior as My Guide / James Hand / Stormclouds in Heaven / 3:09
- Another Town / Ronnie Fauss / Built To Break / 3:25
- Love My Gal / Joel Dasilva and The Midnight Howl / Durty Howlin' Blues / 2:34
Ben Miller Band Info
- Preview Any Way, Shape, or Form by The Ben Miller Band on Amazon.
- Visit the Ben Miller Band web site.
Ben Miller interview recap
Putting the band together
Calvin asks Ben Miller how he put the Ben Miller Band together. He says, "It basically formed out of open mic nights I was running down here in the Joplin Missouri area. We met each other through those and thought we sounded good together. I was running probably two or three of those a week. And Doug [Dicharry] would show up to most of them and Scott [Leeper] would show up to some of them. We just developed organically from that.
Calvin asks about how many albums the Ben Miller Band has put out. He says, "Well we go this one out. The one before was Heavy Load. And there's one that's out of print right now that was self-produced called One Tone Two Ton. It was a double disc.
Calvin asks if it's even in the right ballpark to call the Ben Miller Band sound the blues. He says, "It doesn't matter what it's called. It doesn't make it better or worse depending on what it's called. We call it 'Ozark Stomp' just because we don't really feel like we fit precisely into any genre. I think people have a misconception of what a genre is. It's not a proper classification system for music. It's just a name that we attach to these things so we decided we'd attach our own name so we wouldn't be too bothered by people's preconceptions. So we called it Ozark Stomp. The music we know best is blues based. Old mountain music. American music of all shapes and sizes."
Ben Miller sets up "The Outsider." He says, "It's a song sort of reflecting some nervousness about getting into the music industry, sort of a reminder to ourselves to not get too far away from what we've done and who we are."
[Calvin plays "The Outsider" from Any Way, Shape Or Form by the Ben Miller Band.]
Ben Miller comments, "You learn to keep those parts compartmentalized in your mind. You have to have some business sense to run a business and you have to engage in that as well. I think you need to develop strategies to keep that compartmentalized from the other art making part of the whole thing. It's like when a baseball player gets up to bat he can't look at the scoreboard."
Calvin asks Ben Miller about the unusual instruments they play to make their unique sound. He says, "We always have a washtub bass. The bass you're hearing is plucked with a single string and the note is adjusted by the tension on the string. So that holds the bottom end. I'm playing claw hammer banjo. Doug, our percussionist, he's playing washboard through a series of effects pedals. And he's also playing drums, grabbing a drum stick when he can grab one. That's part of the fun of the live shows. We come up with these ideas in the studio and then we're like her comes the tricky part, how do we get this to work and fortunately we have the ability to switch between things pretty quickly."
Calvin ask if it's true that they have an instrument called "electric spoons." Ben Miller says, "I had a song that I thought spoons would have sound good to and we recorded it. And then when we did it live we had a problem getting the spoons to rise above the rest of the mix because they're kind of quiet when they are acoustic. We tried to put a mic on them and eventually we just figured it wasn't going to work and I said well I guess we won't play that song that way. Then I had an idea of a way to amplify spoons. And we got some of those spoons from Cracker Barrell that had the plastic handle. And into the handle we inserted a contact microphone. And wired it to a quarter inch jack out. And it sounded great, easy to amplify We just plugged it straight into a guitar amplifier and it pretty much sounded like spoons. Then Doug took that, extrapolated upon it through his array of effects pedals and took it to a place few spoons have seen before.
Ben Miller sets up "Burning Building." He says, "This is sort of a real high energy song. Doug's playing washboard and I'm playing guitar. The impetus of this song is when me and my girlfriend were out getting something and we saw a bunch of firetrucks lined u on the streets. And I tend to make up little rhymes and songs when we are riding around together. The chorus came to my head 'I know where there's a burning building and I Know where there's a building burning' and from there I just sort of worked on it"
[Calvin plays "Burning Building" from Any Way, Shape, Or Form by The Ben Miller Band.]
The tour with ZZ Top
Calvin asks Ben Miller about the highlights from their European tour. He says, "People dug it all over. There wasn't a country that wasn't unreceptive to our music. It was kind of off the wall. We didn't know what to expect. I'd been to Europe before just as a traveler. I knew that this was going to go over well, but the whole tour exceeded our expectations by a long shot. We were playing to huge audiences as well. We got to go over there with ZZ Top who took us under their wing. I had know idea what to expect touring with a band as illustrious as that. If they'd pay attention to us or they'd pay attention to us in a mean way. But they couldn't have been kinder. I can't say enough nice things and anything I say feels like not enough for the gratitude I feel for showing us the ropes.
Calvin asks if there are things he learned from that tour that he as taken back to their current band tours. He says, "I think for me I noticed Billy's grace on stage. That was something I've learned in a way that I can't fully explain. But his body language and timing on performances is definitely something I took away from that experience. And a far as running a production of that caliber and that size it's definitely given us a touring 101. The first time we went over there with them it was a real last minute deal. It was 'you guys got passports. What are you doing in a week, come on out here.' So we got our passports together at the last minute and flew over there with them. We had nothing set up. We just showed up to the airport. We rode with them on their tour buses. It was unbelievably kind and generous."
Ben Miller sets up "23 Skidoo." He says, "A lot of people I know, my friends, really like '23 Skidoo.' It's a song off the newest album. Kind of a left turn departure from the barn burner stuff. We sort of genre-bend a lot of genres together. It's about how everybody we've ever met in our entire lives right now are doing something that's just as real as what we're doing. Everyone's out there living life."
[Calvin plays "23 Skidoo" from Any Way, Shape, Or Form by the Ben Miller Band.]
Calvin asks Ben Miller if there was any particular sound he was going for on that song. He says, "I tend not to work in the realm of concepts very much. I sort of a counter puncher. I'll come up with something that feels right and start adding things to it and taking things away from it just as the spirit moves me. A lot of times songs will tell you what they want and the less I have to do with it or force it in any direction the better."
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