In the aftermost several years, Built-in American recording artisan Bill Miller has gone through divorce, active his mother, active a 29-year-old son and came actual abutting to dying himself from affection abortion and complications.
Now afterwards spending a year and a bisected in and out of hospitals, the three-time Grammy champ is aback arena for alive audiences, alive on a new almanac and accomplishing it, he says, with a renewed focus on what is important in his life.
Fortunately for Miller’s admirers in the Lehigh Valley, the Godfrey Daniels alert club in Bethlehem, area he is appointed to accomplish Dec. 15 is important to Miller.
“Some of us charge to appear to abreast afterlife afore we apprehend the amount of things,” Miller says in a buzz interview. “I’m not adage I didn’t amount things. I was not absolutely accumbent with my career. Now, I advance my career.
MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO
Bill Miller assuming in 2004
Bill Miller assuming in 2004 (MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO)
“The money doesn’t advance me,” he continues. “The Grammys don’t advance me. I put them in their place. I abstruse how to annul things that accept no amount to me anymore.”
Miller has enjoyed success that at times has belted on absolute stardom. He already toured as the aperture act for Tori Amos and Pearl Jam.
In 1995, Miller’s virtuoso Built-in American canal was featured in the Vanessa Williams song “Colors of the Wind,” the affair song for the Disney movie, “Pocahontas.” The cine soundtrack won a Grammy; the song an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
But success took its toll.
“The aftermost actuality to do annihilation for myself was myself,” Miller says. “I was accomplishing aggregate for everybody abroad and aggravating to amuse my family, aggravating to amuse the almanac label, aggravating to get almanac sales up so I accumulate my almanac deal, aggravating to accumulate the agents from bitching at me.
“Everybody capital their piece. It aloof got overwhelming.”
After the claimed tragedies and the bloom issues struck, Miller says he able that he was “misaligned.”
“What this medical affair has done for me is acumen that I can now bind it aback up afresh — the alignment of what I’m about, what I feel. I’m not activity to let my activity agony get in the way of how I appetite to accurate myself.”
Miller, who is Mohican, was built-in and grew up in the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a catch in arctic Wisconsin. His Indian name, Fush-Ya Heay Ka, agency “bird song,” and music was capital to him from an aboriginal age.
He abstruse acceptable songs but he additionally had an AM radio on which he could aces up stations all over the country. He listened to the music of the times including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Dylan charcoal an access to this day, he says.
When he aboriginal best up a guitar at age 12, he abstruse to comedy Johnny Cash songs and polkas with his cousins. He played in bedrock bands at his aerial academy and again in academy in La Crosse, Wis.
Some time afterwards that, he says, “I met Arlo Guthrie and Richie Havens and they took me on the alley with them and I never came back.”
Along the way, a south Bethlehem coffee abode accepted to folk musicians beyond the country would become a cardinal allotment of Miller’s career.
Miller says folk, country and bluegrass artisan John Hartford aboriginal arrive him to comedy at Godfrey Daniels as his aperture act. Miller says his set was accustomed so able-bodied that he was arrive aback to accomplish on his own, which he has done abundant times.
Miller’s alone alive record, “Reservation Road,” appear in 1992, was recorded during a Godfrey Daniels performance. That well-reviewed recording led to him actuality active by Warner Brothers annal and some of his bigger bartering successes.
“What that almanac did was accessible the aperture in so abounding ways,” Miller says.
In again visits to Godfrey Daniels and Musikfest, Miller says he developed a “spiritual affiliation with Bethlehem.” He abstruse that three of his ancestors are active in God’s Acre, the Central Moravian Church’s city cemetery.
“Bethlehem is a huge allotment of my music,” he says. “Really, pieces of my activity that fabricated me who I am, alike today, appear from Godfrey Daniels. I bethink those nights aback I was adorning my set, autograph new songs, accepting my career to go, and it was Godfrey’s that gave me that chance. I absolutely adulation and account that place.”
Throughout his career, Miller’s music has melded the sounds and sensibilities of his bedrock and folk heroes with those of his ancestors’ ability — for example, accumulation bedrock chart with Built-in American canal and percussion.
His songwriting generally touches on capacity apropos to his adherence and Christian faith. Miller additionally frequently writes about his apropos about the environment. Added of that can be accepted on his abutting recording, he says.
“My apperception has been on a lot of issues that are accident on Indian reservations, whether it be pipelines or mining or fracking,” he says.
His abutting almanac will additionally accommodate a new song adopted from a composition Johnny Cash wrote but never set to music. John Carter Cash, the American music legend’s youngest son, gave Miller the composition about Tecumseh, the 19th aeon Shawnee warrior and chief.
Carter Cash, who is additionally a begat of the agreeable Carter family, has over several years become Miller’s abutting acquaintance — his “musical brother,” says Miller — and is bearing the record.
The composition was accounting in 1964, abreast the time that the ancient Cash appear “Bitter Tears,” a abstraction anthology that explored the history and struggles of American Indians. The record, which included one hit song, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” was controversial. Abounding radio stations banned to comedy it.
Several years back, Miller contributed to a multi-artist 50th ceremony accolade to that almanac alleged “Look Afresh to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited.”
Miller says the abutting almanac will be “quite a absorption of area I’m at in my life,” but don’t apprehend songs about afterlife and affection attacks. He is continuing to address songs about the capacity he loves, admitting his contempo troubles may accept afflicted his sonic “color palette,” which may affection added dejection and aphotic greens, he says.
It’s applicable that Miller uses colors to call his complete because he is additionally an able beheld artisan whose paintings and assets accept been apparent and awash about the country. Several of his paintings accept been acquired by the Smithsonian Museum.
Despite all he has been through, Miller says he is activity blessed and focused.
“I’m not depressed at all. I feel bigger than I anytime did in my accomplished life. I absolutely do,” he says. “I’m activity to airing slower in life, but I’m activity to alive in the present tense.
“The accent of what I accept now that I didn’t absolutely accept a anchor on for the majority of my activity was my identity,” he continues. “Who am I? Am I a native? Am I a allotment of the bigger culture? Am I famous? Am I infamous? Am I unknown? Am I known? All of those questions don’t amount to me anymore because I apperceive absolutely who I am and area I’m going.
“I’m accomplishing absolutely what I’m declared to be accomplishing — authoritative music the way I’m declared to be doing. That makes me a warrior. That makes me a champion.”
Daryl Nerl is a freelance writer.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 15
Where: Godfrey Daniels, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem
How much: $28.50, adv.; $33.50, door
Info: 610-867-2390, godfreydaniels.org
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