Episode 050: Rhett Miller
“She Loves the Sunset” from 2008’s Blame it on Gravity is a peppy little number about love and loss. It’s a good song from a good record, but hardly a standout in the Old 97’s catalog. What makes the track so fascinating is its origin story, and while I’m generally one to wince at the prospect of discussing 9/11 three minutes into an interview with the front man of an alt-country band, the events that led Rhett Miller to write the track entirely on a toy güiro borrowed from a marionette in the wake of the biggest attack on US soil are fascinating indeed. Among other things, it’s the story of a musician compelled to make music at all costs, a story that plays out several times on the band’s forthcoming record Most Messed Up. “I’m not crazy about songs that get self-referential,” Miller sings in the lead off track. “And most of this stuff should be kept confidential.” But if it doesn’t break his own rule, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” and a number of other tracks from the LP certainly bend it as the band tackles precisely what it means to have been playing in a band for longer than many of its fans have been here on Earth. Miller and I took up that conversation over some whiskey and plate of pepper backstage at New York’s City Winery.