Old 97’s founding member Rhett Miller’s latest solo album, THE MESSENGER, was recorded in early 2018 over five days at The Isokon in Woodstock, NY with producer/musician Sam Cohen (Kevin Morby, Benjamin Booker). THE MESSENGER sees Miller playing it faster and looser than perhaps any other time in his quarter-century career, instilling what might be his most personal songs to date with a groovy limberness that belies the reflective darkness within.
Backed by a white-hot backing combo comprised of Cohen (Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Pedal Steel Guitar, Piano, Organ, Second Drumset), Brian Betancourt (Bass), and Ray Rizzo (Drums), Miller goes deep into his own youthful experiences with suicide and depression, placing “a long-distance phone call to myself as a 14-year-old” on surprisingly buoyant new songs like “The Human Condition” and “Permanent Damage.”
“I wanted this record to be less safe,” Miller says. “I wanted to put myself in the hands of a producer who was going to do things that I didn’t expect; I wanted to play with people I didn’t know and be surprised by what they came up with. And all of that really came to pass. That’s what you’re getting with this record. You’re getting this locked-in rhythm section with a crazy, psychedelic guitar maestro playing along with me singing my songs about depression and insecurity.”
Miller has also teamed with Caldecott Medalist and bestselling artist Dan Santat for No More Poems, a riotous collection of irreverent poems for modern families that was published March 5, 2019 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers.