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When Marie Miller writes a song, she does what all gifted writers do: She looks at her life and into her heart to make sure what she creates comes from real emotion and experience.
She also does something none of peers likely do: she searches through classic literature, whether it be Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy or Homer. There, she finds parallels for what she wants to say, channels that inspiration into her lyrics and comes up with something unique: Music that’s immediate and timeless, driven by feelings all listeners can relate to yet infused with a perspective that transcends the present.
“I have a song called ‘Story’ on my new album,” she explains, referencing Letterbox, scheduled for release in the spring of 2017 on Curb Records. “It brings in a lot of epic characters: Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights, Hector’s wife Andromache from The Iliad. I’ve always loved epic stories — Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment — because they’re filled with relationships that are super serious and dramatic. Sometimes I feel like I’m right there in the midst of them.”
Yet Letterbox is no droning lecture on literature. It’s a celebration of freedom. Miller has paid plenty of dues to get to the point where she feels she can write what she wants how she wants to, and sing without constraint. Still young, she has survived years in the music business. She impacted initially with the infectious, “You’re Not Alone.” More than 115,000 downloaded that single on Amazon. ABC’s Dancing with the Stars featured her second single, “6’2,” in 2014.
That’s a success story for sure, one that Miller is grateful to have had. Still, she realized that this was only the first of many steps she needed to take to achieve her goals.
Much more than literature feeds into Miller’s unfettered performance on Letterbox. First and most enduring is the foundation she received from being born into a family that loved and performed music. They gravitated toward bluegrass and cultivated Marie’s obvious talent through lessons with banjo virtuoso Murphy Henry. Around age 12 she began singing with her family and later with her sister as a duo, appearing at churches, festivals, community picnics and, every Saturday, on the porch of the winery her father and a partner had opened in rural Virginia, across the road from the Miller family home.