How to shift units: Our Q and A with Adam Miller

With his new album, ‘Shifting units’ jumping to #1 on the Jazz iTunes chart during it’s first day on the market, Newcastle Live were keen to find out the secret to local guitar sensation, Adam Miller’s success. We enlisted newcastle muso Holly Clayton to get all the inside information on Adam’s influences, his writing process and what he thinks has changed in the local scene. 

You’ve just released your new double album, ‘Shifting Units’. One album is hard enough but to record and release two in one go… How does it feel to have it out?

It actually wasn’t that hard to record. The band album came together quite quickly, as most of it was recorded live. The solo album just took a bit more patience in getting it right. The long part was actually the mixing and mastering phase! So much material to go through! It’s great to have it out and already received so well, but the hard work starts now in letting the world know about it!

‘Shifting Units’ is quite a unique concept, can you briefly explain how you arrived at the decision to make the same record twice, for the one release?

I had a list of the songs I’d written and been performing for the past year or two, and I’d been performing them both solo and with a band in different circumstances. I started to look at the list to work out which way I’d record each song and just couldn’t decide – the only was to present both versions.

The albums are solo (predominantly acoustic) and band. Did you enjoy one recording process more then the other?

It was definitely fun to record with a band again, as it’d been quite a few years since I’d done that. Just bouncing ideas and feeding off other musicians is so much fun. The solo recording is very hard & lonely, but always great to hear the result at the end.

‘Shifting Units’ definitely expands on your previous releases and influences. It ranges from jazz, blues, rock, americana and acoustic styles. Who were some of your influences in writing this new album?

Some of my major influences over the last few years have been the guitarists Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, John Scofield, Jim Campilongo, & Charlie Hunter. To be honest most of what I listen to is instrumental music. It just speaks to me so much more than any lyric could.

On writing, how do you approach the process as an instrumental musician?

There is no process – it just happens! I’m inspired by simple moments and ideas. If I were to write lyrics it would be hard to expand it into a song, but with 12 notes I can expand it into a wealth of emotion and feelings. With just the guide of a song title, I hope people can get the idea of a song and interpret their own way.

Do you have a favourite song on the album?

My favourite song is Shifting Major Units from the band album. I wrote the chart in the studio and what you hear is the second play through with Nic Cecire (drums), Lachy Doley (hammond organ), & Mitch Cairns (Bass). I then got Jason Lowe to play slide guitar over it a couple of weeks later, while I played acoustic guitar. It was just amazing how it came together and the beautiful outro. That’s the great part of playing live with a band in the studio – every take has its own magic.

You’re a proud Novacastrian, so much so there is a track called, “Lord Mayor of New Lambton” on the album, care to elaborate?

It’s in reference to owner of Jack’s Music in New Lambton, who is a Steely Dan nut and intense music critic! I basically hinted a lot of musical Steely Dan cliche’s to write a song that he might not skip over!

The album jumped to #1 on the Jazz iTunes chart on the release day, the launch absolutely sold out, you’re about to head off on a European tour and another USA tour in November, what advice would you give to up and comers that feel there is little future for the music industry?

I don’t really think there is much of a ‘Music Industry’ any more – you have to create your own. There are still people that love the experience of music and you have to work hard to find them. It’s an incredible time to be able to get music out to the world and we have great tools to do it. I’m still told all the time that I have to sing, but I pursue what I’m passionate about and hopefully create something unique in the process. There is no end goal I’m pursuing, I’m just loving the ride!

Just to finish, a few quick Newcastle questions: Earliest Newcastle music memory?

My Mum would take me to the Nagʼs Head to listen to ʻWell Swingʼ play. I was ten and we had to stand outside.

Newcastle’s loudest guitar player?

Tie between Drew Daniels, Terry Caban, & Richard (Dickie) Boyle.

First Newcastle gig? (Where, when, who)

SJ’s, 1999, Liquafaction.

Will there be a Fumi Boca Reunion gig?

I Certainly hope so!

The biggest change you’ve seen in the Newcastle music scene?

Musicians willingness to go out and chase their dreams instead of waiting to be discovered.

Favourite Newcastle gig to play?

The Underground @The Grand Hotel

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