While social media numbers and blue verification check marks might define success for some; the pursuit of happiness and inspiring others to do what they love describe Nick Barillas blueprint for success in a constantly changing music industry. Since turning his passion for music into a career in 2016, his soulful-pop sounds and honest lyric writing have been positively influencing audiences all over the country. He has shared the stage with a list of artists that include: Aaron Carter, Howie Day, American Idol winners Kris Allen and Lee Dewyze, as well as Elliot Yamin, Kina Grannis and more! In addition, his original music has received commercial song placement on AT&T Sports Network in consecutive years for the Pittsburgh Pirates; as well as other radio stations and media outlets both locally and nationally. Never straying from his humble beginnings, his relatable stories and soulful sounds have continued to inspire people from all walks of life no matter what stage he is performing on!
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 thats 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, Hectors wife Andromache from The Iliad. Ive always loved epic stories Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment because theyre filled with relationships that are super serious and dramatic. Sometimes I feel like Im right there in the midst of them.
Yet Letterbox is no droning lecture on literature. Its 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, Youre Not Alone. More than 115,000 downloaded that single on Amazon. ABCs Dancing with the Stars featured her second single, 62, in 2014.
Thats 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 Millers 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 Maries 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.
Miller also began writing songs when she was about 12 years old. The first one I started performing was an original melody and lyrics based on a poem Id read in Lord of the Rings, she says, with a grin. I was really into American music at the time the kind of music youd hear in a Ken Burns documentary, the peoples music, the storytelling of bluegrass and Irish music. I was attracted initially to the New Grass artists, like Nickel Creek and Alison Krauss and mainly Chris Thile. She pauses and then laughs, a little embarrassed. I was actually 100 percent certain when I was 14 that Chris Thile and I were going to get married someday. Miller then found herself diving into the lyrics and melodies from the likes of The Eagles to Stevie Wonder to modern hitmaker Sara Bareilles. This wide range of influences impacted her music making when she signed with Curb Records in Nashville at the age of 16 where she fulfilled her dream to write songs. I began my life as a traveling musician then, she says. I love performing, but it was so uncomfortable to be 16 or 17 and have everybody telling me what to do. I remember one time five people criticized what I was wearing. When youre 17 years old youre uncomfortable with yourself already, so to have a bunch of old people talk to you about your clothes, it was just really weird.
Discouraged, Miller returned to Virginia. She took time off from music, went to college for a while, but kept practicing and writing. With a new confidence, she eventually went back to Nashville. Before long she had made her mark in music. And from there, we come to this pivotal moment in her story.
Working with producers Eric Rosse (Sara Bareillis, Tory Amos) and Chad Copelin, Miller moved decisively into a new creative milieu with Letterbox. Begin with the title. Its from the Beatles song Across the Universe, she points out, and then sings the John Lennon lyric: Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letterbox.
Why do these words speak to her? I still write letters to my friends and to my grandparents and to my boyfriends
when I have them, she says, smiling. Ive discovered that sometimes, when you want to say something, you just cant. Its too awkward. So Letterbox is about how I love to write letters but its also radically relational, about friendships, parents, a child or romance. Its about how we affect each other as people.
Miller describes the songs on Letterbox as almost literal letters to people in my life. Glitter Gold, Boardwalk and Angeline are like letters you leave on someones doorstep teenage, broken-heart messages. More is a letter that you never sent. Stones You Throw is about how the world feels ripples from every little thing we say or do, whether we like it or not. We live constantly in the ripples of other peoples actions, whether theyre from love or hatred.
The albums exultant first single, This Side of Paradise, which Miller describes as hopeful and daring
the promise to wait, in the language of many a folk song, for the day that I see my own true love again on Lonely Ends
compelling imagery, vocals that whisper and soar, from a lover Lost at Sea
Every moment on Letterbox rings true and lingers afterwards, like a memory or a passage from a favorite book.
This is the true Marie Miller, breathing in all that life has to offer and crafting it with her own sense of hope, wonder and enchantment.
And, in case youre wondering, Now, if people tell me what to wear or what to say, I just totally ignore them.
She laughs out loud. It feels good to be free. It feels good to share that freedom through music. With Letterbox, we savor it all, as if delivered to us alone, from a friend not so far away.