Gardner, Kansas, native Brandon Miller is a highly respected guitarist and performer best known for his scorching solos and classic-rock and blues-based songwriting. His most recent album, Virtue and Vice, has been hailed for its songwriting and "strong and powerful guitar riffs". (Johnson County Library's own Dylan Reiter performs bass on the album.) Enjoy our interview with Miller, as well as his book recommendations.
How did growing up in Kansas influence you as an artist?
Kansas City has lots of music history with blues and jazz, so that put a lot of inspiration in my music. Being in the middle of the country, I can draw from both coasts as well as the south and northern cities like Chicago. It’s just a big mixing pot of music here in Kansas City. My parents listened to KY102 when it was still on the air. That station and those DJs were very influential into what I listened to. They played everything and the B-Sides. They did it their own way and people loved that.
What's your creative process like? What inspires you?
Lyrically, I enjoy taking single lines or statements from other songs or writings and expanding on them from my point of view. Seeing live music really inspires me. You can always learn something from one another. Whether that is good or bad, you can soak up knowledge from everyone and everything you do.
The guitar is your primary instrument, and you've said, "The guitar is a special instrument that connects with people. I want to connect with people through my guitar playing." What do you think makes the guitar such a powerful way to connect with people?
I feel personally that the guitar is great at imitating the human voice. With the call and response between vocals and guitar, then you amplify it through loud rock and roll amps, it really gets people going.
How has COVID-19 impacted your career and life as an artist?
Everything is on hold. I’m still writing music, but there’s nothing really to talk about or promote. I know lots of friends and musicians that have given up music to move on to another career and get another job. That’s terrible to hear. The venues and club owners are struggling in the same way. It’s hard to have someone else tell you what you can and can’t do when it comes to running your business and making your salary to put food on the table and a roof over your head. I don’t think that’s right. We just want to play.
What are you looking forward to in 2021 and beyond?
I look forward to writing, recording and getting back onstage to play and tour.
What new artists and music are you raving about right now?
Chris Stapleton is fantastic. Great writer, guitarist and singer. The band plays so great off each other and they never make it too complicated. Blackberry Smoke is a great southern rock band. The true definition of a band. Dueling guitars and true rock and roll.
Brandon Miller's recommendations from Johnson County Library's catalog:
Hard to Handle (The Life and Death of the Black Crowes : A Memoir) by Steve Gorman. I’ve always been a huge Black Crowes fan, but never got to see the band all together.
Do You Feel Like I Do (A Memoir) by Peter Frampton. Another hero of mine, which we recently did a tribute show to Frampton Comes Alive. I just started this book and it’s everything I thought it would be. Great read.
The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. I think most people in our country lack the knowledge of American history and should know more about the founding principles and values that this country was built upon.
The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. I’ve been fascinated by the history of governments and how they can rise and fall so quickly. This is a great book about the history of our founding fathers and how they came to write the documents that founded our country.
The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page was the reason I picked up a guitar. This is Zeppelin at its best.