This week’s National Podcast of Texas features Rhett Miller. Since 1993, he’s been the frontman for the Old 97’s, who rose out of Dallas to help define the alternative country movement and have released ten studio albums. Between albums with the band, Miller has squeezed in seven solo records—most recently last year’s The Messenger. In March, he released a collection of irreverent, clever poems for kids titled No More Poems!. His latest offering is a new podcast, Wheels Off, which finds him interviewing musicians, writers, artists, actors, and comedians about creativity. His first round of guests included Rosanne Cash, Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, and comedian Fred Armisen.
Three takeaways from his appearance on the National Podcast of Texas:
1. As a frontman for a rock band, Miller doesn’t believe it’s his job to police the audience. You won’t see him lecturing crowds about putting away their cell phones.
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“I’ve discovered in adulthood that it’s like parenting, that I’m modeling behavior. If I’m onstage and I’m bouncing around, smiling and laughing, really enjoying what I do and letting the audience see that, then they say, ‘Oh, hey, it’s okay to bounce around and sing and have fun and smile and laugh.’ And they do.”
2. He believes poetry is having a moment.
“Poetry falls in and out of fashion, but I feel like with the passing of Mary Oliver recently, there was a really beautiful upswell in people sharing her poems and sending them to each other and posting them on Instagram. We live in a kind of world where we need short things that we can consume. And poetry fits well in an Instagram square. I think maybe poetry is one thing that could really help us right now.”
3. Miller has been sober close to four years, but only began talking about it publicly last year. Despite initially fearing he couldn’t be creative without alcohol, he believes sobriety has made him a better songwriter.
“The clarity of thought is beautiful. Revising lines, revising a song, is something that I never even attempted before I quit drinking because I would just write it and say, ‘Thank God it’s out there.’ And I just let it go. And looking back, I let go of so many songs that, especially during the last few years before I stopped drinking, were half-finished. And now I feel like I’m so much better at going back and spotting what needs to happen next. That I can do proper line editing is really beautiful.”