What keeps musician Micki Miller coming back to her studio day after day? The process. And while many celebrities and international followers Stan, Miller and her band remain firmly rooted in the South Bend community. They prove Black excellence and creativity will thrive where you can persist. And Miller wants you to join the persistence. Read on to learn more about her ahead of her August 12 performance, A Gammage presents Micki Miller.
What are you most looking forward to about performing back in your hometown, South Bend?
I’m really excited to perform in front of my friends and family. It’s not often that they get to see me perform so it’s always special being able to sing in front of familiar faces, especially my immediate family.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Eclectic. I am a lover of all genres of music so I feel like my music is a compilation of all the music that has inspired me over the years.
You’re a musician and a vocalist, what instrument(s) do you play and how did you gravitate towards singing?
So, I actually don’t consider myself a singer, although I do sing. I am a true musician at heart and would prefer to be on an instrument any day before singing, but singing has been such a cool way for me to stretch my musicianship creatively. I started off playing drums as a kid and eventually started playing piano and bass as I got older. I also play a little saxophone. Very little though. LOL. Drums and percussion are my first loves musically.
How do you prepare before a show?
Usually, in preparation for a show, I take time and listen to my discography and really try to choose songs that are favorites of my supporters, but also songs that really resonate with whatever season I’m in creatively. After that, I typically spend some time alone arranging and producing a show and from there I get with my band to sort through ideas and additional arrangements.
What has been your most memorable performance thus far?
One of my most memorable performances would have to be performing in the Philippines for the first time. We were on a festival bill with Hiatus Kaiyote and Big Mountain — and were just so honored to be a part [of it] — and we got a huge encore at the end of our set. We hadn’t even prepared for an encore, but the crowd cheered so much that we ended up singing another song. It just made me feel so affirmed and validated as an artist. Watching the crowd sing along to our songs and wanting more after we were finished really made me realize how far our music had reached past South Bend.
Do you have any upcoming projects you are especially excited about?
I have been in the process of renovating my studio and launching an entity specifically designed to help young people and the independent creative community. That has been my main focus over the past two years and was actually my 10-year goal starting out. Watching that manifest in year nine of doing music independently has been extremely fulfilling.
Philanthropy is important to you. Can you tell us some of the ways you’ve given back to/partnered with the community?
My parents have been huge on community service through their ministry since I was born so I’ve watched them give back my entire life. That, ultimately, has led to me being inspired to do the same. I serve on the board of directors for The Music Village Arts & Community Center, a non-profit music school in downtown South Bend that affords our community with opportunities to dive into music resources and education.
I also spearhead youth groups once a month for young people in our community through our family’s non-profit, where we give them access to free meals and take them on field trips all around. Whether we take our young people bowling, to virtual reality, or provide financial or etiquette classes, the goal is to broaden their reach and give them access to experiences and education, free of charge, that will ultimately help them have a better scope and quality of life as they navigate into adulthood.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring artist, what would it be?
If you are truly gifted to be an artist, always be true to your authentic self. The people you are supposed to reach and resonate with will always gravitate towards your work and your story.
What do you want audience members to take away from your show?
I would love for people to understand the importance of supporting our independent creative community. Whether you buy a ticket, a CD, merchandise, or simply share someone’s music with your group of friends or colleagues, it goes a long way for an independent artist. Also, I would love for people to see how impactful we can be when we work together and create amazing shows, events, and activities for the people of our community. We will always be better together.
How has COVID impacted you as an artist?
COVID has absolutely impacted myself and so many others around me. I consider myself an empath, so watching a lot of death around me was extremely difficult and sobering. There were moments where creating content and trying to work on music were simply too hard for me. It just didn’t make sense for me personally. Especially while really trying to understand and process what the world was going through, all while dealing with major losses myself. So I spent a lot of time “planted” and focused on growth, evolution, my grief, my pain, my joys, my losses, my gains, and most importantly my family. And the time I spent away from music has made me a better creative, but an even better person.
We thank Micki Miller for her thoughtful responses to our questions and look forward to her upcoming event at the center on August 12!
Tickets to this show are currently sold out.