I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. I was painfully shy growing up. This was something everyone commented on. I sat in my third grade desk next to a boy with a stutter. The teacher called on him unexpectedly and we all sat as he tried to push his words. The boy in front of me turned with a grin and began to mimic the stutter. This was something I had witnessed for nearly a year and I had held my tongue long enough. I stood shaking and said, “Leave him alone.” I held back tears and immediately sat down in my seat. My hands shook, I sat on them, and the room was silent. This was the moment I realized I didn’t want to be shy anymore.
Being shy was painful. Until I could write. I loved my third grade teacher, but I didn’t know how to talk to her. On Fridays she gave spelling tests. One fall afternoon, we had just got back from recess and she handed out our wide ruled spelling paper and began the test. After each word I flipped my paper over and began to write her a letter. When the test was finished, I had filled the entire backside with a detailed story about myself and the day at hand. On Monday we got our tests back and stapled to mine was a letter from my teacher. That was the first time I had actually talked to an adult. It made me want to write as much as I could. My teacher and I were pen pals until I graduated.
The Singing: Three stories
As a 3 year old child I would sit cross legged on the living room carpet and sing into a fisher price microphone. My parents said I would sit there for hours. I have always been entranced by the way our voices sound in microphones. I practice almost always with a microphone and play around with the reverb and levels. I love that at the age of three I was using a microphone. It amazes me how we really are born as our own little package and we get to open the gifts as we are willing. Some of us start young and some later in life. My hope is just that we open it sometime.
My high school choir teacher was not very intuitive. She had us lined up and would have us do warm ups like we were in the army instead of a choir. I hated the way I felt during those practices. Use your diaphram, project your voice, look up, chest voice..head voice. I would practice on my own so I could try to reach the notes how I liked. Maybe wiggle my foot so I could sing higher. Distract myself from my thoughts and self awareness. I realized I was probably going to have to make my own path in music. I would get in the car after school and sing to my favorite artists and try to shake the cry feeling I had all day.
High School is not easy for anyone. I snuck away everyday to the chapel in the middle of my classes to sing. Another girl also snuck away and would sit curled up in the back of the pews. I would sing to her and she would listen, but we never said hello. We never spoke in class. We never even looked at each other. I graduated and never saw her again. I think she made me realize how much the singer and the audience are one in the same.
In high school My mom and dad gave me 5 guitar lessons for Christmas. I went to all of them and realized quickly that I didn’t want to learn music theory. So I learned all of the chords and quit. I began to write songs when I was sixteen. I went to college on a writing scholarship and studied classical guitar the four years I was there. I loved learning different finger picking patterns. I played at local clubs, masses, coffee shops, poetry readings and anything that I could be a part of. I loved everything about music. And thus began my singer/songwriter career.
Although music was what helped me express myself, I put it aside to teach Chicago inner city kids, get married to my high school sweetheart, have three children, move away with them to a small town and begin to homeschool my kids. I love my life. It is funny, but I think the busier I am, the more productive I am. I always knew I would write many songs when I had children and I was right. There was something about completing the circle when I watched my oldest son, Henry begin to walk. With each stepping stone he climbed there became an overwhelming understanding of the plight of the human experience. And I had to watch, but not control. I had to be ok being on the outside of the fence. And so I began to write again.
I met cellist Eric Miller in 2011 and he has been my most special musical companion. He and I have made five albums together and have performed around the area since 2012. Ben Brodin from ARC studios, has been my most special engineer along the way as well. He has taken every song I have ever recorded and intuitively made it come to life in a unique way. I am so grateful to Ben and Eric for sticking with me and being up for new projects.
This past year I heard a recurring voice say…slow down. Enjoy everything. So I made a new record in the spring of 2018, cancelled all of my shows, spent time cantering at mass and sat in the bosom of my family and friends. I have enjoyed every minute of it. And I have learned that there is really nothing to prove. We are made to pay attention to everything around us and find joy in everything we do.
The New Album
A little about the album. I went to Lincoln, Nebraska to record Home with a new engineer, Zach Lardy. We spent a week in his basement studio recording with Eric. It was a quiet, humble experience. Because I was so alone, I was able to really focus on keeping the album clear of clutter. The instruments remained simple with guitar, cello, piano and vocals. It mimics the sound of Eric and I when we perform. This is my fifth album now. I have learned a lot about the process and hope it will come through in the songs.
A major theme in the album, again is our human struggle. Smaller themes are: leaving home, losing your home, coming home, protecting the innocent, young love, old love, feeling invisible, being forgotten, forgiving ourselves, being faithful, broken hearts, lonesomeness, peace…our connectedness. I tried to focus on the individual. The one child in the refugee boat, the one child in the womb, the one fern in the forest, and the album appeared. For me I have come home to a lot of things in my life that I thought I had lost or could never return to. It feels good to know that we actually don’t grow linear…we grow in a spiral…upward…but constantly revisiting what we once knew over and over again…with more strength and clarity. And this makes me happy because we are constantly given the opportunity to love again and again.
In the day to day I homeschool my three children. My husband is a cheese maker and we spend time in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. I love Wisconsin. It is my home. I give credit to Omaha for my musical influences for sure, but Wisconsin’s people and rolling hills are part of me and are what I see when I write my songs.
I am still shy, but a different kind. I am still singing with my eyes closed. I am still searching for a place of solitude like the empty chapel. But I have learned to reach out to others through my songs. There isn’t a single song that I don’t reflect on the human experience as a whole. All of us. I sing for everyone. My hope is to connect and to understand and be understood.
Thank you for reading about me.
Eric Miller grew up playing cello and trumpet in Omaha, NE, went to music school, and now spends his days teaching children how to play music, playing with his charming toddler, and making music of his own drawing from many influences. During rare moments not engaged in musical activities, he makes photographs with vintage cameras and tries to read esoteric poetry.