A Conversation with Buddy Miller (continued)
BM: Having work done on the house, and whenever they call, it's a very rare thing, so--
PM: Yeah, you can't miss that, or they might screw something up. So, yeah, I was talking to Big Al yesterday. He's a tough room, and he had very good things to say about you.
BM: Oh, really? Yeah, he's great--we did a date together. We'd never really hung around each other or played together. Well, anyway, it was the first time we hung around each other along the way. He's incredible. I mean, we all know that.
BM: He's a wonderful guy, too.
PM: Have you been much of a Q fan through the years? [NRBQ]
BM: Yeah, it's funny. I was telling Al that in one of the first bands I was in, a little hippie country rock band, and it must have been the early '70s, our big gig was opening for NRBQ.
BM: I'm guessing it was '73, maybe. Yeah, probably '73.
PM: '73, that puts you in what part of the country?
BM: It was in the northeast, it was like upstate New York.
PM: Right. And you opened for them in upstate New York somewhere?
BM: Actually, I think the gig was either upstate New York or Connecticut or something like that. We drove a long way, but it was well worth it--drove a long way and didn't get paid, but we were real happy about it.
PM: [laughs] And weren't you and Joey friends from town before he and Kami moved away? [see our interview with Joey Spampinato, the legendary bassist of NRBQ--his wife Kami Lyle is also a great musician and songwriter]
BM: Yeah. Joey would come and play on different records. I think the world of his playing, he's incredible--and Kami, too.
PM: Oh, yeah. Yesterday, Al came to the studio that we have on the Row, and he was sitting on the couch--and in answering questions, he would say stuff like, "Well, Frank, I learned all my chords from Ray Charles." And he'd pull a jazz guitar off the wall and start playing through several choruses of a Ray Charles tune with different chord voicings on every pass, just how Ray did it. [laughs] It was pretty cool, I must say.
BM: No, he's incredible. He's a real musician, and a funny guy.
PM: He said, "Anything I needed to know I learned from Ray Charles." [laughs]
BM: Yeah. And he means it.
PM: So it's interesting, when I hear people play a Mark Heard song, either live or on a record the way you have here, that they tend to start the set or the record with it. I wonder why that is.
BM: Well, I'd heard that Pierce Pettis did that too.
PM: Pierce did it, yeah.
BM: Well, I just thought it was the best song to start the record with--I thought it summed up what was going on in the record. Mark was a friend, so I was happy to start with one of his songs.
PM: His songs do seem to have that real microcosmic, stage-setting quality.
BM: Uh-huh. Yeah, he's an amazing writer that didn't get all the credit that he should have.
PM: And it's the most unusual testament to him that friends like you, and Pierce, continue to play his stuff because it just meant that much to you, and his legacy continues to grow posthumously.
BM: Yeah. I was the engineer on the record that "Worry Too Much" was recorded for originally.
BM: So I think I engineered the basic tracks on that song.
BM: Yeah, I always looked up to him as a producer and songwriter.
BM: I know, that was really nice of him.
PM: It may be the best bio I've ever read on somebody.
BM: Yeah, Robbie is great. That was really something that he did that. And that was the label's idea. They approached him. I went, "Oh, no, don't ask. Don't ask him to do anything."
BM: I know he's a busy guy, and he's been doing a lot of writing, and didn't know if he wanted to do that. But he very kindly did a beautiful job.
PM: Because I was thinking of covering him, and after I read that bio, damn, there was no doubt in my mind that I was interviewing him.
BM: Oh, he's great. His new record is really good.
PM: I'm going to get it in a minute here, and I can't wait. He said something about you at the beginning of that--about evoking a mongrel force.
PM: I mean, it's hardly what you'd call gilding the lily, but it's on the money.
BM: Yeah, he has a way with words. Put it that way.
PM: He used--what were the words...elegiac, disinterred, and consanguineous in the same sentence.
BM: Yeah, he uses words that none of us really knew what they meant, but we got the feeling from it.
PM: Another question or two--you've been kind to give me this much time, because--
BM: Oh, no, man. It's good to talk with you.
PM: Likewise. I'd love to see you sometime, but it must be getting hard to show your face in public anymore.
BM: Oh, no, no. It's not like that--nah, nobody cares.