David Michael Miller spent 2015 cementing his reputation as the pre-eminent soul-blues singer, songwriter and performer in Western New York.
Already widely adored by music-savvy concertgoers in the region through his work as a founding member of Dive House Union, Miller followed that band’s declaration of an indefinite hiatus by digging deeper into his career as a solo artist and leader of the band Miller and the Other Sinners.
He followed up last year’s “Poisons Sipped” album with “Same Soil,” a deeply moving, gospel-tinged affair that scored consistently high marks on national blues charts. Miller and his band hit the road throughout the Midwest and southwest, becoming an uber-tight powerhouse in the process. The band is back in town for a show at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Strand Theatre (540 Oliver St., North Tonawanda).
Question: 2015 has been a pretty incredible year for you. What have been some of the highlights of the year?
Answer: Finishing this second album was certainly a big highlight to me. I had a chance to work with Grammy-nominated producer Mike Brown, at his Temperamental Studio in Geneseo. Recording in that old church with a lot of pre-World War II gear was a rewarding experience, and I think we produced something pretty special.
I guess a few other highlights would be having the opportunity to open for the Steve Miller Band at Artpark for 14,000-plus; being included in the Son House Music Festival in Rochester; receiving the New Artist of the Year award from the Arts Services Institute; and doing my first extended tour – five weeks, through the mid- and southwest.
Every show is a gift. I think my favorite show this year was Miller and the Other Sinners playing for 100 men in recovery at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Columbus, Ohio, and giving them each “Poisons Sipped” CDs that were bought by mostly Western New Yorkers as gifts.
Q: Miller and the Other Sinners has had a somewhat fluid roster, but for the majority of your touring, you’ve settled on a consistent lineup. Tell me what each of these players brings to the bandstand?
A: I have been working a few different lineups to find some magic in both what happens on stage and what happens on the road. My main man is the incredibly gifted Jay Moynihan on sax and guitar. He’s known for having played sax with Buddy Guy for nearly a decade. He knows what the road is like.
Ever since I started working with (drummer) Carlton Campbell, he has become my benchmark as both a drummer and the kind of human being I want to work with. It’s hard for him to work the road the way I do, so I needed to find a couple other local drummers who could fill those shoes – both Deshawn “D-Ray” Jackson and Damone Jackson. Though they each have their own distinct rhythmic voice, both are incredible musicians, easy to work with, great on the road and can bring that “church feel” I am looking for.
I had been working with Zuri Appleby on bass and vocals for several months, but as everyone knows by now, she went to the big leagues, backing Nick Jonas around the world. Unfortunately for me, her opportunity came weeks before our first major tour and I found myself in a pinch looking for another player that could feel where I wanted to go. Anthony Henry reached out to me, and though I had never heard him in person, I had a few folks I respect tell me to give him a solid listen. After only a few minutes of jamming, I was hooked on his vibe and he’s been a blast to tour with. One of the great things about Buffalo is that it’s full of awesome musicians; that has allowed me to bring different ones out to find the mix that works.
Q: You have an incredibly soulful voice, and you bring a lot of different influences – gospel, soul, R&B, funk, rock – to the blues. What and who are some of your biggest influences?
A: I don’t know that I consider myself a blues artist, even though I have an album that charted on a blues chart. The blues is certainly the foundation of what I do, but (Soundgarden singer, solo artist) Chris Cornell would probably say that as well. Speaking of Cornell, he is a huge influence on me. A few other artists that I go back to for inspiration are Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, BB King, Johnny Cash, Andre Crouch, and more-modern artists like Derek Trucks, D’Angelo, Nickel Creek, older U2, and Tower of Power. It’s a bit of a mix, but I am drawn to a cry from the heart, to real soul.
Q: What’s 2016 looking like for you?
A: A lot of hard work. (laughs) My main goal is to work the road, meet new friends and fans everywhere I travel, to see this incredible world with my wife, all while preaching these songs.