Country-music star Marie Miller has had some big dreams. From the tender age of 6 years old, and with the support of her family, she developed her musical acumen in the back country of western Virginia — listening to the sounds of the mountain-born bluegrass amongst the tangled greenery of her family’s Huntley vineyard.
Once described as the “next Taylor Swift,” Miller’s path toward Nashville seemed to reflect similarities of that well-known pop star.
Miller is known for her hits You’re Not Alone and 6’2, the latter of which was featured on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. In 2015, she performed for Pope Francis during his visit to the United States. For 10 years, Miller worked under Curb Records, only to find herself “being led” rather than leading in her creative development. Like Swift, Miller decided to part ways with her label in 2018 and create her own independent record.
The Register sat down with Miller at her bungalow near Washington a week before the launch of her new album, Little Dreams — and the day she had to cancel her first concert due to the coronavirus outbreak.
For Miller, this newest challenge in her album launch was another call toward “being brave.” “A lot of this album is about bravery,” Miller explained. “This is something really important for me to do. Before, I was really agreeable, allowing my managers to direct me on genres, instrument choices. Now, with this album, I am really liberated, in a sense. I play the mandolin, and bluegrass music is at the root of my sound. Before, I was really pulled toward directions that left those elements sidelined. With Little Dreams, I’m making a lot of the decisions on my own. It’s scary, but liberating.”
Launching the album during the COVID-19 epidemic has produced some unique opportunities, as well.
“During these difficult times, I really wanted to use my art as a source of comfort and strength for our world community enduring this pandemic. We are creating a ‘quarantine collage’ music video for my song Brave New Step from Little Dreams — people are sending photos from all over the world thanking the health-care workers on the front lines risking their lives.”
As a Catholic, Miller considers her faith as informing and forming her music — but was careful to emphasize that as a “musician who is Christian” she has discovered her mission is first to create beautiful, authentic music and not be tied to any genre.
Nonetheless, naming this new album Little Dreams was a tribute in part to St. Thérèse and her “Little Way,” Miller explained, adding that her own “big dreams” in Nashville had matured to the “little dreams” of creative freedom and an independence that relies on Providence.
Had it been difficult to remain true to her faith in an industry known for crossing boundaries and often influencing darkness?
“Yes,” Miller told the Register, “it can be difficult to be brave as a Christian, in general, today. In the industry, people often expect you to do, or say, or believe things that may be in direct conflict with our faith. But, ultimately, you have a choice. You have to stay strong.”
Her strength, she said, has come from experience — some very difficult experiences — and those experiences led to the decision to return to her “authentic roots.”
“What would happen if someone said, ‘I don’t like your music because of how Christian you are?’ With this album, my response is finally, ‘Oh, well.’ I have a song, Homeland, which is about fighting the ‘Good Fight’ and not remaining comfortable. I truly believe we were created to do great things.”
Although known for her positive, upbeat sounds, Miller cautioned that Little Dreams “isn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky album. Some of these songs were inspired during painful moments in my life — like loving someone who didn’t love you back. I have to say, though, being able to sing about what I want to sing about has been so cool. I wanted to create something that so authentically reflected what I had been going through that year and for the first time had the freedom to truly do that.”
She also wants to impart hope through her music.
“Each one of us has a unique quest, something only we can do to make the world more beautiful, more humane, more fraternal.”
Bree Dail writes
from the East Coast.
Marie Miller’s new album, Little Dreams, is available now on her website: https://bit.ly/34jN9zl.