Q&A with Kansas-based musician Donnie Miller, playing the blues the last 25 years lends its power to his guitar and vocals

"I miss nothing from the past. I still listen to the music I love. But I think there are still lots of great new artists. You just have to look harder now because there are so many of us. And really nothing changes. Music is just a big cycle. It's timeless."

Donnie Miller: The Blues Is A Healer

Donnie Miller. A small town boy from DaVille...Coffeyville, KS. A place with a storied history of outlaws. And 45 years playing thousands of shows including funky dive bars, larger theaters and major concert tours, he's chiseled that outlaw spirit into a second coming thru the power of the blues. An AOR artist during the first part of his career but playing the blues the last 25 lends it's power to his guitar and vocals. After leaving home and playing 200 dates a year for 10 years in several bands Donnie signed an 8 album deal with CBS Records (SONY) in 1987. His first album "One of the boys" was released in 1990 to critical acclaim and included Cyndi Lauper and Tommy Shaw making guest appearances.  After a devastating injury in 1992 to the palm of his left hand, he started playing the blues as a means of therapy trying to relearn the guitar. It saved both his life and career.                                         (Donnie Miller / Photo by Kim Jones)

He began playing live again in 1993 in the mid-west. Moved to Nashville in 2000 and now plays all over the country. Hosting music city's longest running blues jam for a dozen years has provided him with the opportunity to give back to the music that fills his soul. His love for the blues led to the founding of The National Blues Network in 2001 which connects lovers of the genre from around the world! Donnie's 6th album finally has a title! It's going to be called "DIG" (2022). Here's what world renowned Nashville producer Deano Ferrera said when he heard the rough mixes..."DIG is an unflinching look into the evolving self. The songs written from the voice of experience at a moment of mortal reflection. With an understanding of the ageless rebellion of all that is rock. A cinematic journey of a life in rock. Donnie Miller and His offering DIG, simply puts the dirty dirty fuck back in music."

Interview by Michael Limnios          Special Thanks: John "Blueshammer" Hammer

How has the Rock n' Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I'll try to be as brief as possible in answering this multi-layered difficult question.  I started playing drums when I was seven and first made money at age 14. Music and the blues has shaped my entire existence for the last 50 years. I basically wanted to be Ringo since age six.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I found out at an early age that music heals. I was drawn to it. Mostly because of my DNA, I think. But I also think we are all gently nudged where we are supposed to be. Blues music heals the best. And I have lived the blues since I was four days old. Gospel also had a huge influence. But after the British invasion it was over for me.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Early on, the beginning of my teenage years, it was anyone I could get to play with me at the time. But I have been blessed to be placed in the path of many whose work you would recognize in all facets of the industry. As far as best advice, my friend Rodney Lay (from Roy Clark's band) told me in my youth: Son... your friends will starve you to death.

"I found out at an early age that music heals. I was drawn to it. Mostly because of my DNA, I think. But I also think we are all gently nudged where we are supposed to be. Blues music heals the best. And I have lived the blues since I was four days old. Gospel also had a huge influence. But after the British invasion it was over for me." (Photo: Donnie Miller)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Opening for The KINKS on their entire US summer concert tour in 1985. Singing with Steve Walsh of Kansas just feet away in his home studio in Atlanta. Meeting Bill Graham. Standing next to Cyndi Lauper and Tommy Shaw in the vocal booth at The Hit Factory while recording my first album for Sony, One of the Boys. I was nominated by the Nashville Industry Music Awards three years in a row. Being inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2020. Having my face on a bag of Coffeyville Coffee Company coffee. Playing BB Kings in Memphis this year during the International Blues Challenge.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss nothing from the past. I still listen to the music I love. But I think there are still lots of great new artists. You just have to look harder now because there are so many of us. And really nothing changes. Music is just a big cycle. It's timeless.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

Depends on who's listening. Some people prefer amazing technique with no soul.  Others the opposite. I think the most successful artists are the ones that find a happy medium between the two and place their own stamp on it. Don't worry about the money is the key to a music life well lived. Worry about communicating with people and helping them heal.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music is the only way humans will survive as a species. That and love. It is after all the universal language. However they need it to. Whether people are into my music or not, I still want it to affect people in a positive way.

"I found out at an early age that music heals. I was drawn to it. Mostly because of my DNA, I think. But I also think we are all gently nudged where we are supposed to be. Blues music heals the best. And I have lived the blues since I was four days old. Gospel also had a huge influence. But after the British invasion it was over for me." (Photo: Donnie Miller)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

What I believed the music industry was like when you have a label before and after were two different things. Human beings are more good than bad. Disappointment is something you'd better get used to in the music business.

Well, we're proud. Even though we may be farmers or oil field workers or railroad people or weekend warriors trying to make a buck. We take pride in what we do.  Some of the best musicians I have ever heard have come from the southern cities I have been blessed to have lived in.

Donnie Miller - Home

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