Singer-songwriter-pianist Scottie Miller has toured with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend Bo Diddley, has been published by Hal Leonard and inducted three times into The Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame. He has released 11 self-produced albums and most recently a Poetry Collection, Carnival Cocoon. In addition to his solo career, he tours with four-time Grammy nominated singer Ruthie Foster, performing at venues from Carnegie Hall to Austin City Limits. His songs have been recorded by Foster and The Blind Boys of Alabama.
“A deeply soulful musician with a fearless mind and the heart of a hopeless romantic. And oh those magic fingers! That joyful spirit of Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen in one man?! Hallelujah baby!”
Born in Minneapolis, Scottie Miller began piano lessons at age six, the start of a long and vibrant career in music and the arts. He is first and foremost a pianist and songwriter. He is best known in the blues and roots realm, though he marches bravely through everything from jazz to rock, classical to Americana, gospel to funk. He’s always had a natural affinity for New Orleans music.
“His playing is swampy and soulful, and his voice boasts grit and firewater.”
From a lifetime spent on the road, on the stage and in the recording studio, his lyrics convey a cathartic approach to writing. “If you can tell me how you do it, maybe I can find a better way to cope.”
Scottie has toured with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend Bo Diddley, has been published by Hal Leonard, has been inducted three times into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame and has released 11 self-produced albums. He leads the Scottie Miller Band and tours with four-time Grammy-nominated singer Ruthie Foster. They have appeared at iconic venues such as Carnegie Hall and Austin City Limits. He penned the song “I Was Called” (cowritten with Foster) on the album Almost Home, by six-time Grammy Award–winning gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama.
His poetry ability was nurtured by his literature teacher during his time attending Berklee College of Music in 1986 and has been hidden like buried diamonds beneath his song lyrics over the years. Scottie chose these selections himself, and this collection reveals a lifetime of imagery through his ownkaleidoscopic view.
Scottie was inspired to improvise on the piano while he recited these poems, allowing the words to shape the music organically. The result is contained on the triumphant album version of Carnival Cocoon, which features 23 poems from this book set to his original music. He conveys his spoken and sung word with jazz beat, folk and blues composition while lush, classically tinged string quintet arrangements surround his shining piano and vocals.
Scottie is an active, passionate member of the Twin Cities recovery community. He works with other recovering addicts and alcoholics, and shares his experience, strength and hope through his music, poetry and live performance.
KBEM | Phil Nusbaum Interview | Minnesota Arts, Culture and History
Scottie Miller has a new thing, piano poetry. It’s what happens when he delivers his poetry to his improvisation-based piano playing. In a conversation with Phil Nusbaum, Scottie addressed the intersection of writing songs and poetry.
(Excerpts from an interview with Michalis Limnios BLUES @ GREECE)
What do you learn about yourself from the blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?
"I’ve learned many things from legendary blues musicians such as Robert Lockwood Jr., Henry Townsend and Johnnie Johnson. Mostly about being respectful towards others, and playing with everything you’ve got, and to do it with heart. The blues is not just a traditional American culture or music style, it’s a “feeling”. It’s soul. The one that’s inside you and inside all people."
How do you describe Scottie Miller sound and songbook? What characterize “Bones” music philosophy?
"My sound and songbook have a wide range. I’ve written and recorded styles that include, Barrelhouse,St Louis piano blues, New Orleans, funk, jazz, rock, latin, classical, soul and singer-songwriter. Most of what I write has a “southern tinge”, (even though I come from where the Mississippi starts in Minnesota). I write what I feel, and what comes out naturally. I always hope my music comes through with passion, and truth. Songwriting is often cathartic for me. My philosophy would be to keep it real, and pave your own road with the influences of the masters before you."
Carnival Cocoon is a poetry collection and album by singer-songwriter-pianist Scottie Miller. The book features an eclectic mix of his original poems which he arranged into five, vibrant chapters that revolve around the human condition. Inspired by the beat stylings of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and classics like Yeats, Eliot and Poe. Free verse, ekphrastic, narrative, lyrical, beat and classic styles spring to life in each section: music; interaction with nature; greed/abuse of power; romance; and tales from the musician's life spent on the road. The book pages are filled with deeply emotive, full-color illustrations that convey the vulnerable content. The collection empathizes with addiction, recovery, mental illness, inequality, homelessness, wrongful imprisonment and the divisiveness of the world. The beehive activity of Berklee College of Music in Boston and the warm, welcoming light of an Irish tavern, all told here with strength, experience and hope. From the gum-spotted sidewalks of New York City to the frozen streets of “nordeast” Minneapolis, the ringmaster recites haunting, romantic stories and hazy memories of wild times spent in Mexico.
A poetry collection and musical masterpiece in both book and audio format, this ambitious body of work triumphs with select poems set to music on the album version of Carnival Cocoon. Scottie’s original compositions, often completely improvised, charge ahead bravely with 23 poems from the collection set in blues, jazz and Americana. Classical influences are discovered too, with lush, string quintet compositions. Always with a spotlight on Scottie's shining piano and voice. Both spoken and sung word take you where the beat poets gather, as if you're listening in on a discussion of the human condition over a coffee, or a whiskey with Tom Waits and Willie Nelson. Imagine Kerouac recordings with Steve Allen on piano, (except Scottie does both simultaneously.) His piano playing portrays the youthful energy of Peanuts' Vince Guaraldi with a taste of Beethoven.
Welcome to Scottie Miller’s Carnival Cocoon.
Since the inception of this project and my first public performance of “Ah, New York” on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Peggy Lou at WWOZ New Orleans has been airing demos of these pieces on her spoken word radio show, Awake and Willing. To you my friend, merci beaucoup. “Insanity is the playground of the unimaginative!”
My sincere gratitude to violinist/cellist Cierra Alise Hill, for your flawless and organic interpretations of these compositio Thank you for your insight and mindfulness with the improvisational nature of this music and spoken/sung word.
Special thanks to those who attended our “Poetry/Piano” prerelease performances in the Twin Cities. Because of you and the support of venues like th Dunsmore Jazz Room at Crooners, the 31 explore this creation during a global pandemic and at a time of great unrest in our community and in our world.
It takes a village to tune a village, and to bring a project of this size to life. My soul is filled with gratitude to the extraordinary musicians who helped me set 23 of these poems and stories to music on the album version of Carnival Cocoon:
Strings arranged by Cierra Alise Hill
Ruthie Foster - Vocals on “Stay.” (Ruthie appears courtesy of Blue Corn Records.)
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Steve Kaul at Wild Sound Studio in Minneapolis.
My sincere thanks to Steve Kaul and the Kaul family. Your passionate, calm spirit and experience brought us safely across great mountains of notes, oceans of sound and genre-bending creation.
Here is a supple new disc of southern fried grooves, soul and blues out of Minnesota of all places, with a hint of New Orleans. Throw this baby on and you’ll be feeling good in no time. Tom Hyslop of Blues Revue Magazine says this “Sounds like Dr. John meets The Band at Bruce Springsteen’s house”… now who wouldn’t want a piece of that action?
Miller is a multi-instrumentalist and he’s good at everything he touches, inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame in 2008. His lyrics are intelligent, the grooves are fat, and that wonderful voice is full of heart and soul. The tunes on Stay Above Water are a lively good time, while ballads like Guardian Angel and Goodbye are delicate and introspective. You can just dance to this stuff if you feel so moved, but for me at least I found myself really listening and being drawn into his narratives time and time again.
Keep This Good Thing Going was an early favourite for me, featuring the amazing Ruthie Foster – turns out Scottie has been her touring keyboardist for 9 years now. Stay Above Water, produced by Miller himself, sounds perfect… and by that I mean when you listen you’ll find yourself thinking “Man, I wouldn’t change a thing.” The instrumental balance is perfect as his band knows when to step up and when to lay back with no unnecessary grandstanding, with every note played and sung in service of the song at hand – not to mention just the right amount of oomph. It’s also the kind of record you can’t pin down to just one thing; you’ll hear elements of blues, jazz, R&B, funk and even country, but this rockin’ blues concoction has the capability of being all things to all people.
Stay Above Water is one of those rare albums where you can honestly say there’s no filler, not a weak track in the whole lot. Feels good, sounds great – I am so in!
ESSENTIALS: Keep This Good Thing Going, It Better Groove, Come Along
This is SMB's tenth release.
Recorded in March of 2017 at The Terrarium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Engineered by Rob Oesterlin and Jason Orris. Assisted by Alex Kosac. Mixed by Jason Orris. Mastered by Jacques Wait at Terrarium Mastering.
I was in a bit of a hurry when I opened up the Scottie Miller Band’s new independent release, Stay Above Water. Didn’t know anything about them and didn’t take any time to read about them, just put the CD in my player and started listening.I would have sworn they were from the South. Couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly where, but with their heavy swamp piano, I was figuring they must be from near New Orleans. So you could knock me over with a Telecaster when I learned that they were from Minnesota, and not even SOUTHERN Minnesota. Guess it just goes to show you that great blues music is universal and you play what you love.
Miller has been kicking around the music scene for a good while and even spent some time with the legendary Bo Diddley. That has to have been quite an education. Miller is a great keyboardist and can handle several different styles with ease. He also adds a mandolin to the mix, which occasionally gives the band a true old-time feel, like those great old string bands that came up out of the south.
He’s joined by Mark O’Day on drums and percussion; Patrick Allen on guitars and vocals; and Dik Shopteau on bass guitar and vocals. Special guests include three-time Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster adding vocals to Keep The Good Thing Going, as well as a horn section made up of Larry McCabe on trombone, David Eiland on tenor sax, Scott Snyder on trumpet, and John Croarkin on baritone sax.
Miller is a prolific songwriter who wrote all twelve of the songs on the album.
They kick the album off with Burned All My Bridges, a rocking blues number that should be getting a lot of airplay. It’s a strong song with a good hook that should make just about any blues fan happy.
The next song, Keep The Good Thing Going, features some vocals from the great Ruthie Foster. She doesn’t take the lead, but adds some punch to the backing vocals and has a little bit of fun with Miller near the end of the song. The band shows that they can handle some funk as well as blues rock.
The title track, Stay Above Water, follows with a sweet swampy sound. Got to love that steel guitar sound and Miller sounds like he’s been living away from civilization for some time. O’Day gives the band a tight shuffle to keep things moving. Really like this number a lot, and I will be playing it very soon.
Miller starts off the next song, Falter, with some piano licks that are reminiscent of Dr. John. It’s plain that Miller can rock a piano with the best of them, and his vocals are pleasant and he can approach a song with gravely gusto or a gentle croon. I would like to catch him live to see how he interacts with an audience, but I’m willing to bet he’s damn good at it.
He follows up with Same Page, a song that has a little bit of a country vibe to it. Just shows his vocal versatility and Miller’s use of the mandolin adds a nice touch to the song. Good song, and he’s singing from the heart.
Miller and company decide it’s time to get funky with It Better Groove. Hey, when a band is working, chances are they aren’t putting on a nice polite concert somewhere, they’re in a bar with a big dance floor and they want the audience to get up and shake it a little. This is the kind of song that delivers on that promise.
Miller follows up that raucous number with the more introspective Guardian Angel. It starts out with just his voice and some simple instrumentation that underscores the power of the song. It’s a beautiful number and real departure from the songs that have come before.
After the previous heartfelt track, Miller and Company get funky with Circles. It’s a left turn from that song, and more in line with It Better Groove, but I’m glad they put a little distance between the two songs. Yeah, if you need to get your dance on, this is a song that should satisfy that urge.
There’s a bit of funk mixed with Southern Soul on the next number, It’s What You Do. The horn section is back and that baritone sax gives the song a strong backbone. This is a fun song and Miller’s piano adds that sweet old-school sound. Oh yeah, if you like your music mixed with some Mardi Gras, here it is!
Next up is a blues tune, Rippin’ & Runnin’, with some heavy organ mixed with some cool drums to create an unusual sound. The organ gives it a psychedelic feel and there’s a definite throwback vibe to the entire song.
The follow up with a slow burn of a number, Come Along, that utilizes Miller’s mandolin and some strong guitar from Allen. The lyrics are pure blues. Good song.
They end the album with the aptly named Goodbye. It’s a lovely quiet lullaby that underscores the difficulty and end of a relationship. The song makes the most of simple guitar and Miller’s vocals. There are strings underscoring the song and it gives it the most sentimental of feelings. It’s a beautiful song.
The Scottie Miller Band knows how to put together a good album that has some great blues, a little rock, a little funk, and some tenderness to soothe your soul. And all that in twelve songs. Stay Above Water is a solid album that should make just about every music lover happy.
Be sure to check him out at his place of the world wide web, http://www.scottiemiller.com/, to see what this strong performer has to offer. He may be from The Land Of 10,000 Lakes and a member of the Minnesota Blues Hall Of Fame, but for my money, he was probably switched at birth – you don’t get Southern Soul like that from just anywhere!
“Piano and guitar driven blues, rock, funk, soul and singer-songwriter ...”
Scottie Miller grew up with rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Santana and Jeff Beck, but also studied jazz and classical piano. Like many youngsters, he did not want to become a classical pianist, but a rock guitarist. On his first electric guitar he learned a song, usually by first transcribing the notes he heard by ear, playing his first solos.
Now, singer-songwriter / pianist (multi-instrumentalist) Scottie Miller is the leader / frontman of his own band and, since 2000, he has released his own albums. The music on his albums always spans a wide range of styles (New Orleans piano, Chicago Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Americana, Gospel, Rock and even singer-songwriter material). Because of this originality and diversity, his fans remained faithful to him. In addition to performing his own band, Miller also performed with Ruthie Foster. In 2006, Miller was a finalist in the “solo duo” category during the IBC.
In 2008, Miller, et al. His musical contributions and thanks to his instructional book / CD “Rock Keyboards” (published at Hal Leonard Corporation), introduced in the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame.
With ‘Stay Above Water’ (the sequel to ‘Reciprocation’ ), Miller is on his tenth album. It’s an album in which Miller is his affinity for blues, “Burned All My Bridges”, Americana (“Guardian Angel”), Funk (“Circles”) & Soul (“Stay Along”) “Come Along” “Goodbye”) captures twelve original songs. That Miller also feels a lot of New Orléans (piano) sound can be heard on “It’s What You Do” and “Rippin & Runnin”, which is finished with a funky edge.
For the album he was in the studio with his “trusted” band, with whom he worked for over seventeen: Mark O'Day (drums), Patrick Allen (guitar / vocals) & Dik Shopteau (bass / vocals). Ruthie Foster, with which he has been playing several times, can be heard on the opener "Keep This Thing Going". Miller and Ruthie Foster recently wrote "I Was Called", a song for the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama, which will appear on their new album.
With ‘Stay Above Water’ Scottie Miller once again delivers an outstanding, original and contemporary blues / rock / soul / funk and singer-songwriter abum. Scottie Miller is the roots artist who guarantees a portion of attractive, soulful, rocking blues.
“Once again with ‘Stay Above Water’ Scottie Miller delivers an outstanding, original and contemporary blues / rock / soul / funk and singer-songwriter abum ...”
Reciprocation by Scottie Miller Band mark’s Scottie Miller’s ninth independent CD release.
“When we’re performing and we see our audience is moved, we feel more inspired. A powerful
exchange that elevates us all to a heightened level of energy throughout the show. It fills the room
with love, light and hope. This is Reciprocation.
Scottie has always offered a wide palette of styles on his recording’s. (New Orleans piano styles, Chicago Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Americana, Gospel, Rock and even classically tinged singersongwriter material). It is this variety and originality that keep’s his loyal fans coming back for more with each new release. The new CD ‘Reciprocation’ show’s Scottie's affinity for rock. He grew up studying jazz and classical piano, but no young boy likes to be known as a “classical pianist” so he spent much of his time playing electric guitar and learning solo’s note for note with his first guitar. (A 1962 Epiphone Crestwood, played through a Crate amplifier in his green-shag carpeted bedroom.) He still owns the guitar and even played it some on this record. (Check the solo on “Too Far Gone”). Growing up listening to rock bands like Zeppelin, Floyd, AC/DC, Hendrix, Santana, Iron Maiden, Peter Frampton, Thin Lizzy, Jeff Beck, Rolling Stones and so on, Scottie could transcribe their guitar solo’s note for note, and was always a better “soloist” than rhythm player. Then it was back to the piano lessons to play Beethoven, Bach, Bill Evans, Chick Corea.
Joining SMB just prior to the recording of this album are new members Patrick Allen (guitar), and Dik Shopteau (bass). Recorded June 22-25, 2015 at north-east Minneapolis pinnacle studio The Terrarium. The newly revised band featuring veteran SMB drummer Mark O’Day played their first dozen shows immediately following the recording. Since then they have found a fresh, rocking and powerful union. There’s an undeniable musical symmetry between them as they continue to broaden their touring schedule beyond the twin-cities. Like their recent appearance at the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival in northern Michigan, where Scottie also joined three-time Grammy nominated singer Ruthie Foster for her headline set. (Scottie has been Ruthie’s touring keyboardist since 2008). Ruthie’s long time drummer Samantha Banks is quoted recently saying, “This new record is going to take him places. So many people are doing “rock, blues/rock with guitar as the main element, but no one is doing it with keyboards.” Scottie’s sterling silver vocal’s, distorted Wurlitzer and Hammond organ take the captain’s chair on this CD. A funky, punctuated and massive wall of drums and bass surround the highly featured guitar work of SMB’s Patrick Allen.
The album’s first official single “Bring It On”, will debut later this month on Itunes. “Bring It On” is about a rising, rock n’ roll star. “Are you ready to hear it...get ready to see it, a new kid walkin’ on the block.” “Can you touch the ground, do you feel alive... you’re coming out like a newborn child... You’re coming out, so sing the song, turn it up and bring it on.”
There are many lyrical references to hope and preservation; “Keep On Walking”; “There are times, when you’re hurting, and there’s no one for you to call. Just an empty room and lonely ghosts, and the bottom is where you fall...well keep on walkin’”. It’s like a personal cry from Scottie to the universe, “Cut through hatred and heavy stones, heal these wounded, broken bones and keep on walking”. The chorus is as if Scottie himself is pleading that we all be saved from the evil forces at work on earth. “I know there must be a better way for you and me, so I’ll walk on, keep on searchin’ I won’t let nothin’ take me down or bring me to my knees.”
Recorded June 22-25, 2015
at The Terrarium in Minneapolis, MN.
Mixed and engineered by Jason Orris and Rob Oesterlin.
"Some of us know Mr. Miller as the keyboard player for the great Ruthie Foster Band, but few of us
know his ability to rise up and shine on his own. The title track (and first cut) ‘Rise Up‘ states flatly that
we need to rise up, join together and be as one as one united nation. Thrilling and quite poignant
words, with a steady beat and soulful background vocals by Jennifer Grim make this an anthem for
the future of us all. Mr. Miller is much at ease with whatever style he takes on. ‘On My Way’ features
Dr. John styled vocals and subtle yet complex piano work that adds to the second line feel of this
track. In the next instance on ‘Grace’ he utilizes a bowed upright bass, nylon stringed acoustic and
some piano to create a song-prayer that is beautiful and sincere. One which is delivered with a
haunting clarity that sets the scene of the road and life’s crazy hectic pace and our need for a safe
“Scottie Miller band submits ten new songs, each one a soulful classic, with emotionally charged rock,
slightly countrified ballads, and rowdy, slide guitar blasts. Though there’s a touch of Tom Waits to the
hip “East St. Louis,” Miller most often comes on like a
Dr. John from the other end of the Mississippi.”
"...Clearly in a good mood, Foster, 50, gave plenty of props to the homeboys in her band – bassist
Larry Fulcher, who gave shout-outs to various friends and family, and opening act Scottie Miller,
whose B-3 organ and mandolin fueled and framed Foster’s music. She completely reimagined the
Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire” as a reliving of the seduction into a relationship, set to a slow
Southern drawl that made this overly familiar tune both completely unfamiliar and totally brilliant..."
"...Then Foster turned to Miller, who played an instrumental version of Leon Russell’s “A Song for
You” on the piano but it was really an introduction to her knockout number, “Phenomenal Woman.”
With her voice soaring, she delivered this anthem of empowerment and self-love, ending with lots of
“baby, baby, babies.” “Is there a phenomenal woman in the house?” she asked after the last note.
“Celebrate yourself. Ain’t nothing wrong with it.” Amen.
“Scottie Brings Minnesota Charm to Blues Week... I arrived late yesterday, but I came in time to see
the Scottie Miller Band. I was treated to some upbeat Blues, (oxymoron?
I think not) from a band form the headwaters of the Mississippi in MN. They specialized in ragtime,
boogie woogie, and even funk - led by Scottie's piano with Dr. John , or dare I say Screamin' Jay
hawkins overtones. Scottie also had a mid-western friendly banter going with the audience which I
think was endearing to them. Highlights for me were songs like ‘East St. Louis - kind of a whimsical
journey through the perceived dangers of the town at night. It also had tones reminiscent of Cab
Calloway's famous Minnie the Moocher.”
“Sounds like Dr. John meets The Band at Bruce Spingsteen’s house. Highly recommended.”
“...Miller is a capable singer and tunesmith, with a well-paced live show that moves seamlessly
through a variety of moods and funky grooves.”
“Scottie Miller is a world class lyricist with working class sensibilities. He sings from the heart with old
school soul and plays the funkiest New Orleans piano this side of
Dr. John. This cat’s got the goods!”