Winner - 2012 Sandy Lee Songfest Songwriting Contest
Finalist - 2012 Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest
Official Showcase - 2012 Folk Alliance Midwest (FARM) Conference
Finalist - 2012 Blooming-Tunes Songwriting Contest
Shelley Miller isn't afraid to take chances. Less interested in genre than honesty, she pens darkly soulful tunes about life just outside the lines. Folk? Perhaps...late-night jukebox folk. Gospel for non-believers folk. Had-one-too-many-and-lived-to-tell folk. Rock hymns for the unhemmed folk.
"Incognito seething rocker" - Expository Magazine
An arresting performer, both solo and fronting the band Shelley Miller and the BCC, Miller has won hearts (and songwriting contests) around the country, playing venues and festivals such as the National Women's Music Festival, Chicago Country Music and Folk and Roots Festivals, Rockrgrl Music Festival (Seattle), and the Sisters' Folk Festival (Sisters, OR). Armed with a voice that weaves between little-girl whisper and bluesy shout, she doesn't so much sing TO people as sing THROUGH people, drawing them into her words and songs.
"I love when Shelley plays at The Store. With just an acoustic guitar and her voice, she has the ability to take her audience on the emotional roller-coaster that most full bands wish they had."
- Rick LaCour, Booking Manager, The Store, Chicago, IL
With her band, Shelley Miller and the BCC, Miller leaves behind the word "folk" entirely. Formed mid-2012 with guitarist Christopher Elam and bassist Chris Geisler, the BCC's music is dark, sexy, soulful and as nuanced as it is heavy. Barely 6 months into their career, they've headlined several major Chicago rock clubs, including City Winery, Double Door and Subterranean; filmed a video (for the song "Riptide"); drawn comparisons to The Pixies, The Alabama Shakes and Radiohead; recorded their first single and been interviewed by a talking rat on a kids TV show.
"A songwriter's songwriter...Miller inhabits her songs like a second skin..." - Wildy's World
Miller has released four solo albums. The most recent, 'February' (2012) features guest vocals by friend Allison Russell (Po'Girl and Birds of Chicago). Her music also appears on the soundtrack to the indie film Critical Nexus (2013), on compilations released by Waterbug Records and SBS Records, and on the acclaimed Bloodshot Records 2007 release 'Songbook: Volumes 2 and 3',
Miller's songs have won awards in numerous songwriting contests, including the 2012 Sandy Lee Songfest Songwriting Contest (First Place), 2012 Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest (Finalist), Blooming-Tunes Songwriting Contest (Finalist - 2012 and 2010), Indiegrrl Songwriting Contest (Finalist 2010) and the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest.
"Her voice is so important to her sound it's akin to a Stradivarius violin – rare and difficult to duplicate. You likely won't find this brand of breaking, heartfelt folk on American Idol, but if there was “Americana Idol” we'd be texting her in."
- Hannah Frank, Chicago 6 Corners, March 2010
In addition to her solo work and work with her band, Shelley has lent her voice and guitar skills to numerous other artists, both live and in the studio. She teaches guitar, songwriting and Wiggleworms at the Old Town School of Folk Music. When not playing music, Shelley can often be found careening her bicycle through the streets of Chicago...singing.
What Critics Are Saying:
"Shelley Miller is a songwriter’s songwriter; the sort that other artists will pick through her catalog over time for songs to cover. While this is true, it’s hard to imagine most artists interpreting Miller’s songs with the same mix of comedy, tragedy and warm-hearted grit that she manages on When It’s All Gone, You Come Back. Miller inhabits her songs like a second skin..."
- Wildy's World, March 2010
"When It’s All Gone, You Come Back is a must have CD. This is songwriting and performance at the highest level. I think that Shelley Miller’s When It’s All Gone, You Come Back will be one my top picks for the year 2010."
- Don Sechelski, The Muse's Muse
"Listening to her is like pulling up a pair of very, very soft faded jeans over bare skin."
- Les Reynolds, indie-music.com
Shelley Miller - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, charm
Christopher Elam - Guitar, Piano
Chris Geisler - Bass
Brennen Choinnaird - Drums
Full Length CDs:
When it's All Gone, You Come Back (2010)
Morning Somewhere (2006)
Tear Me Down (2002)
Critical Nexus Soundtrack (2012)
BloomingTunes Songwriting Contest Compilation (2010)
MidPoint Music Festival Compilation (2010)
Indiegrrl Compilation CD (2010)
Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook CD, Volume 2 (Bloodshot 2007)
Waterbug Records Sampler (2004)
She Laughs: Elements of Life, Love and Action (2002)
Hope: Next 2 Exits (2002) - 9/11 benefit CD
SBS Records Sampler (2001)
Figure it Out
Bigger than Darkness
Wildy's World Review: When It's All Gone, You Come Back
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Chicago’s Shelley Miller lives life on the seams. Miller performs both solo and with a band, The Bit...Chicago’s Shelley Miller lives life on the seams. Miller performs both solo and with a band, The Bitter Optimists; she teaches music, and in her free time she’s known to take her own life into her hands on her bicycle through the streets of Chicago. Miller is a decorated talent, winning songwriting awards including VH1’s Song Of The Year Contest, the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest and Just Plain Folks. Miller’s third CD, When It’s All Gone, You Come Back continues Miller’s tendency toward brashly candid poetics, not so much telling stories as putting you, the listeners, into moments and situations, and occasionally even into the hearts and minds of people. Miller is lyrically adept, spinning dark beauty full of laughter, sadness, love and tragedy in her songs.
Miller opens with “Buckle To Burn”, a classic country tune with a modern twist. Miller takes us inside a relationship built on one partner’s dysfunction and the other partner’s ragged attempts to clean it up. The song is a tragedy where the outcome is certain from the start, but Miller makes the journey interesting. “Blame The Sky” is a rather poetic depiction of fatalism in relationships; a dark and sad song full of a noble, pain-staking beauty. “It Was Billie” has a distinctive throwback feel.
“All The Way Down” explores the beauty and joys of winter in song; a love song of sorts and an amazing depiction of moments and experiences that might only be found in the coldest part of the year. “Fool For Loving You” is an angry rocker; all the things that perhaps should have been said when the relationship was still intact. Miller depicts an “edge of the world” moment on “5 a.m., Western Ave”, using the cover of darkness to ponder all of the things she wishes she could say by the light of day. This is an amazing tune, perhaps the most sonically satisfying song on the album. Listen to the cello part here as it provides an amazing counter-melody to Miller’s vocal. Miller shows her life philosophy (perhaps) on “I Don’t Mind”, a tune about living for and in the moment and finding comfort in another without worrying what tomorrow will bring. It’s a sweet love song that is certain to wind up on scores of mix tapes. Without getting too literary, it’s easy to imagine Miller’s song “Texarkana” as a retelling of Anton Chekhov’s The Swan Song. It’s a reckless monologue cast in the hopeless of having lost everything you’ve ever loved, and Miller sings it as if she’s lived it. Miller says goodnight with “Love’s Not Crazy”, taking the listeners into her confidence one final time. It’s a lovely tune, a bit lighter than some of the other material on When It’s All Gone, You Come Back, but a great way to say goodbye for now.
Shelley Miller is a songwriter’s songwriter; the sort that other artists will pick through her catalog over time for songs to cover. While this is true, it’s hard to imagine most artists interpreting Miller’s songs with the same mix of comedy, tragedy and warm-hearted grit that she manages on When It’s All Gone, You Come Back. Miller inhabits her songs like a second skin, not only inviting listeners into highly personal and intricate moments, but painting them into the picture.
Common Folk Meadow Review: When It's All Gone, You Come Back
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I’m proud to introduce to you: Shelley Miller, songstress hailing from Chicago/Illinois who is about...I’m proud to introduce to you: Shelley Miller, songstress hailing from Chicago/Illinois who is about to release her third album When It’s All Gone, You Come Back that will hit the road March 9. The album reminds me of Joe Pug’s masterpiece Messenger even though it’s not quite the same style. But the meandering trough quiet acoustic tracks (Nadine or Blame The Sky) and more aroused ones (Hard Love or the e-guitar driven Fool For Loving You) is a shared feature of both artists. If you are familiar with Australian (now London based) singer-songwriter Holly Throsby, you also will hear definite parallels in the wonderful ballads Shelley offers en masse (best example is All The Way Down, that even shows some shared vocal techniques).
The strength of the record lies in its variety, at least if you’re looking for an album that combines rock ballads, extremely well played acoustic folk with wonderfull shimmering melodies (maybe with some jazz pop flavor at some points), indie folk (I Don’t Mind or Burn To Buckle) and a portion of alt country appeal (It Was Billy). Personally I think the mix is bold but also shows the talent for creating a consistent overall picture, because everything seems to be at the right place if you take the time to really listen to the whole album from the beginning to the end. Every time the record seems to get a bit monotonous, Shelley manages to prevent it from happening. Take the track Wait For You as an example, it starts with only acoustic guitar and vocals, but in the middle some cymbals come in and then some decent percussions in the back wherefore the track never gets boring. In fact the songs are all really good, well arranged and composed with lots of ideas (e.g. the great violin melody in the background of Texarkana).
Privately Shelley Miller works as a guitar teacher and I don’t know if this is one of the reasons, that she’s able to write such lovely and great melodies. Love Is Not Crazy shows so many emotions, so much feeling alone in the guitar notes that you instantly know: this woman got enormous talent and it should not take too long to find a constant audience and a regular fan base. The more I listen to When It’s All Gone, You Come Back, the more I hear the jazzy nuances and a hint of Katie Melua’s jazz/blues pop of her first album Piece by Piece. And I know, Katie Melua isn’t quite the best reference for an indie blog that gives a big F You to all shitty major labels, but Piece By Piece had its moments and I think I can hear some of them here too. But don’t worry, Shelley Miller just uses those influences to add her personal mark to them – no copying, but rather an improving of given structures.
So the music flies by and guides you through many different genres of mostly acoustic music, Shelley’s voice is present all the time as an important and unique part, forming the character of the album. But, to be honest, sometimes I got the idea that the music was written around the vocals, what leads to the assumption that the music itself was neglected a bit. I’m talking about Figure It Out. The song is, as I said above, very well placed in the whole context of the album, but it also is the weakest track in my opinion. I just can’t feel the honesty, the passion, but maybe that’s just my point of view and I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. Let’s just say that even such a good album like this one has its little blemish and quirks (remember the e-guitar driven rock ballad track Fool For Loving You among all those sensitive acoustic tracks?).
On the long run the positive aspects are clearly the elements that shape the record and the acoustic ballads are the real strength of it. I think it reasonable to tag the album as folk, even though it isn’t quite the earthy folk often featured here. It’s more like the jazzy, dark-red cushion folk that nearly got nothing in common with the folk that is played by folksters like the recently featured Tim Schmidt or alltime classic Laura Gibson. But listen to the tracks I embedded, they are just beautiful and they are good indicators for the rest of the album. This music is good, this music is good, this music is…ehm…you get my point – and now don’t wait and pre-order the record directly via Shelley’s personal homepage or buy the MP3s via cdbaby.com. If you want to preview some tracks, you can check out her MySpace or her Last.fm site (with all the tracks streamable).
And don’t forget to join the release party of the album on March 12 if you are in the area. “The CD release party is Friday, March 12 @ 9 pm at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Advance tickets/info available at http://www.martyrslive.com.“
Call it Folk Review: When It's All Gone, You Come Back
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Listening to Chicago-based Shelley Miller's upcoming release, When It's All Gone, You Come Back, due...Listening to Chicago-based Shelley Miller's upcoming release, When It's All Gone, You Come Back, due March 9th, I hear a delicate, acoustic singer-songwriter than can turn on a dime, and deliver hard-hitting roots-rock-blues numbers ala Bonnie Raitt or Lucinda Williams. With a poet's eye for detail and a heart as warm as it is worn, Chicago-based Shelley Miller writes songs that stick with you long after a show is done. Shelley is a versatile guitarist and intensely emotional performer. She also teaches guitar at the Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. Her new release has songs to satisfy your craving, upbeat, downbeat, solemn, lyrical, or downright loud.
"Blame the Sky" is a gorgeous song, with warm, clear, vocals and beautifully recorded acoustic fingerpicking. The simple major-key melody has a nice change to the minor, and lovely male vocal background vocal from Micah Walk. It's a gentle tale of modern-day relationships, full of pictures that mold nicely with the melody, as if they were one, not an easy thing to create. "Nadine" is song of both despair, and recollection, told with vivid imagery and lovely instrumentation (lead and fingerpicking acoustic guitars and cello). Shelley notes, "it's fiction, but it's also a jumble of true stories and experiences and conversations I've had along the way: a few girls I've known, a park I snuck into in high school (though that was in California, so it didn't snow there). It's a song about memory, and the still life of moments, and the trifling details that, years later, still calm or haunt you". This is Miller's third full-length; the maturity of her writing, and the clarity of the arrangements presented here offer us a glimpse of what's possible from this talented artist.
Chicago 6 Corners: Shelley Miller Might Just Be "That Bessie Smith Chick"
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Oh, to be a word in Shelley Miller's lyrics – you may be pulled, twisted, set free, whispered, or pu...Oh, to be a word in Shelley Miller's lyrics – you may be pulled, twisted, set free, whispered, or pushed into being. Her guitar picking style is folky and smooth, and casts a gentle spell like drinking a good beer. The songs on her third and latest album effort are moody but smart.
She'll be performing Friday at Martyrs' in Chicago in a CD release party for “When It's All Gone, You Come Back Home”.
Her voice is so important to her sound it's akin to a Stradivarius violin – rare and difficult to duplicate. You likely won't find this brand of breaking, heartfelt folk on American Idol, but if there was “Americana Idol” we'd be texting her in.
I was so taken by her voice when listening to the album, I'd go further to say the Chicago singer-songwriter's voice is a beautiful car crash. In her phrasing, I heard remnants of Tori Amos, Nora Jones and Lucinda Williams. There was a grittiness and originality that folk/Americana fans will find pleasing, and she's not afraid to take chances. There's a variety of styles, each song is like another book on the shelf, with a unique story and delivery.
The track “It was Billie,” partially influenced by Billie Holiday, glows like a jazz song performed in an old country cabin.
“Someone a couple weeks ago referred to me as ’that Bessie Smith chick' – which was a huge compliment. And I was once told that I look like Jeff Tweedy, but that's a whole different matter,” jokes Shelley.
The compliment was based in fact. Miller has what makes certain jazz and blues singers stand out when they are expressing emotion – they've experienced life's ups and downs and are singing from experience.
Miller says, “I'm not singing to try and prove to anyone that I CAN sing, I'm just telling the stories and letting them come out as they will.”
Miller adds she held “impromptu dance parties by myself in my living room listening to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Louis Armstrong.” She is sure a little of that found its way into her voice.
Musically, Miller says, “I went in thinking of it as my 'rock' record – not in terms of loudness, but in terms of rawness and no fluff.” Instrumentation includes bass, drums, cello, and electric guitar. The additional instruments stay true to the mood of each song, offering a homey and comfortable vibe. The musicians know when to play and when to stay out of the way, building a nest for each song.
The honesty and transcendence on the album comes in the form of humbleness and simplicity. This is due not to the characters in the songs, but Shelley's own character. For example, on Shelley's website, there's an image with her sans make-up. I can see the bloodshot veins in her eyes (just barely) as she leans into a mirror.
The album's thirteen tunes dance on the edge, but never become pop music. It's listenable, fun, and sweet without giving up the gut-wrenching and haunting that makes it unique. Shelley remains intriguing, as a writer and guitar player, but her vocals remain her biggest asset.
Joining her Friday for the CD release show will be opener Steve Dawson (who also fronts the band Dolly Varden), who is also supporting a new album. Micah Walk Band is headlining.
Time Out Chicago
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"Singer-songwriter and veteran Old Town School teacher Shelley Miller...could teach a lot of folkies..."Singer-songwriter and veteran Old Town School teacher Shelley Miller...could teach a lot of folkies a thing or two about sophisticated imagery and hooks. And 2006's excellent, self-released Morning Somewhere should earn her fans from the Lucinda Williams camp."
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"[A] highlight and perfect ending to an amazing weekend of music" Cath coffeehouse was quiet at 9..."[A] highlight and perfect ending to an amazing weekend of music"
Cath coffeehouse was quiet at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. Shelley Miller, who had performed at La Jolla Friday night as part of the Midwest Music Summit, sat on the couch, a little sleepy-eyed, next to her guitar until Dave Golden, who performed at Cath the night before, walked in with his guitar in tow. They started performing unrehearsed and improvised tunes that where appropriately moody accompaniment for the slow-moving morning patrons and the morning sun seeping in through the open doors.
The soundtrack to the morning flowed out onto 54th Street until another singer-songwriter, who had also performed at Cath the night before, Jeremiah Birnbaum, also from NYC, walked in with his guitar ˜ and wet hair. Not stopping for coffee or bagels themselves, the now trio produced beautiful melodies with such delicacy and vocal harmonies that they made you doubt that the three had actually met for the first time here at the summit and just somewhat whimsically decided to play together. And what synchronicity they shared ˜ their voices, their delivery, their skill.
Though I loved The Slurs at the Patio Friday night and was impressed with Renny Field from Australia at the Red Room Saturday night, this lovely little unscheduled morning was a highlight and perfect ending to an amazing weekend of music.
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Through all 11 original songs on Shelley Miller's new CD, it's her expressive voice that really shin...Through all 11 original songs on Shelley Miller's new CD, it's her expressive voice that really shines. That's a good thing, a very good thing.
"Tear Me Down" is crafted in such a way as to allow this to happen. Instruments, while solid, are never overpowering while Shelley's vocals work their magic.
Listening to her is like pulling up a pair of very, very soft faded jeans over bare skin. She makes it seem effortless and her fluid segues from alto to soprano are seamless. She at times sounds a bit like Carrie Newcomer, though not as deep. She's always sensual, however.
Those joining her in the studio really jelled as a team under the leadership of multi-instrumentalist and producer Tommi Zender. Others were Jeff Oliver and Anita Chase on electric guitar, keyboardist Liz Conant, drummer/percussionist Janet Creamer and Sheela Ready on bass. Shelley accompanies herself quite well on acoustic guitar.
They created an overall sound of folk/pop rock with a mix of tempos. Most were on the easy or soft side and there was a noticeable absence of any harshness or machine-gun speed tunes. And that's a good thing. There was one surprise, the final cut, which speaks through itself by title alone: "Mama's Brand Spankin' New Redneck Boyfriend." This is an exaggerated caricature of a country song if there ever was one -- and well-done, too.
The best tunes sort of run the gamut of what the CD offers, but perhaps the top vote goes to the opener "Hey Hey Hallelujah" for its ringing electric guitar and Shelley's best vocals. "Happy Accident" is a nice soft rocker while both "Swoon" and "328 Miles" get votes for sweetest melodies.
And lyrics? They're all good, but some better than others. One of the best examples is "Follow," where she writes:
"...some people tear you down in pieces
some will wear you down in parts
...but i've seen the rain come down
like dreams between your fingers
the sweetness of the sky
is the only thing that lingers
and i will
we chisel bullets through the sky
we laugh through empty eyes
we count each sacrifice
as the price of barely getting by
but we have more than these arms will ever hold...
take a chance
and let your wings unfold
and i will."
Shelley's bio states that in 1998, she moved from California to Chicago and "somewhere along the way, she picked up a thrift-shop guitar, taught herself a few chords, and decided to change the world."
Sounds like she's doing just what she wanted, and living out her own lyrics by taking a chance, letting her wings unfold.
August 8, 2003
CD Review - When It's All Gone, You Come Back
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10 out of 10 stars Wow! I just listened to Shelley Miller’s third CD, When It’s All Gone, You Com...10 out of 10 stars
Wow! I just listened to Shelley Miller’s third CD, When It’s All Gone, You Come Back, several times. Wow! This is a white hot talent in full bloom. Miller’s songwriting is stripped down to essentials and the results are so clear and true. The arrangements and production by John Abbey are the perfect frame for Miller’s excruciatingly expressive voice. Miller is joined by a variety of musicians including Micah Walk, Steve Dawson, Joe Darnaby, Ari Levi, and Tabitha Lydon.
Miller’s songs are very well crafted with strong lyrics and interesting, tuneful melodies...
...But it’s not just the richly descriptive songs, Shelley Miller’s voice is alternately endearing, mournful, sinful, and soulful. She breathes an intense fire into every song on this CD that brings them vividly to life. When It’s All Gone, You Come Back is a must have CD. This is songwriting and performance at the highest level. I think that Shelley Miller’s When It’s All Gone, You Come Back will be one my top picks for the year 2010.
- Don Sechelski, The Muse's Muse
CD Review - When It's All Gone, You Come Back
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It took me some time to come to the realization that Miller's third and strongest recording to date ...It took me some time to come to the realization that Miller's third and strongest recording to date is the perfect road disc.
What finally led me to this was that When It's All Gone, You Come Back was in my car player for well over two months! (Thank goodness Dave doesn't press deadlines at FAME). Other discs had come and gone but Miller's breezy informality with the hard truths of our shared experience rode with me faithfully through the rain, snow, sleet, and hail of another New York winter. Yup, God and Miller have been my co-co-pilots for a while now.
Be it the bluesy playfulness of Buckle To Burn through the folksy, roots oriented reflections and illuminations—Blame It On The Sky, All The Way Down, It Was Billie, Figure It Out and Love's Not Crazy ("Love's just out there doin' what love's gotta do")—Miller's catchy mix of styles keeps the heart and mind engaged for all those miles they need to travel.
- Mike Jurkovic
30-90 minutes original music
|May 22, 2013 Wednesday||TBA||Den Theater||Chicago, IL, US|
|w. Danielle Howle and other guests TBA|
|Aug 19, 2013 Monday||7:00 PM||the Player's Pub||Bloomington, IN, US|
|Bloomington Songwriters' Showcase - in the round with special guests TBA.|