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Upper St. Clair native 'looping' in ever-widening circles of fame

| Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jeff Miller says Nashville has a reputation as a five-year town. That's how long most newcomers take to establish themselves, to find an audience, to see whether a career in music is viable. That's how long Miller, an Upper St. Clair native, has lived in country music's capital.

The verdict?

"Nashville is such a weird town," says Miller, who returns home Saturday to release a new CD, "Can You Hear the Music" at Club Cafe, South Side. "I think I'm known within certain circles."

Not within the spheres that Clint Black or Dolly Parton circulate, of course. Miller, who is a pop musician in the best sense of the term, travels around the periphery of Nashville's star machinery. Last year, he played 198 shows at coffeehouses, colleges, cafes and bars. He's even performed at a Whole Foods Market. "Can You Hear the Music," a live album, reflects Miller's dogged performance schedule. Recorded last December at the Church Recording Studio in Overbrook, the songs are culled from Miller's three releases and illustrate his penchant for loops -- snippets of sounds he records live, then plays back almost instantly.

"The pedal has become my band," Miller says, joking about the foot pedal that triggers the loops. "When I first got the pedal, I wasn't into looping at all. I really just wanted to do it so I could solo, loop a chord progression and do a solo section. That was the only real intent I had for it then."

"I think I'm a better performer now, and that goes back to just doing more shows," Miller says. "The more shows you do, the better you're going to get as a live performer."

So Nashville fits Miller, at least for now. He's broadened his network of contacts, makes a decent, if not lavish, living, and has started collaborating with another songwriter.

Yes, he did dream of having a star-studded career when he graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston eight years ago. But no one anticipated the changes the Internet wrought on musicians, that sales of CDs would plummet, that live shows would become one of the few revenue streams for musicians like Miller, who has no regrets about his decision to leave Pittsburgh. Even though he books all his own shows, takes care of all his promotion, and does everything but print T-shirts and press CDs, it's all been worthwhile.

"I realize if didn't go for it, the pain of the what-if questions would be too big for me," he says. "A lot of artists don't tour, and sit at home and think someone is going to hear them at a show and do all this stuff for them. I'm always amazed when I hear people expecting something like that to happen."

Additional Information:

CD release party

With : Joel Lindsey

When : 7 p.m. Saturday

Admission : $10

Where : Club Cafe , South Side

Details : 412-431-4950

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