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Lee Miles: Singer-songwriter prefers discussing politics over music
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
As I knocked on Lee Miles' door, I couldn't help but feel a bit hesitant. The last time I talked to Miles, he threatened to punch me in the mouth. Instead, he put his muscle to his music and came up with a more varied album in the form of Heathen Blux. The hushed tones and careful strumming that dominated his previous album 1000 Lions has been replaced by thicker melodies and a fuller sound.
Once inside Miles' apartment, he plays me some songs that just missed the cut for the new album and tells me 1000 Lions was a few too many songs long and he didn't want that to be the case this time. "I was happy with that album, but there were 13 songs and I think that's too many. I think I should have picked out the top 10. Anything past that is overkill. Sometimes, you can become attached to something you've written and then you don't look at the album as a whole and you sneak songs on there because you have an affinity for them, but they might not have anything to do with the album as a whole."
Heathen Blux contains a very focused set of songs and was inspired by personal struggles and self respect. Miles elaborates, "We're living in a time when our rights are being taken and people don't even care. People don't seem to even give it a second thought, as long as they can catch their football show or Dancing With The Stars or whatever. But, I feel there's going to come a day soon when these laws that are on the books are going to be put to use. Things in America are worse now than when our forefathers declared their independence. The America that we live in now is not the same America that our forefathers envisioned. We're the farthest thing from free. We have more people in prison than China. Texas has more people in prison than China. We're living in scary times. The first song, ‘Peasant Blues,’ has a line that says, ‘You'll spill my blood before you take my home.’ Your home can be anything. It's your rights. I'm tired of it. Part of the album is about that and part of the album is about living through pain. Everybody has to face their own pain and you do what you can to get through your own trials."
The album isn't exactly what Miles set out to make, but that's because he never sets out to make anything in particular, only to write songs that have relevance. "I don't write songs so that I can call myself a songwriter. I could care less about that. I started writing because I like music and I wanted to create. There's something that I hear that I'm not hearing anyone else do. I'm trying to do that and I'm not sure if I'm reaching that or not. That's why I write now. I feel like something needs to be said and I try to say it the best I can and I try to make it enjoyable."
Even so, Miles didn't create this album to impress people or fill the dance floors. He made these songs because he needs to. He doesn't have any high and lofty goals for them, either. He's incredibly down to earth about his talent and finds the whole concept of talking about his music to be uncomfortable and downright difficult.
"There was a time when I would've loved to sit down and talk about my music all the time, but now I cringe at the thought of it. Doing this interview is hard. I don't want to talk about myself. It's the least interesting thing I can think of. If you love talking about your music, you should probably be spending more time crafting it than running your mouth about it," says Miles.
"I don't want to talk about how brilliant I am, because I'm not. I write songs that are good. Some people are good at playing basketball. They're not geniuses. They make millions of dollars. They don't deserve it. Dylan once said the reason he tours so much is because he wants to be exalted and I thought that was one of the most pompous things I've ever heard. He's not Jesus Christ. He writes songs and it's easy for him. If he wasn't writing songs, maybe he'd be driving a cab, which is noble. Then, maybe he'd be humble, but instead he's an overpaid jackass who puts words together and strums a guitar."
Miles is clearly ready to change the subject, so I ask him about politics and world affairs. His body language instantly changes, as his head lifts and his hands unclasp. "I think politics is a nuisance and I'd rather not have to deal with it. But, when you see the crooks that we have in office now, it's so much worse than it was in the time of Vietnam," points out Miles. "Four people were shot dead at Kent State University and Neil Young wrote a song about it and it rallied a whole country. Now, millions of people can be killed. 3,000, is a good number that comes to mind, can be killed in New York on any given day and the true culprit for that, we could care less. We allow Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw to tell us our reality. It's interesting, if you notice, no matter what news channel you turn on, they all are running the same exact news stories. There's a lot of shit that happens in the world everyday, yet we hear the same sound bites from every single news station. FOX, CNN, MSNBC. All of them. It's the same exact news stories. Everyday. That was one of the things that started waking me up.”
“We live in a nation where people can be shot on T.V. and you can almost hear people yawning. If they even take the time to watch the news, which is propaganda, anyhow. They just came out and said that all of the military correspondents that are on the news, people that they have on for their opinions on the war, the Pentagon has been paying them to do this. That is propaganda. I think politics is a hard thing to get into, but when you realize that politics is the one thing wherein decisions are made that really effect our lives and the lives of poor people, or just regular people who are soon to be poor people because of the crooks we have in office, it's time for to us to revolt. It's been a long time coming and if we don't wake up soon, we're not going to wake up at all."
For all of you who think that Miles would suck the air out of any room, I encourage you to have a conversation with him. You'll discover that he is incredibly kind and even has a sense of humor. Turns out, he was just kidding about wanting to knock my block off.
Lee Miles will be performing at The Brass Rail on May 31st at 9 p.m. along with his backing band, The Illegitimate Sons of One Brother William Branham, which features Kyle Morris (guitar), Jon Keller (guitar), C. Ray Harvey (bass), Andrea Harvey (vocals) and Jon Ross (drums). The show will be rounded out by Mister Doctor Professor, Alabaster Fox and a solo set from Josh Hall of Thunderhawk. Cover is $2 and copies of Heathen Blux will be available for a one-time price of $5.