A GoPride Interview

Shelley Miller

Jerry Nunn goes one-on-one with local rocker Shelley Miller

Thu. November 1, 2012  by Jerry Nunn

Shelley Miller
Local singer Shelley Miller is bringing her rocking act and the BCC band - consisting of Christopher Elam, Chris Geisler, and Brian Chinino - to Subterranean this week. The group is currently working on their EP have a new video for their song "Riptide" out now.

She released her fourth album February this past spring.

Also in the works is a December appearance at Cake Chicago, which is a queer music showcase at the Red Line Tap.

ChicagoPride talked to this openly bisexual performer the week of her show.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, Shelley. You work as a solo artist and in a band at the same time?

SM: (Shelley Miller) Yes.

JN: What does BCC stand for?

SM: It started off as Brian, Chris and Christopher's initials and playing off of the blind carbon copy thing.

JN: Is this the first band you have been in?

SM: I have put together the band since the album that came out in 2010 when I have had to do band shows. I work at the Old Town School of Folk Music so I grab a few people from there. But this is the first permanent working band that I have had.

JN: Were you there at the big opening for Old Town this year?

SM: I was playing fiddle that day because I was in fiddle class!

JN: Did you have a big background in music?

SM: I didn't start playing guitar until after college. I thought I was going to take a year off and save some money. I wanted to do creative writing. I wanted to teach writing or become a professional poet. I found a guitar at Goodwill for 30 bucks when I was out shopping. I started taking classes out in California and never went to grad school.

JN: So you changed your life?

SM: I completely changed my life!

JN: So you lived where in California?

SM: I grew up in San Jose in Northern California. I went to school IU in Indiana then moved back for a year before moving to Chicago.

JN: How long have you been in Chicago?

SM: 15 years, a long time!

JN: You are getting to be a native here.

SM: I'm a grown up, yes (laughs).

JN: Do you have a favorite LGBT musician?

SM: I was a huge Indigo Girls fan for so long but I am kind of over that.

JN: I just interviewed Ani Difranco and she's openly bi.

SM: I have some issues with her lyrics. I do love her musically. I like Mary Gauthier, she is amazing and rocking on so many levels. I saw her playing in Oregon earlier this year and was so blown away. I also like RJ Cowdrey from Ohio. She is in her 50s and quit her health care job to be a full time musician two years ago. She reminds me a bit of Cheryl Wheeler.

JN: Have you listened to Meshell Ndegeocello's new album with Nina Simone covers?

SM: No, I haven't. Is it good?

JN: It is and she is coming to Old Town so I thought of her.

SM: Awesome. Maybe she will do a workshop. She did last time.

JN: You did a solo album called February. Did it come out that month?

SM: No, it came out in April. It was called February because we had that big blizzard in 2011. I wrote ten of the songs in the three weeks after the blizzard. I was writing a song a day because I didn't feel like going outside. I challenged myself to write a bunch of songs, they all came out as an album.

JN: You were inspired by the snow…

SM: Yes, there is a thing called February Writing Month where there are a bunch of musicians around the world who are challenged to write 14 songs in February. I was doing that but when we got all of the snow I just did a song a day.

JN: I wonder if musicians will be inspired by this hurricane?

SM: Probably. It is pretty horrendous looking at the video and photos of places that I have been in New York City that were underwater. It is pretty mind-boggling.

JN: Your video "Riptide" was made in a bar?

SM: We actually filmed it a bar in Wrigleyville. The Riptide Lounge is teeny tiny and we couldn't get a five piece band in there. It is written about a real bar though.

JN: The owner died, right?

SM: Yes, she died and I wrote that song right after. I used to go to open mic at a Bucktown pub on Sundays just about every week and we would go hang out there. Maybe Marie would be drinking Jager telling dirty jokes. She was hanging in the bar in her early eighties.

JN: It is a rocking song.

SM: Thank you.

JN: You are playing Subterranean?

SM: This Sunday with three other bands, The Blue Sky Mind, The Sullivans, and Gar Clemens.

JN: I like the venue.

SM: It is an interesting space to see musicians and to play there. The bar is kind of cavernous. The place to play has a low ceiling so the drummer is smashed in the back right up against the window.

JN: Tell me about Cake.

SM: Cake is a monthly queer music showcase. Ripley Caine put it together.

JN: I know her.

SM: She has been doing it for a few years. I have seen a few friend's bands play there. It is usually three or four bands the first Saturday of every month. She has a different theme. I haven't heard what December's theme will be yet. It is usually a pretty good turn out. It is a lot of fun with all openly gay artists.

JN: It could be a Christmas theme since it is in December.

SM: It could be. We want to record a Christmas song or two and put it up on the Internet. We might have go-go dancers.

JN: Fun!

Don't miss Shelley Miller and the gang at Subterranean, 2011 West North Avenue, on Nov. 4. Buy tickets at subt.net. Keep up with Miller's projects at www.shelleymiller.net.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.