Catholic singer opens up about launching an album during coronavirus

Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic singer-songwriter Marie Miller said she was not prepared for a global pandemic to coincide with the release of her new folk album.

As the calendar turned to March, Miller was ramping up for her album release at the end of the month. Then the coronavirus pandemic exploded in the U.S., cancelling her scheduled shows in New York City and Virginia, and in-person interviews with media outlets.

Miller is dependent upon concerts for her livelihood as a musician, and so the mass cancellations and bans on gatherings for public safety reasons forced a serious change in her schedule.

“Talk about a curveball,” she told CNA in an interview on her new album “Little Dreams” released on March 27. “I worked on this for a year and a half, and all of a sudden I can’t even play it live.”

Yet, Miller said, the origins of the album—her leap of faith from the financial security of a record label to being an independent musician—helped create music reflective of the current times, with songs focused on the challenge of trusting in God amid uncertainty and doubt.

“The reason why I decided to release this music in this time was that hopefully it would be a time for people to be blessed by this, and inspired, and healed, and ready to be brave right now,” Miller told CNA.

“The Divine Artist makes beauty out of suffering,” she said, noting that “as artists, we have the opportunity to make beauty out of suffering, and I think that’s our call, to make a mosaic out of our brokenness.”

Faced with a change in plans, she quickly adapted, organizing a living room concert on March 14 and streaming it live to followers on Instagram. More than $1,000 in tips came in online, one of multiple random acts of generosity she said experienced in recent days.

“God has given me daily bread,” she said. “Really, we’re just walking day by day with Our Lord.”

Miller is the third of ten children in a Catholic family from western Virginia. She plays guitar, mandolin, and piano, has been singing since age 7, and has been writing music and performing full-time for ten years.

Her 2013 single “You’re Not Alone” was #1 on the Billboard Christian Hot AC/CHR chart, and its video was featured on VH1 and CMT. Miller’s 2014 single “6’2”, was played on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” She has also opened for the BackStreet Boys, toured with American Idol winner Kris Allen and singer/songwriter Five For Fighting.

In 2015, Miller received the opportunity of a lifetime, performing both singles in front of Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. She saw that experience, which came at a crossroads in her career, as a sign to continue making music.

Now five years later, “I would say, some of that playful, jokey, lyrical content is less,” she said of her new music. “This is a little bit more serious.”

Miller released an album “Letterbox” in 2017, and then in 2018 parted ways with Nashville-based Curb Records with whom she had been working for ten years. The switch demanded courage and trust in God, she said, and both of which are reflected in the lyrics of the new album.

“I never really know what’s happening, besides the next couple of weeks, which has been a little bit of a trust lesson here,” Miller said.

She needed to find investors for her independent album, and fans stepped up in support. By investing, they would receive dividends from each time her music is streamed through Spotify and Apple Music.

A support team that included Sean Fowler, the founder and CEO of digital distribution leader Tone Tree, and Erik Anderson, publicist for Missing Piece Group, helped promote Miller’s music online. Her track “Imaginary Friend” was streamed more than 300,000 times in its first two months on Apple Music.

“I’ve just seen God already bless this music,” Miller said.

With her new album, Miller said she is both setting out on her own and moving back in. Her newly established freedom as an independent artist has afforded her the opportunity to return to the sound of bluegrass music she grew up listening to, “organic, earthy music,” lyrically that was “authentically me,” she said.

“To a secular audience,” she said, “‘Little Dreams’ is a bit more about just believing in yourself and believing in your dream.”

“If you kind of dig deeper,” she continued, “you see that I’m actually talking about how all of us are created for a purpose, to do something that no one else can do.” The title also emphasizes the beauty of the small, everyday encounters with one soul that “echoes into eternity,” she said.

References to faith and literature are evident throughout the album. The track “More Than What I see” includes the lyric “late have I loved this gift,” which Miller said is a nod to St. Augustine’s famous declaration in his Confessions “late have I loved thee” and her own desire to rely on Divine Providence.

Other songs include allusions and references to writers as varied as John Steinbeck and St. John Henry Newman.

Miller hopes to return to live in-person concerts soon. In the meantime, as her audience listens online, “hopefully, this music brings them peace and hope,” she said, “and just a little bit of relaxation in a pretty stressful time.”

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