Sheri Miller

“Writing is a journey towards knowing yourself, towards becoming yourself,” says Sheri Miller. “For me, these songs are a huge step forward on this exciting path of self-discovery.”

Indeed, there’s something revelatory about Miller’s extraordinary new EP, ‘Waking Up To This Miracle Life,’ something profoundly revealing, poetic, and deeply intuitive. Recorded with GRAMMY-winning producer Jeff Bova (Herbie Hancock, Celine Dion), this timeless collection is at once ecstatic and incisive, brimming with joy even as it reckons with struggle and heartache. The songs here are radical acts of self-love and empowerment fueled by raw emotion and explosive energy, and Miller’s mesmerizing performances are utterly transcendent to match, her voice shifting from hushed intimacy to soaring grandeur with the preternatural ease of Ann Wilson or Brandi Carlile. Add it all up and you’ve got a rich, cinematic masterpiece all about embracing the beauty and magic of being alive, a celebratory, vibrant, thoughtful ode to love itself from an artist who passionately lives to create.

“Songwriting is joy,” says Miller. “Performance is joy. Creation is joy. And I’ve always believed my purpose on this Earth is to receive and express that joy through music.”

Born and raised in New York, Miller found her calling at an early age thanks in part to her mother, a trained opera singer and classical pianist, and her uncle, a recording engineer. By the time she turned eight, Miller was already composing her own songs and poetry, exploring the mysteries of the universe with the kind of pureness of heart and joie de vivre that would guide her the rest of her career.

“I think I was hatched a songwriter,” she says with a laugh. “From the very beginning, I’ve always just felt this natural, powerful instinct to write.”

Growing up, Miller was a voracious listener, playing classical piano and devouring everything from Mozart and Tchaikovsky to Ray Charles and Etta James to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. She studied lyrics and poetry, obsessed over melodies, and scoured liner notes for clues about players and production. In 2008, she released her acclaimed debut, ‘Mantra,’ and in 2011, she returned with a similarly well-received follow-up, ‘Winning Hand,’ produced by GRAMMY-winner Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel). Miller’s next single featured appearances from legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, iconic keyboardist Paul Shaffer, and bass legend Will Lee. Critics were quick to take notice, with a Boston Globe writer hailing Miller as “a gifted musician” and an “artful songwriter,” and Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis raving that “she makes a powerful first impression, and then, even better, a series of more complex and lasting ones.” The music earned airplay on tastemaker stations like KCRW and WXPN, landed Miller in writing sessions with everyone from Jill Sobule to Shawn Mullins, and helped her garner dates opening for the likes of J.D. Souther and Robert Gordon. Somewhere along the way, though, Miller began to sense that she was drifting from the passion, love, and clarity that had drawn her to music in the first place.

“I think I developed this sense of wanting to prove myself, that I was worthy or that I belonged,” says Miller. “I really had to step back and remember that making music is about being authentic, true to yourself and honoring the integrity of the songs.” So Miller began to focus her energy on surrendering to the music, and serving as a conduit for something greater.

“I realized I had to get out of my own way. I had to become a vehicle for the art, rather than trying to control it,” Miller reflects.

“Honoring the songs in the studio meant working live as much as possible,” she explains. “The recordings needed to have the same electricity and raw, honest emotion I felt when I initially received the music.”

With Bova at the helm and backed by a core band of A-list session players including drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Taylor Swift), guitarist Tim Pierce (Adele, Bruce Springsteen), bassist Will Lee (Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys), and cellist Dave Eggar (Coldplay), Miller set about cutting the new songs over the course of multiple sessions in Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville. She pushed herself to her limits and beyond in the studio, digging deep to deliver the kind of radiant and arresting performances the material demanded.

“Sometimes, when I was completely exhausted, I would find myself going into this meditative state where I felt like I was floating, tapping into some higher frequency,” says Miller. “I allowed every ounce of pure emotion and love and authenticity I had into the molecules of these songs.”

That clear commitment is palpable from the start on ‘Waking Up To This Miracle Life,’ which opens with the sensual, swaggering “Gold Hearted Man.” Like much of the collection, it’s an intoxicating tune, one that taps into a primal kind of energy as it revels in the all-consuming power of physical and spiritual desire. The epic “Joyful Love,” meanwhile, honors the courage required to speak your truth and face your feelings head on, and the anthemic title track channels Joan of Arc, as it triumphantly celebrates survival and female empowerment.

“When I was writing lyrics for “Miracle Life,” I felt the presence of Joan of Arc, warrior and heroine,” says Miller. “Her energy was brilliantly strong, undeniable, and I easily received a stream of lyrics from her. It felt like a gift, but I was afraid to keep her in the song. I meditated on taking her out before ultimately deciding that it was my pure intention to honor the art of songwriting, be high-minded, pristine, and in full integrity to the muses that inspire me. I’m a vehicle to receive the songs, a translator and sculptor. I chose to be courageous like Joan of Arc, true to my artistic vision.”

Recording the tender, instant classic “Born To Love” taught Miller a similar lesson about yielding to and trusting the music.

“I thought we had captured the ‘perfect’ vocal, after comping. The next day, after singing passionately for 5 hours, the producer asked me to sing one last take,” Miller recalls. Thinking "OK, but it’s unusable, I'm too tired," I relaxed, singing easily, naturally, without trying. I let go and allowed the song, my soul to speak. Opening my eyes, assuming everyone would say it's a throwaway vocal, instead I heard ‘now, that’s an award-winning performance!’ Stunned, I listened back, realizing magic had flowed when I surrendered. We used this live pure vocal as the final vocal. I learned ‘magic’ is better than ‘perfect.’ I trust the magic now.”

Uplifting and inspiring as it is, the EP certainly has its flashes of doubt and darkness, too. The moody, Middle Eastern-tinged “Empty Sky” reckons with the bittersweet end of a relationship, while the driving, universal anthem “Everybody Feels This Way Sometimes” grapples with depression.

“I originally wrote this song as a message of love and comfort for a friend who was suffering,” Miller recalls, “but I eventually realized that I wrote it for myself, too. It’s a reminder that it’s okay—that it’s good—to feel every emotion, even the negative ones, because our emotions are what guide us on our journey. They’re temporary, passing through, ‘energy in motion.’”

Listening to ‘Waking Up To This Miracle Life,’ it’s clear that Miller has taken that notion to heart. The powerful collection explores the full spectrum of what it means to be vibrantly alive, to feel every emotion, to love and laugh and hurt and heal. This life may not always be easy, but as Miller so beautifully demonstrates, it’s always miraculous.

“I feel such joy and pleasure knowing that miracles are all around us,” says Miller. “It’s a miracle to be alive at this time. As I open my clear eyes a little wider, listen to my inner voice a little longer, I feel blessed every day to be waking up to this miracle life.”
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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