Music Journeys: Gussie Miller
Columbus native Gussie Miller has carved out quite a career working as a musician, producer, engineer, writer, and an audio engineer in the television and film industry. What sparked his interest and imagination can be traced back in large part to his high school days at Fort Hayes.
Here on Music Journeys, the 1981 performing arts school grad explains how valuable that experience turned out to be, highlights a few of his favorite accomplishments in music, and shares some stories from his solo album that took about 15 years to come to light. Thanks for listening.
Hold On plays...
Hold On, the new single from Gussie Miller, reflects his outlook on life.
"Things are not great right now, but you've got to hold on because it will get better," Miller said. "I've always been that kind of person. Even though people find me to be somewhat intense, I'm very much a positive person. That song, especially after a global pandemic, typifies where I'm at. People often wonder with all the tumult, stress, and division in the world today how I can continue to be positive, and it's because I wake up with a melody in my head every day."
Sing To Me plays...
"My father was a jazzer," Miller said of his earliest exposure to music. "My mother did study piano and could sing. My mother went to school and was friends with Nina Simone. So music was literally baked in. It was in my blood. My father played Duke Ellington Sacred Concert every single weekend."
In The Beginning God plays...
"I grew up in Columbus, and Columbus is very close to my heart," Miller said. "Fort Hayes changed my life. I ended up being a radio and television student under Bob Bauer, the junior student teacher and then John Crawford, who literally changed my life because about half of my income now comes from working in television and film from the love instilled in me and all that technical training. He was hilarious but If you didn't do it right, he'd make you do it again. It was a pilot program, so they spent a ton of money on the latest equipment. So we weren't making play TV, we were making real TV and that really set me up for the future. So that's my Fort Hayes experience."
"I have the ultimate respect for Ryan Van Bibber," Miller continued. "Because he created a program to teach young kids - mostly children of color - how to use pro tools and how to actually record and produce music. I've actually come back to teach a couple classes. It warms my heart that the school is still moving forward in that and the whole Fort Hayes experience, because I believe that's what fires young people's imagination to get to do the professional level work I'm doing. You have to start when people are young and you have to see somebody who looks like you doing it so you know it's possible for you to do it."
This Doubting Heart plays...
"By about 1988-89, I realized the other stuff I was doing was not giving me the joy and spiritual satisfaction I needed," Miller recalled. "I always knew I could sing, and I wanted to be in music production. I had also been a Gino Vannelli fan. I found out where Gino's recording studio was. I got my cassette and sent it to the studio. One day the phone rings, and it's Gino Vannelli. I think I hung up on him because I thought it was a joke. He gave me his phone number, and he flew me out to California. It ended up that I sang on a song called Rhythm of Romance. Gino basically used my voice as an instrument. He didn't let me hear the other parts. He just said here's your note, sing here. He would say you just sang that and the note was right, but you did not give me full note value. You're singing to the rhythm of romance. That's the way he wanted me to sing it. We did all these parts, and I'm singing the chorus of the song."
Rhythm Of Romance plays...
"He pulls up all the faders and looks at me with the silliest grin in the world," Miller reflected. "Then I knew you're in the big leagues because these guys have been making hit records for years. Then the record comes out, and my name is nowhere on it. That's when I really learned what the music was all about. I was saved by the guys who co-wrote the song, especially Mitchel Delevie. Mitchel ended up being a good friend of my now publicist, Monica Wild. He stood up for me, and it vindicated my desire to be a talent at an A-level."
"It took me years to get to making my solo record," Miller continued. "Some of it was financial, some emotional. My close friend, Alex Alessandroni Jr., always told me I could sing. In the midst of a divorce and child custody battle, he told me I could do this. We got the demos together but had a catastrophic hard drive crash. They were eventually able to recover some of that data, which is basically my whole album Forever Plan. It took forever to finish. I started writing it in 2001 and finished the tracking in 2012. But it didn't come out until 2016 because I didn't have enough money to make it happen. The first single from the record is called What More Can I Say."
What More Can I Say plays...
"I wanted to give my full vocal range on that song to say, yeah I can sing," Miller said of What More Can I Say. "You think with social media and living in Los Angeles that people will hear your stuff, and they don't. My favorite thing that fills my soul is when I meet someone, and they say you sang your ass off. This would be years later after it's been out. It always makes me laugh and gives me hope and tells me I'm going in the right direction. The joke in our industry is that overnight success can take 20 years. Mine has taken like 30 years."
Life Lessons plays...
"Life Lessons was written for my oldest, Nathaniel," Miller said. "On the day he was born, the idea came to me to say this is how your life is going to be. My kids are bi-racial in America. Right now we have a lot of division and strife and people not making an effort to understand people of color. That song is to tell my son how you make it through society and life."
Forever Plan plays...
"Because my maestro Alex Alessandroni Jr supports me so much, he wrote the melody ten years before I finished the song," Miller recalled of the title track Forever Plan. "It sat in my computer for like ten years until I could voice it. So that song is about how much I love my daughter."
Forever Plan continues...
"My guitar player, Jay Gore, calls me up one day during the pandemic and says he and drummer Chad Wright are going to redo Easy Lover and asked if I wanted to sing on it," Miller said. "I said if I'm singing the Philip Bailey part, who's singing the Phil Collins part? Jay said why don't you sing both. I said I can do it. He asked who could play bass, and I thought of Leland Sklar, who's a living legend. Leland had just started a YouTube channel and posted the finished product. It went viral."
Easy Lover cover plays...
"I'm thinking, this is when I have a viral video," Miller said with a laugh. "I really wanted to get Nathan East, who co-wrote the song, to play on it but couldn't reach him. By the time he got back to me, he said that it sounded great. So that meant a lot too. It was really a blessing."
Gussie Miller performs November 3rd at Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill & Jazz
Here are links to Miller's website and YouTube page:
Here's the full list of players on Miller's new song Hold On:
Alex Alessandroni Jr. - Keys
Jay Gore - Guitar
Herman Matthews - Drums
Marcus Miller - Bass
Michael Lington- Sax
Kevin Ricard - Percussion
Alex Miller- Backing Vocals
Sayaka Alessandroni- Backing Vocals
Produced by Gussie Miller for Artis Musicai LLC
Mixed by Tony Prendatt at Mod Squad LLC in NJ
Executive Produced by John Kiehl
Mastered by Peter Doel at Aftermaster Studios
Here's the Easy Lover video referenced in the podcast:
Miller has also worked on some TV shows as an audio engineer and Local 695 member. He's also the "Video Assist Assist" on an upcoming film. View his credits here: