As front man for Dallas' Old 97's, who dragged a punk-influenced rock sensibility through the boozy, outlaw country bars and bleached landscapes of the Southwest, Rhett Miller was a forerunner of the so-called "alt-country" movement that peaked in the mid-'90s. But while peers such as Wilco eventually moved on to the greener pastures of power-pop, the Old 97's kept their honky-tonk heart. And after a while, Miller needed to broaden his horizons.
"In a way, [the term alt-country] is insultingly reductive," he says, "but I guess if I had to live in one of those ghettos, I would choose that, rather than angry modern rock full of pointy guitars and eyeliner."
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Still, as a solo artist, Miller has embraced an eclectic approach, influenced, the self-professed Anglophile says, by the likes of T. Rex and David Bowie. His wistful creations have enough of a pop sheen to have landed in high-profile soundtrack slots for TV hits like Scrubs; it's been some two years since the release of his third and latest effort, The Believer. Nevertheless, he continues to tour solo when not on the road with the Old 97's or the Ranchero Brothers, his acoustic side project with fellow 97er Murry Hammond.