Sassy commentator on music, art, and culture.

INTERVIEW: Miner is ready to be nestled in your music rotation

The L.A.-based band Miner is a family collective who are about to be on everyone’s year end playlist. Their current single “Hey Love” is an addictive, foot stomping track that won’t stray far from your consciousness. They’ve got their first headlining gig May 4th at the Bootleg in Los Angeles and a couple of festival gigs coming up. I caught up with Justin Miner, vocalist and songwriter for the group to discuss their plans!

Cori Spelling: Justin, I understand you had a “creative nervous breakdown” before starting your current band Miner. Can you tell me a little bit of what life was like prior to the birth of the band?

Justin Miner: I was working a day job and playing music with a band I helped start as a teenager. I felt a tremendous sense of obligation to my bandmates to continue pushing forward with the project.  But after years of playing together, I felt like I had personally outgrown the music.

In 2011, I hit a breaking point and quit both the band and my day job.  I wasn’t sure if I would play music again, and just tried to assess my life and what it might mean to live without music in it.

CS: You embarked on a significant journey through Central and South America which led to the inspiration of your current project. Was there a specific moment or a particular story from that trip that you can share with us?

JM: Travel is one my great loves, and is something that often has served me well in moments of crisis. Along with my then girlfriend (now wife) Katie, we took a trip that started in the heart of the Amazon jungle and ended up in Tierra Del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The entire trip was revitalizing and restorative. The pinnacle was a trek across the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia, and standing on that impossibly immense expanse of blue ice brought me instant perspective. I returned determined to make music that spoke to my soul.

CS: Miner is a family affair which includes your wife, brother, and cousin. Were you guys jamming together before you went to Central and South America? Why did you decide to start Miner now?

JM: When I was recording the Hey Love EP I realized I needed some female vocals, so I asked my wife if she would mind singing a little on the record. Despite having no musical background she did so well that it ended up changing the direction of the project. We ended up including one of the first songs she ever wrote on the EP, Big Sur.

When the songs started gaining some momentum online, I called up my brother (who had played in the previous band) as well as rhythm section members Dave Schechtman and Justin Krook to see if they’d be open to playing together again. Katie picked up the mandolin along with a few other instruments, and my cousin Amanda Koosed came aboard to play keys. A band is a family, and so who better to have in your band than your actual family?

CS: Is songwriting a collaborative effort?

JM: Songwriting duties are primarily handled by Katie and I, especially in the initial stages. When the songs are brought into the live setting, it a collaborative process of figuring out the best arrangements and parts to make the songs as good as possible – which then often informs the ultimate decisions made in the recording process.

CS: Are there any artists, genres, or movements that Miner take musical inspiration from when creating new work?

JM: At the time I was writing it, I was taking my inspiration primarily from the 1960s and 70s — artists like Simon & Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, Dylan, Cash, Neil Young — while trying to add the enthusiasm and catharsis of Rock and Roll. Basically trying to roll everything I love about playing and listening to music into one.

CS: 
“Hey Love” has this enormously gorgeous sound that explodes at the three minute mark. Is this track a nice representation of what’s to come on a forthcoming Miner release?
JM: Definitely — as that song took shape in the studio, it became a sort of standard bearer for the project as a song that succeeded in incorporating all those elements. I always want to try and capture that feeling of overwhelming and unbridled joy that comes from standing on top of a glacier or dancing with friends.

CS: You guys are gearing up for your first headlining gig (!!) in Los Angeles, plus a couple of featured Festival dates this summer. What are you looking forward to most? Meeting folks along the way? The road? Writing new songs?

JM: My favorite part of the musical process is the performance aspect, so I am always looking forward to playing shows. I am, however, especially looking forward to our May 4th gig at the Bootleg Bar here in LA — the lineup is great and it’s always nice to play a hometown show for your fans, friends and family.

CS: Finally, describe your live show in one word:

JM: EXUBERANT.

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