Photo by Tony Hammons
Spotlight features interviews with musicians and industry professionals who contribute to our success.
This week we proudly feature singer-songwriter, Debbie Miller. Miller has enchanted northwest audiences with her wit, humor, and incredible narrative songwriting. We caught up with her about her upcoming show at Hotel Albatross, learning to play music, and her incredible appearance on PBS show The Great American Read.
Artists like Debbie are performing for Gigs4U every day in the Seattle area. If you book corporate events, private parties or just need top notch musicians and sound professionals for a one-of-a-kind concert experience, fill out the form at the bottom of this page for more information.
You are from New York, originally. What was it like growing up there and how did you get started playing music?
I first started playing classical piano at the age of 7, and did a lot of theater in high school. When I was away at college I sang in an a capella group and started teaching myself guitar. I was very bad at guitar for a very long time! But I stuck with it and eventually got some lessons.
I began dabbling in songwriting here and there. I was first exposed to the NYC music scene when I was singing backup harmonies and playing a little keys for a friend and thought “Hey, maybe I can do this.” So I did! I wrote my first full song when I was at work, and started carting it around to open mics. Then I wrote another song, and then another – and finally booked my first gig. I was so new to songwriting when I booked my first show I didn’t have enough songs to play an entire set – so I had to write a bunch more! Everything has kind of happened like that – just one foot in front of the other.
How long have you been playing professionally?
A little over 10 years, but I don’t think I considered it something I was doing professionally for a while – mostly because I had never planned to be a singer/songwriter.
When did you begin working with Gigs4U?
I started working with Gigs4U in 2017 playing at SeaTac airport. I can’t remember exactly how it transpired but I think the timing happened to be right when I reached out. It has been such a wonderful gift in my life. Playing with Gigs4U has made me a better musician and performer.
What is the most interesting/weirdest thing that’s happened during one of your performances at the airport?
Once a man asked if he could sing Folsom Prison Blues with me, and hopped up next to me on the mic. He had a really gruff voice and sang the song much differently than I did, to say the least! It was awkward but endearing. Also, today someone tipped me $100! Thank you, wherever you are!
Do you do music full time? Do you have any side hustles?
I do music part time, and my naturopathic practice part time. At my practice SoundMind Medicine, I use biofeedback to help people coping with chronic stress-related issues and anxiety. It is very rewarding. I like the balance of music and medicine, and sometimes feel like they are interchangeable.
You’ll be part of a loaded evening of music at Hotel Albatross on January 17th with Mike Giacolino and Aaron Semer. How did the bill come together? What should your audience expect that night?
I met Aaron Semer when were were both playing NadaFest this past October (put on by the awesome music blog NadaMucho.com!). He asked if I wanted to play a show together, and I jumped at the chance. The audience can expect a typical Debbie Miller performance – an emotional roller coaster of laughing, crying, laughing, possibly a Debbie-do-over, and some top notch banter. I have a couple of new songs to share, so I’m stoked.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I’ve never tried to emulate anyone in particular, but early on my writing was influenced by Regina Spektor a great deal. I also love some of the greats – Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. There’s probably a bit of Broadway and classical influences as well. In general, I love storytelling and narrative in music.
What advice would you give to younger musicians just starting out who want to give a music career a shot?
Do it! Know that you’ll need to work hard, and you’ll spend way more time on the business end of things than you would want to. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else does. Meet other musicians, support other musicians. You can’t do anything alone and will need your tribe. Be prepared for the long haul know it is ok to need to work other jobs to support yourself.
What has been the most satisfying moment of your career so far?
Back in the fall of 2018, I was on national TV because of a song I wrote! “Queen of Hearts” was featured on an episode of PBS’ The Great American Read. The crew flew all the way out to Seattle to interview me and everything – it was a trip.
Any shows/new releases/tours/etc. you want to talk about?
I look forward to playing with The Bushwick Book Club Seattle on 2/15/20 at Hugo House – we are doing Shakespeare. That will be a great night. I will also be playing at the Seattle Folklore Society on 3/7/20 with Stephanie Anne Johnson and Carolyn Cruso.