Colby Miller is an enigmatic new face here at Linescratchers. He composes and records quiet, yet textured acoustic music around his home in San Bernadino, California, yet, despite the seemingly humble context of his origins, his music is startlingly ambitious, and will most definitely tickle the ears of music lovers who think they’ve heard it all. He has released one EP called When I Should Be Sleeping earlier this year, but readers will most likely be especially intrigued by his most recent project. He has released a pair of albums in the last day or two: an EP called Epimetheus, and a full-length album called Prometheus, based on the ancient Greek mythology surrounding the two sons of Iapetus. Like I said, it’s ambitious stuff. Colby has agreed to do an interview with us about his two albums, about the role of mythology and storytelling in our lives and faith, and his unique approach to songwriting.
Your Facebook bio mentions that you got started with music when you tripped on an old harpsichord at your family wheat farm in Tallahassee. After practicing for a week, you mastered the key of C, since that was the only string left. Care to clarify/expand on/retract that story?
A: That story is a giant stretch of the truth. I’ve never been very good at writing biographies for myself. It always felt like a very conceited, although necessary, thing to be doing. So I just fabricated the entire thing. My first actual experience playing music was on a stand up piano, and I had proper lessons. I’ve also lived in Southern California my whole life, as does my entire family. To see them on a farm would be very funny. There is a kernel of truth though in that my grandfather is a musical person who inspires me to play as many instruments as I can.
Your music makes me reminisce about classic Elliott Smith. Is he an influence of yours? Who are your main musical influences?
A: Elliott Smith is definitely an influence of mine. I listen to a lot of The Beatles and Beach Boys too. My main contemporary influences, and the artists who have high replay value in my iTunes, include Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens, Beck and The White Stripes. Those four seem to be my go to artists for when I need something to listen to in the car or at home.
You recently released a pair of albums: an EP called Epimetheus, and a full-length companion album called Prometheus. It seems that both albums were inspired by the Greek mythological stories of the two brothers. What gave you the idea for this project? Tell us about how it got started.
A: The first thing that led to this was that I was getting tired of writing songs about myself. It’s emotionally exhausting when you take apart your own life and I wasn’t inspiring myself anymore. But I was always fascinated with Greek mythology, because any story you hear today, be it in a movie or something a friend tells you, can be traced back to Greek mythology. I think it helps you grasp the understanding that, whether or not you like it, every story you tell has been told before and it’s up to me to tell it in an interesting way. People have created exciting and great stories out of completely mundane things because they are amazing story tellers. I wanted to be an amazing story teller so I had to go back to story telling’s roots.
Eventually my research led me to Prometheus who is this awesome figure in Greek mythology. He’s very much like Jesus, and acts as a savior to mankind. Epimetheus, his brother, is less impressive and is known for doing stupid things like accepting Zeus’ gift of Pandora.
Epimetheus and Prometheus have a complex history as myths, but are also used by philosophers to describe complex human ideas. Is this what you intended? Or is it more about the classical story of the two brothers?
A: Sometimes it’s more classical and I’m just retelling their story. Sometime’s it’s more abstract and complex and I’m trying to figure out for myself these complex human ideas, like relationships, emotion, and spirituality.
In our faith we have certain “myths” too. Not to say they didn’t actually happen, but the stories we tell about Joseph Smith, or Laman and Lemuel, David and Goliath, etc., are kind of like myths because we retell them as moralistic stories, and get values and ideas from them that tell us about humanity and right and wrong. Do you agree? Does this idea of gaining values from complex stories emerge from your faith into your music?
A: Yes, I agree. The fact that I’m partial to these types of moral stories stems from studying and learning about them in church. I think growing up going to church has made me fall in love with human imperfection, because in church we learn that we can’t be perfect. We learn a lot about responsibility too. I also think most stories have a moral lesson, even though it might not be obvious.
Did you grow up LDS in Southern California, or have you joined the church more recently?
A: I grew up in the church. I live pretty close to the temple in Redlands, California.
How else does your faith influence the material you write?
A: Subconsciously, I think it injects a sort of spiritual awareness into the subjects I’m writing about. I don’t write songs about it or anything like that but it’s like having three points of view into the story. Mine, my subject’s, and God’s. You always have to decide when you write any type of story, who you’re going to be sensitive to and it helps to look at it from many angles first.
Do you plan on performing Epimetheus/Prometheus material live? If so, will you be playing with the same musicians?
A: Yes, I’ve been rehearsing a few different things by myself and with the musicians featured on the album. Epimetheus is actually being rehearsed acoustic rather than electronic. I’m going to play those songs on a banjo, which in my mind is a polar opposite to my synthesizer.
Certainly our readers are wondering more about your Epimetheus/Prometheus project, and want to know where they can get your albums. Where can interested readers keep up with your music, tours, and new releases?
A: You can get all of my music from:
My Facebook page would be the place to go for most updates on music releases, tours and stuff like that: www.facebook.com/colbymillermusic
And if you want to know what I had for lunch you can follow me on Twitter: