|Version 2, 28 Dec 2009, 14:11
||Version 3, 7 Oct 2011, 15:33
|-||Step into a Greenwich Village venue and notice the cardigan-clad kid onstage. Notice the crowd--young, sizeable, and overeager. Now notice that, despite the packed room, the air is silent. The metallic ring of a finger-picked acoustic cuts through the tension. There’s some quick applause, some halted “shhh’s,” and the kid onstage begins a song you haven’t heard yet: “I see her only in cold weather/in lieu of something better/while the band plays I watch her roll her eyes...” The kid plays like a polished troubadour but looks like a prep-schooler; he jokes between songs like the class clown but sings stunningly poetic lyrics with a valedictorian’s pride. Forty-five minutes later, this packed listening room has applauded wildly, nodded reverently, and one bookish undergrad has surprisingly thrown a bra onstage. Something is happening here. A rising singer/songwriter in the Village, packaging lyricism with a pop melody to a new generation. It could be 2010, or it could be 1963. “Who is this kid,” you think, “and where did he come from?”||+||Chris Milam is a native Memphian who followed his music to Nashville, and New York City before returning to the Bluff City in the fall of 2010. Milam's first album, Leaving Tennessee, was released to critical acclaim in 2005. He followed it with the EP Tin Angel in 2008 and 2009's Up, which he recorded with Nashville producer Steve Martin. A prolific songwriter and perpetual road warrior, Milam now calls his hometown his homebase as he spends much of his time touring.|
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|-||Chris Milam, the known Nashville critical darling and songwriting prodigy, just dropped his suitcase in the Big Apple. He moved to New York in the fall of 2009, leaving behind his home base, a stack of industry offers, and a potential career as a hit Nashville songwriter. He came by way of Nashville, Memphis, and (most recently) a secluded winter in an Arkansas attic. But to really understand what’s happening now, we need to learn a little about what happened before; what turned a professor’s son from Memphis into New York’s hottest singing commodity. ||+||He's recently completed a double-sided single ("Never In Love" & "Always In Love") at Ardent Studios that will be released October 18. His next release is slated for early 2012.|
|-||Growing up in the Memphis suburbs, he soaked up the musical heritage of his hometown. While he picked out Stax melodies on the piano and bass, his friends were learning Dave Matthews covers on guitar. “I kept trying to fit in, and failing,” Milam laughs. When he wanted to learn guitar, Milam (a southpaw) taught himself to play his brother’s acoustic upside-down. He created a music major Vanderbilt didn’t previously offer while his friends pursued medicine, law, and finance. “I was doomed from the beginning,” he laughs. “My dad’s a Miltonist. My mom teaches Greek drama. Banking wasn’t an option--I can’t even add.” ||+|
|-||Milam began playing local coffee-shops, house parties, frat-houses, and every open stage he could find while still in college. Some nights, he played three different open mics. On average, he played six concerts a week. By the spring of 2005, his hard work paid off: he released his debut album, Leaving Tennessee, to a large local fanbase and widespread critical acclaim. ||+|
|-||“One of the South's most promising songwriters." --Vanderbilt Hustler ||+|
|-||“His skill as a songwriter surpasses artists twice his age...a huge local discovery." --Hardcore Troubadours||+|
|-||Next, Milam was true to his word: he left Tennessee. He spent the two years on the road, booking his own tours, playing coffeehouses, colleges, dive bars, and theaters coast-to-coast. His pop-friendly melodies, honey-sweet voice, and unpredictable performances won glowing reviews and an increasing fan-base at every stop. ||+|
|-||“He continues to turn a phrase on end with lethal precision." --Chattanooga Times Free Press||+|
|-||Soon, the Nashville music industry took notice: prompted by multiple publishing companies, Chris Milam released the Tin Angel EP in 2008. It was a pop songwriting showcase, and a departure from his typically intimate, lyrically-driven songs. After another six months of DIY touring to promote the Tin Angel EP, the offers rolled in. Milam found himself in office after office, outlining his future as a Nashville songwriter, adapting his prodigious talent to the country music landscape. Artistically, and professionally, Milam had reached his first real crossroads. He explains: ||+|
|-||“I was told that if I wanted to strictly be a songwriter, I could do that. But it wasn’t my passion. Plus, I was exhausted. I’d spent about three years touring. I’d spent my whole life in Tennessee. I knew artists moving to Nashville to be songwriters, and here were these opportunities, but I needed a break.”||+|
|-||In February of 2009, Chris Milam did what any fatigued artist might do: he went to Arkansas. For two freezing months, he put his Nashville career, his touring schedule, his industry offers, and even his personal life on hold. He did nothing but write songs in an attic in Arkansas, every day, for eight weeks. In April, he reemerged in Nashville with a mountain of new demos and a plan: make an album, and move to New York. New York, the site of his own favorite performances, past inspiration, and his singer/songwriter heroes. ||+|
|-||Milam played the demos for a local producer Steve Martin. Blown away by the new material, he offered to make the album regardless of time or budget. Chris Milam knew this album had to be an intimate, stripped-down, deeply-personal work; it had to tell his story in his own language. The session was booked, the plan set: no session players, no independent contractors, no background singers, no support staff. “We wanted to make something as close, intimate, self-contained, and narrative as the songs themselves” he explains. “We wanted that combination of vintage songwriting with an intimate sound; Simon & Garfunkel meets 21st century DIY home recording.” ||+|
|-||Two guys, nine songs, seven days, a roomful of instruments, and a few microphones. They played every part, mixed and mastered every song, front to back, in just over one week. A month later, Chris Milam moved to New York, album in hand.||+|
|-||The result is Up, a work of breath-taking lyricism, expert songwriting, and startling maturity. It sounds like a secret you’re in on. It sounds like a little world you’re suddenly transported to. It sounds like the songs you’ve been waiting to hear. It’s both classic and contemporary, a return to the poeticism of 60’s singer-songwriters with the voice of a new generation. It’s the work of a moment--a perfect storm of talent, work, timing, and inspiration--but its story has been months in the making. ||+|
|-||“Reminiscent of Paul Simon…I’ve got a feeling about this kid." --Listen! Nashville||+|
|-||“Expertly crafted…a fresh new voice." --Music City Unsigned||+|
|-||Now, step into a Greenwich Village venue to find this cardigan-clad kid with a prep-school tie and literary lyrics singing to the applause, nods, and bra-throwing approval of a new generation. Go and find the professor’s son-turned-songwriting prodigy in your nearest coffeehouse, bar, or theater, telling a new story with every turn of phrase. Watch the audience mouth along: “From the pavement to the stratosphere tonight, a generation’s song/and though we’re all young enough tonight, we won’t be young for long.” Something is happening here. Go, and take a listen. ||+|
|-||After all, this only the beginning. ||+|
THE SHORT VERSION:
Shared stages with Caitlin Rose, Mat Kearney, Cory Branan, Amanda Shires, and many others. Toured 120+ days in 2011, on pace for more in 2012. Four records down and a fifth coming in September. Enough Paul Simon comparisons and American Songwriter reviews to fill an album jacket. But wait! There's more!
ABOUT THE NEW RECORD, YOUNG AVENUE:
This is a record built for a late-summer twilight drive, windows down, no particular destination in mind. Maybe you're on Memphis streets, and maybe you're anywhere - but those are the streets that raised up Chris Milam, and they're the ones that inspired so much of his 2012 EP Young Avenue.
"I feel like every record gets more personal," Chris says of the writing on his fifth release since his 2005 debut Leaving Tennessee. "I've learned this lesson really slowly - other people seem to know out of the gate that it's true - but I've learned that the more I write really specifically to my own experience, the more other people relate to it. The more I write what I think only matters to me, the more it seems to resonate with everyone who hears it."
So on Young Avenue, he focused on the specific being universal. The entire EP is obsessed with specificity. A specific time - roughly the end of summer and the beginning of fall - and a specific place - wherever anyone would call home. But to be even more specific? It's the Memphis suburbs, where Chris grew up. "It's a really evocative place for me, to this day," he says. "When I feel bored or I need to get reconnected to something I'll still just drive out there."
Throughout the writing process for the record - which started around a year ago - Chris says he found himself listening to music that reminded him of that time and place, of growing up. Those influences include alt-rock classics from a cult favorite 90s radio station (Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience, R.E.M.'s Automatic For the People, Counting Crows August and Everything After) and melody-driven singer-songwriters (Ryan Adams Gold, Matthew Sweet Girlfriend). It's straight-forward rock guitar riffs and personal stories, delicate acoustic guitar and laid-back harmonica.
Chris clicked pretty instantly with Kevin Cubbins, who engineered and produced the record. With Kevin's help, Chris assembled what amounts to just about his dream band - Mark Edgar Stuart (Jack Oblivian, Cory Branan, Pawtuckets) on bass, Al Gamble (City Champs, Marc Broussard, Gamble Brothers Band) on keys, Chris Thomasmeyer (Cory Branan, Pawtuckets) on drums and Kevin Cubbins himself (Pawtuckets) on guitar.
"This record is called Young Avenue for a lot of reasons," Chris says. "That evokes a lot. But I think the record is really obsessed with youth, and with Memphis as a place to call home and place to come back home to. The name Young Avenue felt like a logical intersection of those ideas, literal and figurative."
It's a record about intersections, in a way, about places between. Somewhere between summer and fall. Somewhere between graduation and the 10-year reunion. Somewhere between adolescence and growing up.
Young Avenue hits the streets, Memphis and otherwise, on September 25 via ChrisMilam.com.
Chris Milam - Guitar, Lead Vocals
Seth Hendricks - Guitar, keys, background vocals
Carter Baldwin - Drums
Zac Goraczwky - Bass
Never In Love - Oct 18 2011
--Two song single featuring "Never In Love" & "Always In Love"
--"Stunning...an absolute sucker-punch. Reminiscent of Cory Branan's best moments." (Memphis Flyer)
--"Witty lyrics and acoustic prowess have garnered a ridiculous number of Paul Simon comparisons." (Bowery Boogie)
--"Always In Love" featured in Indie Memphis film/TV sampler, alongside Amy LaVere, among others.
Up - 2010
--Already called "one of 2010's best" (iTunes)
--"Earning Simon & Garfunkel comparisons...our Writer of the Week" (American Songwriter)
Tin Angel EP - 2008
--Featuring the singles "On My Way" and "Tin Angel," both earning regular local airplay in Nashville and surrounding areas
Leaving Tennessee - 2005
--Featuring the title track "Leaving Tennessee," picked for United State of Americana compilation and spun by 200 different college and Americana stations.
--Featuring the single "Whenever It Rains," spun on a dozen pop stations across the Southeast
--Featuring the follow-up "Memphis Queen," also played regularly on Southeastern radio