An Interview with Amy Miller: About Bluegrass and other Musical Genres

Jul 13, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Easern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1. Amy, you are part of a wonderful bluegrass band. Could you first define “bluegrass”“ music for our readers?

Bill Monroe is credited with the creation of Bluegrass. It’s a mix of blues, folk , country and even a bit of rock and roll played with acoustic instruments.

2. Now your band contains some interesting instruments. Who plays the banjo and how does this instrument “fit into” bluegrass music?

Landon is our banjo player. The banjo is our ‘lectric guitar’ for bluegrass. In the right hands, such as Landon’s , it is a tremendously versatile instrument capable of playing hard driving fast songs as well as very soft and melodious ones.

3. Another member of your band plays what seems to be a mandolin. How did he get instruction in this instrument, and how does this instrument fit into bluegrass music?

Well, Bill Monroe played a mandolin so it is of tremendous importance to bluegrass music. Levi is our mandolin player. He learned ‘ on the fly’, on stage as he grew up. He had a little help getting started but for the most part he is self taught.

4. Now, I have seen your great group perform and you seem to play a modified stand up bass. Tell us about your instrument and how it fits into bluegrass.

As most of bluegrass is played acoustically, the stand up bass has become a symbol for bluegrass but in the past several years there has been some interest in ‘downsizing ‘ the upright bass for the sake of easier travel. I play an ‘Eminence’ bass. It was designed by a friend of mine in Minneapolis, MN, Mr. Gary Bartig. It has all of the basic musical attributes of a ‘real’ upright bass….hollow wood body, sound post, fretless finger board, etc., but it is made in a way that it can be taken apart and put into something as small as a golf club case for air travel, a super benefit if you are traveling with limited space. It is acoustic but it doesn’t make sound without the amp. It has no internal electric parts to make it electric just a pickup under the bridge to send sound to the amp. The bass is the backbone of our sound every other instrument has a mid to high range sound and the bass just brings them all out.

5. Still another member of your group plays “steel guitar”. How did he encounter this instrument and how does it complement bluegrass?

We get asked a lot “what is that thing your husband plays”? It is technically a resophonic guitar, but is commonly referred to as a dobro. It’s origins actually come from Hawaiian music. It’s used both as a backup instrument and as a lead instrument. We think it helps blend all of the parts of the group together. It is played with finger picks much like a banjo and a slide bar like a steel guitar.

6. You also harmonize exceptionally well. Is this a typical bluegrass format? Or is it a touch you have added?

No, it is not typical of traditional bluegrass music. Bluegrass typically has a high sound tenor and lead to it’s vocals….again dating back to Bill Monroe. We lean fairly heavily towards Southern Gospel and their powerful vocals and super tight four part harmonies. I think the mix between the lively bluegrass instrumentation and Southern Gospel harmonies makes for an emotional presentation. We might be to bluegrass for southern gospel and to southern gospel for bluegrass!

7. I know you recently took 8 hours to record one song. Tell us about that experience.

Our producer is the music minister at the Church of Christ of the Colonies in Amarillo, TX. He has a partner out of Nashville, TN together they are awesome at arranging the vocal parts of songs for us. The acapella songs we do take a long time to make sure the vocals are right. We start with a scratch track, then go back and record each part individually, only allowing a few lines to be recorded at once to make sure we don’t have any “doubling of notes”. The 8 hours is a very long day on one song! But they always turn out really good!

8. You recently returned from Joplin Missouri, just narrowly missing the tornado. Tell us what happened?

We were in the Pizza Hut in Branson West, MO with friends who received a txt message to pray for her and her family as she was hiding under the I-40 bridge and the tornado was headed for her grandparents home. So, the friends we were with, their boys and ours all gathered around the table held hands and prayed for the safety of this entire family. We then spent the next few hours in the storm shelter of the RV park. The weather over there is real hard to see because of all the trees so we just waited until the television showed where the storm was before we went out. We had others texts from friends who said the tornado was 8 miles from Branson West. We never did see any tornado but the following weekend we met the grandparent who survived the tornado in the hall of their house. The hall was all that was left! We called that meeting “meeting an answered prayer”. That was very awesome!

9. Amy, where did the members of your band get lessons in mandolin, steel guitar, and banjo? I find it difficult to find instructors for those instruments in my neck of the woods.

These guys are mostly self taught although they did get help in the beginning from friends and a company called ‘Homespun Tapes’ that produces instructional videos in almost all musical genres. You can get hold of them at www.homespuntapes.com

10. What have I neglected to ask about you, your group and your music?

In April, our ranch was part of the “tire fire” that burn from the Melrose highway nearly to the Clovis highway. We lost half of our place in the fire. For several years we all wanted to play music full time and change from the cattle business to music, but never could figure out how. We believe God took our bad situation and turned it around to good and now since the fire, we play music full time. We are Triple L for two reasons… one Lance, Landon and Levi the other because we are doing what we Love with who we Love, for whom we Love!

11. Do you have a web site where people can learn more about you, and about bluegrass music?

We sure do. You can go to www.tripleLband.com and find out more about the group, our schedule and accomplishments, listen to and /or buy music, as well as contact us. We are also on Facebook and twitter. Come visit us online!

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