Hannah Miller’s upcoming, self-titled album (available May 5) possesses an alluring dark beauty. Throughout the record, Miller’s voice floats along with an intoxicatingly languid breathiness that carries the intimacy of a deeply personal, late night confession. Listening, you become lost in the serene haze of her absorbing vocals and gradually realize you never want to leave the comfort of her tones. But beyond Hannah’s artistry and the gentle sonic alchemy of producer Mitch Dane, the remarkable story of the album is the fact that it exists, at least in part, due to the miraculous offering from a financial angel who has asked to remain anonymous.
“A generous patron of the arts commissioned me to write track two, ‘Fighting,’” Hannah told AXS in a recent interview. “We already had nine songs completed for the album when she asked me to write a song for her. In exchange, she offered to pay for the whole record! I was going to do the album anyway, but instead of spending years and years trying to pay it off… This is the first record that I’ve ever made where I’m coming out of it debt-free. I’m excited for people to hear her song because it has become one of my favorite songs and I don’t think the album would have been the same without it.”
In order to gain the insight needed to write the poignant “Fighting,” Miller’s patron flew in to Nashville from another country and the two just talked. “She told me her story and asked me to write a song,” Hannah recounted. “She didn’t want to own it, she just wanted the song on my record. She wanted to have the knowledge that it came from her and that she was part of it.”
“She listened to all of my songs and told me which ones she liked best and what kind of style she wanted,” Hannah continued. “I wrote it while I was at a festival in Florida, then came back home and put it on the record!”
As far as inspiration for the rest of the album, Hannah informed, “The first song, ‘Help Me Out,’ was the anchor for the record. I had written it a couple of years ago... pretty much right after I’d finished the last album,” she paused as if just realizing something. “That always happens to me! I put out a record and then I write a really great song that I love and wish I had put on the record!” she laughed. “So, I had been sitting on that song for a while, but I knew that was the direction I wanted to go, so it became the anchor song and the others had to somehow fit around it.”
“There are outliers, it’s not all the same,” she pointed out, “‘You Will Stay With Me’ is a little branch off to the side. But I really like this record because I feel like it has elements of everything that I do on it. I didn’t just pick one, there are so many different flavors on it! And, Mitch (producer) brought them all together in a way that made sense sonically, he gave all the songs a similar kind of feel.”
Mitch and Hannah had worked together as far back as 2008, so they knew they were a good match. “We’d been talking back-and-forth for a while,” Hannah recalled, “and I just remember referencing Lana Del Rey and that big kind of reverb thing that she does. That’s where I wanted this album to sit sonically, I wanted something different from my previous releases.”
Before this album, Miller had always produced her music in a way that facilitated her presenting the material in a live setting, even when she was performing solo. However, when Hannah found out that she was pregnant, that changed everything!
“It was a kick in the butt to get this record done because I thought we might never do anything again,” she laughed. Yet, on another level, the realization that having a child would change her life pushed the artist to pursue creative directions that she’d previously never even considered. Since there was a good chance she initially wouldn’t be touring much to support the album, Hannah decided to record the songs how they needed to be recorded, rather than worrying about how she could cover them live. “I decided, I’m just going to choose the songs I want to choose and I’m just going to put them on the record because that’s what I want to do!”
The result is Hannah Miller, a moving masterpiece of subtle beauty and shadowed grace. The album will be available on May 5 via iTunes. For more information, visit Hannah’s website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.