A roots music renaissance man, Buddy Miller has made a name for himself as a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer, and he's worked with an impressive array of artists as well as creating a well-regarded body of work on his own. As a guitarist, Miller's work is rich, soulful, and evocative, more focused on atmosphere and tone than dazzling the listener with technique, while his songwriting offers an intimate glimpse into many sides of the human experience, and his production work lends a natural sound to the recordings that's honest but casts the artists in their best light. On 1997's Poison Love, Miller fused a classic country sound with the sensibility of a contemporary singer/songwriter, and on 2001's Buddy & Julie Miller (the first of several collaborations with his wife and creative partner), the slightly rough grain of his voice wove itself around her higher, more idiosyncratic sound. 2004's Universal United House of Prayer melded blues, rock, and country accents with the passion of gospel music, and Miller pushed the boundaries of country guitar on 2011's The Majestic Silver Strings, a collaboration with fellow pickers Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, and Marc Ribot. Miller's work as a producer and sideman kept him busy in the 2010s, though he found time to cut albums in tandem with songwriter Jim Lauderdale (2012's Buddy & Jim) and Julie Miller (2019's Breakdown on 20th Ave. South).
Steven Paul Miller was born in Fairborn, Ohio (not far from Dayton) on September 6, 1952. Miller spent most of his childhood in Princeton, New Jersey, where he picked up the nickname "Buddy" from his grandfather. His interest in music was first sparked by hearing Elvis Presley as a kid, and while he enjoyed rock & roll, once he heard a duet featuring Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, he knew that country music was where his talent lay. As a teenager, Miller left home and moved to Woodstock, New York in hopes of joining a band; he got there in time to attend the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 and see Jimi Hendrix's closing set. By 1975, Miller had moved to Austin, Texas, where he landed a gig backing rockabilly rebel Ray Campi and met a vocalist and songwriter named Julie Griffith, who would later become his wife and creative partner. In the '80s, Buddy and Julie were in a band called Partners in Crime, which also included an up-and-coming musician named Shawn Colvin; the group landed a booking in New York City at the hip country venue The Lone Star Cafe, and Miller liked the mood of the city enough that he relocated to the Big Apple and formed the Buddy Miller Band, who played The Lone Star regularly. (Miller also backed up Kinky Friedman, who had a standing Sunday night booking at the venue.) While in New York, Miller struck up a friendship with a fellow singer and tunesmith, Jim Lauderdale, who also had an interest in the progressive side of country music. After Lauderdale relocated to Los Angeles, he helped Miller land two songs on a 1990 compilation of up-and-coming songwriters titled Points West: New Horizons in Country Music. That same year, Julie, who was performing as a Contemporary Christian artist, released her first album for Myrrh Records, Meet Julie Miller, with Buddy serving as recording engineer and executive producer. While Julie Miller would record two more albums for Myrrh and one for Larry Norman's Street Level Records label, Buddy was having trouble getting his own songs heard, though he was earning a reputation for his studio work and for the home recording setup where he was documenting his material.