For the Record With Darnell Miller

In this year’s Performing Arts edition, we are launching a new feature, “For the Record,” in which local musicians discuss what they’ve been listening to lately.

Our first entry in this series focuses on Darnell Miller, who, by day, teaches music at Kuumba Academy Charter School in Wilmington. By night, Miller leads his soul and funk band, The Souldaires, at venues like The Nomad Bar, where they play the first Wednesday of every month. This month, Miller will also release his solo five-track EP, Jesus & Jameson, which features the already released single “Bastard.”

“I wanted to make it separate [from The Souldaires],” says Miller. “Sound-wise, it’s two different things: The Souldaires is one thing, and the Darnell Miller thing is a whole other thing.”

In other words, local fans should prepare for the unexpected.

“If I said what it is by genre, I would say funk, rock, soul, gospel,” Miller says. “But that’s too generic. I don’t know how to explain it, so I just call it Jesus & Jameson: a little bit of Heaven and a little bit of Earth.

A self-proclaimed music nerd with a love of liner notes, Miller has an encyclopedic knowledge of the back-stories of the music he likes. Keep reading and you’ll get an idea of what we mean.

Mavis Staples – Your Good Fortune EP
The sound of everything on that album—the song-writing—it’s really one of the most overlooked albums in the last couple of years. It’s a really great album. It was co-produced by Son Little, who is an up-and-coming, amazing guy. I didn’t discover him until later. But he [made his mark] on this Mavis Staples album, totally. Perfect combination.

Gary Clark, Jr. – Live North America, 2016
Oh, my goodness, I love that he can play his ass off! Lately, I’ve been really listening to songs, really listening to what that person is saying, and [paying attention to] black artists moving outside the lines. And he is one of those guys. To me, he’s more than just a blues artist: He’s a little bit of everything. The album, sonically, sounds great. The guitars are nice and dirty. The vibe. Everything sounds great.

CeCe Winans – Let Them Fall in Love
I think of albums that I play over and over again, and this is one of them. I don’t know if you know, but my background as a touring musician and as a professional musician was the gospel world.

[Ed Note: Miller’s career as a gospel vocalist spanned more than seven years and took him on tour across the U.S. and abroad, including England, Spain and Africa.]

When I decided to step back from gospel and transitioned, I stopped listening to anything gospel. I maintained relationships, but I just stopped listening. But then I just happened to see a picture of this album cover. And the picture told me what the album might sound like. So I was like, ‘I should check this out,’ and I was glad I did. For gospel, this album is a game changer. It’s retro. So she’s doing ‘70s country; she’s doing Ray Charles-type stuff; she’s doing Phil Spector-type stuff. It’s really good production-wise. Tommy Sims, who is one of my favorite producers, produced this with CeCe Winans’ son, who I didn’t know had it in him.

Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 1
This dude can sing. Some of these songs made me revamp lyrics for Jesus & Jameson because I felt he was saying some of the same things that I wanted to say. So I just kept listening and listening.
I love the drums on this album. I listen to mixes and how stuff sounds sonically and the different sounds that people use. The drums on this album really pop.

Solange – A Seat at the Table
This album will probably be on everyone’s list, but for my last pick I’m going to have to go with this one. By the way, I’ve been a Solange fan for years. I’ve been always hoping that she would get her break. Everything about her is artistic. With Solange, either you love it or you hate it.
Her last album was very ‘80s-sounding. This one is stuff I’ve never heard before. And it features production by two of my most favorite people in the world: Raphael Saadiq and Questlove. Everybody knows I love Questlove. So, when he’s involved, it just has to be good. But for people to like this album was a complete surprise to me, because it’s so different. It’s not mainstream. She decided to tell a different story.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.