By Kelly Dearmore
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Given how their lives and art have blossomed as they've reached their 40s, the best spiritual case the Millers might make is in the same fashion Alcoholics Anonymous tries to offer light to those lost in the dark wilds of problem drinking: attraction, not promotion. "It's not quote-unquote religion for me," says Julie. "It's just like this deep friendship and relationship and love. I think that somewhere within all our hearts, we long to be just so completely loved and adored and attended to, but no human can do that. And we spend our lives trying so hard to get that from a person. But God is just completely thinking a thousand thoughts about us every second, and longing for our company. That's just what changed me, and saved me, because I would have been dead, I really would have."
For Buddy, the ascendancy of his career as an artist, songwriter, sideman, and producer came from a gospel of sorts as well: the music he's loved and played for decades.
"I don't want to sound like an old fart, but the music we grew up listening to is better than the music these kids now are growing up listening to," he notes without a trace of derision for the latest things. "When you grow up listening to the Beatles, and then Porter and Dolly, who came along not long after that, and Haggard doing great stuff, it's a great education." On 1960s AM radio, "Skeeter Davis singing 'The End of the World' would come on right after The Beatles. I remember hearing that stuff on the school bus every day, all mixed in. You don't get that anymore: a foundation in great music, which there was when I was growing up. If you did cover songs, it was mostly just great songs, just because you loved 'em. You get used to playing good songs, and then it's easier when you finally start writing, and something good might come out. Maybe."
He hesitates at being so narcissistic to think of himself as creating greatness. "I don't know. It's a mystery." Yes, not unlike the experience of faith to those untouched by it.
"We are so unbelievably blessed," says Julie with a touch of awe in her voice. After all, for so long the Millers never seemed to think of themselves as much more than bar-band musicians. Yet now they are icons of the movement that hopes to take back country at the same time the country-chart acts are recording their songs. And all without the Millers doing the slightest bit of plugging, unlike the almost desperate 24-7 effort by most folks trying to crack into the tight Nashville songwriting game.
"It's been really amazing," Buddy concludes. "A big surprise. We didn't expect it, and we haven't been trying." But perhaps not trying is the way, like the Hindu tenet about non-attachment, or the notion of not pushing the river, or perhaps the old expression about letting go, and letting God. "Maybe. Whatever it is, I'm glad about it."