Rhett Miller wanted to talk today -- with, yup, a clarification regarding his recent comments to Billboard, to which we paid some attention earlier this week. Because, see, Rhett doesn't want anyone thinking 2004's Old 97's album Drag It Up wasn't up to snuff because "I took a total step back," as he's quoted as saying. Not at all. Because, see, that wasn't the case, he insists. That's not what he said. That's not what he meant.
What Rhett says he was trying to do was discuss, at some length, how hard it was making Old 97's albums after he'd begun releasing solo albums. (Drag It Up came two years after Rhett's first solo release, The Instigator.) Quite simply, in '04 he was having difficulty discerning where Solo Rhett began and Old 97's Rhett ended, and how to divide his attention and his material. Only, the quotes read like, well, the last 97's record wasn't any good because he didn't participate like he shouda. Which bums him out. Because, yeah, he knows "the whole thing was my fault." Still ...
"I just shouldn't offer subtle, nuanced musings about the inner workings of a band with fucking Billboard," he says today. "It was just me thinking out loud about the process of making those that record, which was difficult, and making the new one [Blame It on Gravity], which we all love, and I don't need to do that with Billboard. I was just trying to say I didn't bring my A game the last time around, and I did for this record."
Turns out, Rhett says, Murry Hammond, Ken Bethea and Philip Peeples are "all fine" with the quotes -- they know their boy well enough not to take a few words in a music trade too personally. (Though word is at least one of the 97's wasn't thrilled when he first heard about the interview. Like, not at all.)
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"We laugh about it," Rhett insists. "Fact is, the best quote about Drag It Up was something Murry said: That record was medicine. Because that's what it was: It was it was a little tough to make. I didn't pull my weight as much as I could have, which is what I was trying to say." He laughs. "But it is what it is, and I gotta fuckin' take my lumps, because even if I didn't say those exact inarticulate, awkwardly words, I gotta eat it. The guys have all said, 'Shit, Rhett, stay off the Internet for the next couple of months.'
"And it's hard, because in the months leading up to the release of your next album, all you're thinking is, 'What's the world gonna think of this little baby?' And I feel so good about this record, and morale and unity have never been higher in the band, so it was fun to think back about some of the hard times we've had. Like, [1999's] Fight Songs was rough, and Drag It Up was rough, because it was like, how are we gonna deal with it in our post-solo-record careers."
So, that's that: No harm, no foul. Just setting the record straight about making the record. That's the great thing about Rhett, whom I've known ever since he was a ubiquitous teen folkie: The guy ain't lookin' to pick a fight, at least not publicly.
But speaking of solo records, yes, there will be a third in near future: He just finished demoing the entire album, which he says will be "very quiet, very acoustic." Just expect Rhett to be very quiet for the next couple of months. --Robert Wilonsky