Whether painting a picture with his carefully chosen words or wielding a brush to place colors on canvas, Bill Birdsong Miller always creates from a vibrant emotional palette. Drawing from his own life experiences as well as centuries of tradition, Miller is an artist of considerable depth. A three-time Grammy winning singer/songwriter as well as an acclaimed speaker and gifted painter, Miller is the quintessential American artist. He has a restless creative spirit mingled with a well-grounded perspective and a heartfelt integrity that infuse his work with both substance and unique style.
Miller’s most recent work, Chronicles of Hope, is his most personal, most transparent work to date. “This is the most unique record I’ve made in the years because it was delving into life and death issues. I didn’t plan it to be that way, but the songs became prophetic,” he confesses. “I went through a lot of life lessons.”
Miller admits writing the songs on the new album was a cathartic experience. “This was the most freeing record because it was like a journal to me. On ‘The Last Breath’ it talks about how you could be seeing this or breathing it for the last time. I was writing about myself as well as the world’s issues, asking ‘What does this land mean to me? What does my marriage and my faith mean to me?’”
Miller has always had a gift for taking life’s most poignant moments and infusing them into his art and others have warmly embraced his efforts. As a result, his list of accolades is lengthy and impressive. He has won six Native American Music Awards, including a 2007 Lifetime Achievement honor. He’s earned three Grammy Awards, among them his most recent in for “Spirit Wind North,” which was named Best Native American Album at the 2010 ceremony. He’s received international acclaim for “The Last Stand,” an original symphony he composed with Joshua Yudkin and Kristin Wilkinson. Some of the top names in the music community have sought out Miller as a collaborator, among them Michael Martin Murphey, Nanci Griffith and John Carter Cash, and he’s toured extensively, sharing the bill with a diverse slate of acts such as Tori Amos, Eddie Vedder and Arlo Guthrie. Well known for his beautiful performances on the flute, Miller was chosen to play flute on “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas. As a painter, his work has been featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Trickster Gallery in Chicago, the Barbara Able Gallery in Santa Fe, and the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York. Miller is also a highly sought after public speaker who has been asked to address executives at AIG, MTV, FDIC and the Environmental Protection Agency.
More than the highlights on his professional resume, it’s his life experience that best defines Bill Miller. A member of the Mohican tribe, he grew up in Wisconsin on the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation in a home that combined the cultures of his Native American father with his mother’s German ancestry into a unique melting pot. “All I knew back then was the joy that music brought me. I think in those early days, there was a plan by God, my creator, that I would establish a relationship with music that was pure,” says Miller.
Growing up in a turbulent home with an alcoholic father, music was a means of emotional escape for Miller. Though he couldn’t see it at the time, Miller’s difficult childhood was shaping his future and the impact he would eventually have on others. Refusing to let his past be an anchor that drug him down, Miller learned to move from victim to victory and has encouraged others to do the same.
Taking his own personal observations and experiences and creating art that is universal in its ability to strike people in the heart---that has long been Bill Miller’s gift. Whether the medium is painting, music or the spoken word, Miller is a communicator. It’s his heritage and his future, intimately intertwined, and rarely has someone used that gift more passionately or effectively than this Native son.