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Scott Miller & The Commonwealth
The youngest of three children born to a Pennsylvania Dutch father and a mother from the Deep South, Miller was born and raised in Swoope, VA, where he developed a youthful fascination with the Civil War and Appalachian history that resonated in his later work. In his early teens, Miller picked up a guitar that once belonged to his older brother, and taught himself to play using a chord book published by The Reader's Digest. Miller developed an interest in songwriting while attending college at William and Mary, where he received degrees in American history and Russian and Soviet studies. In 1990, he moved to Knoxville, TN, where he began pursuing a career in music while supporting himself doing construction work.
Miller developed a local following as a solo acoustic artist with a repertoire of dryly humorous satiric material, but he began reaching a larger audience in 1994 when he formed a band with bassist Paxton Sellers, drummer Jeff Bills, and guitarist and songwriter John Paul Keith called the Viceroys. A year later, Keith left the group, Mic Harrison stepped in his place, and the band became known as the V-Roys when it was discovered that a reggae band was already using the name the Viceroys. The V-Roys' blend of Southern twang, power pop hooks, and rock & roll energy soon won them a wildly enthusiastic fan base in Tennessee and caught the ear of songwriter Steve Earle, who signed the V-Roys to his E-Squared record label and produced their 1996 debut album, Just Add Ice.
Just Add Ice won enthusiastic reviews, as did the band's 1998 follow-up, All About Town, also produced by Earle, which found the V-Roys adding acoustic instruments and bluegrass flavors to their mix, while Miller and Harrison began touching on more personal themes in their songwriting. The band reportedly butted heads with Earle while recording All About Town, and the combination of disappointing record sales and a tough touring schedule led to growing tensions within the band. In 1999, after recording a live album, Are You Through Yet?, the V-Roys amicably agreed to call it a day with a Farewell Millennium concert at Knoxville's Tennessee Theater on December 31, 1999.
Miller wasted no time launching a solo career, performing as an acoustic solo artist again and hosting singer/songwriter showcases at Knoxville clubs. Miller also scored a publishing deal with Welk Music and self-released a live album culled from his solo acoustic shows, entitled Are You with Me? Miller next signed a recording contract with Sugar Hill Records, best known for their roster of bluegrass artists, but his first album for the label found him diving back into rock & roll. Thus Always to Tyrants, a loose concept album about his Southern roots and one man's journey to emotional maturity, faced a handful of Appalachian ballads against a healthy dose of full-blown electric rock. The album also included a revolving lineup of musicians Miller dubbed the Commonwealth, including former John Mellencamp guitarist David Grissom, Don Coffey, Jr., of Superdrag, and fiddler Tim O'Brien.
Following the release of Thus Always to Tyrants, Miller assembled a touring version of the Commonwealth to support the album, featuring Rob McNelley on guitar, Jared Reynolds on bass, and Jimmy Lister on drums. An EP entitled Way arrived in 2003, followed by Upside Downside later in the year. Citation, Miller's third full-length release for Sugar Hill, dropped on March 14, 2006. The live Reconstruction arrived in 2007. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi