Singing his way across America

Apr 14, 2015

Folk singer Adam Miller plays at the Peninsula Community Library tonight in Traverse City.
Credit Daniel Wanschura

Folk singer Adam Miller has been fascinated with storytelling, history, and music for a long time. 

His career started as a sort of experiment 20 years ago. He wanted to see if he could really make a living in the 21st Century, traveling and singing songs about times past. 

Now, each year Miller logs about 70,000 miles traveling to different schools and libraries across the United States.

Miller caters his shows to the specific requests of the venues where he performs. In Michigan, he will often sing songs about the logging industry or about the Great Lakes. "You have to have a broad repertoire, and a great interest in these songs. And you have to have a good memory as well," he says. "Art reflects the time, and so it's really difficult to appreciate the song itself unless you understand the time it came from and the context. So often, what you say about the song is as important as the song itself."  

Miller performed in Traverse City recently, and stopped by IPR's Studio A, to sing a few songs and chat with Linda Stephan.

The song "White Squall" tells the story of young, Gung ho boys who often underestimated the power of the ocean-like waters.

Folk singer Adam Miller performs on the autoharp in Studio A
Credit Daniel Wanschura

In addition to singing and playing the guitar, Adam Miller is an accomplished autoharpist. He tells the story of when he was a child, he borrowed an autoharp over Christmas break, and hasn't stopped playing it since.

He says, not many people know what the autoharp is anymore. But, 120 years ago it was the most popular instrument in America.

Credit Daniel Wanschura