Fireside Collective, Joseph Alton Miller

Fireside Collective

Quickly blazing a name for themselves with their progressive approach to American folk music, Fireside Collective delights listeners with memorable melodies and contemporary songwriting. Formed in the mountain city of Asheville North Carolina, the band plays original songs on stringed instruments, intended for a modern audience. Following the release of their debut album “Shadows and Dreams”, the band hit the road seeking to engage audiences with their energetic live show built on instrumental proficiency, colorful harmonies, and innovative musical arrangements.
Well what do you call it?

“Bluegrass, Newgrass, perhaps Progressive folk…” These are some descriptions mandolinist and songwriter Jesse Iaquinto chooses to identify with. “Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act. We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.” While roots music lies at the core of the Collective’s songs, a willingness to explore the boundaries and present relevant new material remains fundamental.

The band burst onto the scene in early 2014 following the release of “Shadows and Dreams.” The album weaves bluegrass, funk, rock, and blues influences into a refreshing representation of modern folk music. From the opening track “Poor Soul” with it’s energetic bluegrass overtones to the closer “Shine the Way Home”, the album takes listeners on a journey through simple love songs to complex themes such as metaphysics and coexistence. The album, recorded in Asheville at Sound Temple Studios, features guest musicians from Asheville’s rich acoustic music scene alongside members of the Fireside Collective.

2017 has been a momentous year for the band as they released their second studio album, "Life Between the Lines." The album helped garner a nomination for an IBMA momentum award for best band. The band has been touring heavily to support the release of their new album with over 120 shows by the end of the summer. Fireside plans to continue touring throughout 2017 and hopes to release another album in the not so distant future. If you revel in the sounds of acoustic instrumentation, enjoy the excitement of energetic live performances, and delight in the creation of original songs, then follow the Fireside Collective as they journey on in their musical endeavors.

Joseph Alton Miller

For years, Joseph Alton Miller has embraced the life of a wayfarer.

Whether it was hiking up Mount Katahdin in Maine or backpacking through Yosemite National Park in California, his "abandonment from society," as he calls it, has always allowed him time to reflect and pen his folk tunes.

Such an untethered lifestyle was the primary muse for his latest work, "Songs of Travel for the Vagabond," a striking new EP released in May. It's a work that deserves to introduce him to a much wider audience.

His sound is reminiscent of a modern-day Woody Guthrie -- perhaps unsurprisingly, Miller names the genre luminary as one of his influences, and he included a cover of Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" on his new record.

But there's an extra layer to the 30-year-old songwriter. While the word "folk" is tattooed onto his left forearm, his right arm reads "hip hop."

The mix of influences is most apparent when listening to Philly blues artist Kuf Knotz rap over Miller's twangy guitar riff in "Dude, Where's My Whiskey?"

In the autobiographical tune, he sings about New Jersey -- his newly found home state, after growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

"When I first moved to Jersey, I was very alone and acting like a bit of a recluse -- drinking often, sleeping with way too many women and just not being the best me that I knew I could be," the Hazlet resident said, in a recent interview. "I was ... thinking about my life, knowing it might be finally time to grow up. I wrote the song a couple of years after that trip."

"Songs of Travel for the Vagabond" is Miller's first release under under his full name. While Miller built a fan base of a few thousand through playing local shows over the years as "Joe Miller," he said it was difficult to market himself with such a common name. He's wiped the internet clean of his four previous records and aimed for a fresh start.

Part of that fresh start is his lovely evocation of his "vagabond" existence, which you hear throughout the new EP.
In "American Crow," he serenades in his smooth low-tone voice, "I'm making a friend with an American crow... Let me fly to another destination." Miller plucks away a groovy guitar riff while New Jersey blues musician Sandy Mack's old-timey harmonica quivers in the background.

"The American crow is a species that can be found in every area of North America -- adapting to all types of places and climates," Miller said. "I think we humans should be able to do the same thing -- leaving home every once in a while to experience what our planet has to offer."

Though more sedentary days seem to be on the horizon as Miller settles into the role of a new father. He and his wife Jarysel welcomed daughter Gabriela into the world June 11, just a week or so after the release of his new record.

Miller wrote in an Instagram post announcing Gabriela's birth that his daughter is "the reason I was ever put on Earth." Still, he admits it's difficult to promote a new album with a newborn baby in the house.

"Normally, I'd like to head out on the road and tour around to try to promote an album," he said, noting he wouldn't have even been able to finish the project with an infant to command most of his time. But he was able to release the EP via his own label, Worn Out Joke Records.

"I wanted my daughter to see what her papa could do under pressure. I want to bring her up knowing that hard work pays off."

Miller will promote his new record with a July 16 show at the Asbury Hotel in Asbury Park. He plans to embark on mini tours throughout the Northeast later in the year, to share the stories he has eloquently woven into songs and tromp along more trails in pursuit of musical inspiration.

And he always remembers a bit of advice a professor and mentor once gave him.

"(He) told me to get out and see what I can before I die," he said, "and I plan to summit many more mountains before that day comes."

- Sydney Shaw for NJ.com/NJ Advanced Media

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