HomeVibe Presents: Miles Nielsen

Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts

Somewhere between a bar and the recording studio, Miles Nielsen's stirs up his own pop rock brand of Beatles-eque Cosmic Americana. Pop rock arrangements and sunny melodies tucked between a long lost country folk steel guitar floating through speakers around crashing drums, bouncing bass lines and smooth as butter keys. Born in Rockford, IL, home of Cheap Trick and 'Symbol', power pop DNA runs through the veins of his songs and performances. 13 years spent playing bars, clubs and theaters, Miles has played and performed as vocalist / lead guitarist in many midwestern bands from past to present, Harmony Riley, HMS, and as a member in the Appleton, WI via Rockford ensemble, Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons.

The differences between Miles Nielsen and his father, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen: Miles writes gentler songs that break your heart and ice up your windshield, he also plays on a guitar with one neck instead of six.

Aside from opening for acts such as Medeski Martin & Wood, Cake or Moe., he also co-owns a recording studio in Rockford, IL, FUSE, that has served as the recording home to Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons. He has worked with many artists such as Augie Meyers, Lonnie Brooks, Gabriel Reed, Cheap Trick, and The Good Year Pimps. From writing and performing his own tunes to recording and performing on other artists songs, Miles Nielsen continues to help carry out that very rare rock n' roll torch that only few can claim out loud, "that sound?… it came from the midwest."

Based in Chicago and born in Iowa, singer/songwriter Dick Prall comes to his easygoing – and sometimes goofy – manner quite naturally. In person, he's charming, often peppering his conversations with clever asides wherever possible. Though he readily admits to enjoying the embrace of company, it was Prall's exploration of what he calls "autonomy" that brought a whole new spin to his latest work.

After the release of the critical and audience favorite fizzlebuzzie in 2005, most of the musicians Prall recorded with went their separate ways. It was an amicable split, but one that put him in the familiar position of starting over.

His first album, 1998's rootsy Somewhere About Here, was recorded under the name The Dick Prall Band, but the group disbanded within a year. 2001's Dressing Up The Failure was a hard-driving pop record that found Prall recording with a different set of musicians under the name Starch Martins. Despite the new approach, he says the album left him creatively exhausted.

Though always quick to praise the musicians who help fuel his sharp, observational songwriting, Prall found himself turning away from the madness of crowds as he began work on his next album. No longer surrounded by the familiar, one might have expected Prall to write songs that explore all his inner demons. Instead, he found comfort in being alone, and sought to preserve that intimacy.

The product of that exploration is Weightless.

There's a restless energy coursing throughout the album, in part because of an immediacy of sound attributable to a change in Prall's usual recording style. "Rather than tracking all the instruments and then me coming in and laying my vocals down in sort of a 'studio karaoke' kind of way," he says, "I recorded my guitar and vocal parts first and then we built the song around those." This method allowed him to work at a feverish pace, writing half the album's songs after the band began tracking it, "which is unheard of for me."

And then there are the wanderlust lyrics, often dropping references to cars, the road, or a search for something, usually the truth, either about oneself or one's partner. Prall says that in writing the album, he became interested in those who found themselves living lives they'd never intended.

"Some of the songs – 'I Took A Life,' 'B&W,' 'Devils' – are about some less-than-attractive characters who don't necessarily feel held down by any guilt or real regret for their actions," Prall says.

All this again hints at dark places and angst, but clever turns of phrase keep the whole production from drifting into an exercise in navel-gazing. A song about a dissolving relationship is titled "The Cornflake Song," evoking just a hint of a smirk. Sidewalks are told to behave, and on the muscle-bound "Side By Side," a lover is accused of "talking out your eyes," though the way Prall sneers the last word leaves it sounding more like the part of your body that's used for sitting, not seeing.

The arrangements on Weightless carry the same light. There's violin throughout and a marimba-like instrument called a vibraceleste accenting the songs with a chiming ring. Plenty of space exists for guitar at the forefront and sing-a-long hooks. The crack group of musicians here, some of whom are bandmates involved with Prall's previous works, know when to add a swirling fill, and when to get out of the way. Most of all, the melodic voices of the characters in these songs float to the surface, recalling the album's title.

Prall has said that he relishes the very act of singing, and as he tours behind Weightless, one expects him to find a renewed sense of enthusiasm for crowds, finding that same old energy again. In the past, his albums have taken years to come into being. But now that he's found the same fire in an empty room, perhaps one can hope not just for his usual quality, but an increase in quantity as well.

Written by Scott Smith

John Craigie

For the past seven years, John Craigie has taken his unique musical style across the western United States. He stays true to the essence of folk music, and the traditions of the seminal writers of our past century. With timeless melodies and insightful lyrics—interspersed with witty storytelling—his songs take many poetic turns before bringing you back home. His themes range from social commentary to personal empowerment, political satire, and modern love. He has traveled all of this planet, having played in all 50 states and beyond, bringing his music to the world. John Craigie writes, sings, and plays for the people.



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The Walnut Room - Walnut Street Location


HomeVibe Presents: Miles Nielsen with Dick Prall, John Craigie

Thursday, November 7 · 7:00 PM at The Walnut Room - Walnut Street Location