What is your favorite cereal?
I eat oatmeal every morning. It's not only my favorite cereal but my favorite food. I'm allergic to blueberries, apples, and other fruits with an edible skin but if I can eat them cooked -- so I put all these things in my oatmeal in large quantities.
When did you learn to play the guitar?
I started playing electric bass in high school and a little bit of acoustic guitar. I didn't really learn how to play the guitar until I was in my 20s. Before that I was mostly the frontman / singer in bands but when I moved to NYC after college I didn't have an instrument-playing songwriting partner anymore so I had to learn how to do it myself. Since then I've also learned the upright bass (my main instrument when I play jazz and bluegrass at "adult" gigs), the banjo, and the ukulele.
Do you have any advice for kids who want to learn how to play music?
Listen to a wide range of stuff, not just current pop. Check out 60s R&B, 70s salsa, mariachi music, jazz from the teens and 20s, and stuff from as many cultures as you can find. And when you start an instrument, make sure it's a real part of your life, not just a thing in a box you have to practice. If you play guitar, keep it handy so you can grab it and strum randomly.
We just showcased your song ‘I’m Gonna Light Up the World’ on our most recent podcast episode. What does that song mean to you personally?
I wrote the original draft of that song while I was in Haiti. I went there with my friend's nonprofit. It's an organization dedicated to bringing solar light to Haiti, one of many places in the world with a large part of its population living in energy poverty. A huge number of people in Haiti have to use unhealthy kerosene to light their homes. The nonprofit makes this cool little solar lights that can light up a small room so families can cook, read, and do other activities together. They look like a coaster initially and then inflate to the size of a coffee can. They charge in sunlight. You can see one in the video for the song: I'm Gonna Light Up the World - Lloyd H. Miller.
I wanted to create a song that was easy for people to sing. A song non-English speakers and new English speakers can sing (although I do have a version in Haitian Kreyol that I sing with audiences where people speak the language). I wanted a theme song for our solar light mission but also a song with another layer, a song that encourages people to use their "light," their special gifts and talents, to make their communities better. It's a very important song to me. I work regularly with adults with mental illness, adults with cerebral palsy, kids with cancer, and other folks who need light in their world, who love to sing and dance, but who have lots of challenges and limitations, lots of things that make it hard to simple everyday tasks. Often the most important thing we can do for people is spend time with them, talking and listening. I try to share this message with all my audiences and make my musical events a space where people feel welcome and accepted and loved.
How can our listeners find more of your music and more of what you do?
lloydhmiller.com is my umbrella site for my solo work for families, my full band work with the Deedle Deedle Dees, and my "adult" projects (I'm working on a jazz musical about housing foreclosures with Roy Nathanson, leader of the Jazz Passengers, plus I play old-timey jazz, bluegrass, klezmer, and other music). My brand-new podcast is here: Sing-a-long History with Lloyd H. Miller
You can also find me here on Facebook, Twitter, hello, and Instagram. Here are my handles:
Facebook: Lloyd H. Miller | Twitter: @lloydhmiller | ello: lloydhmiller | Instagram: lloydeelloyd