Willie Nelson sings on Derek Miller album


Derek Miller has some Texas talent on his next album, due later this year or early 2009. The ace electric blues guitarist and singer just recorded with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band, and also had the one and only Willie Nelson guest on a song.

“I call it hillbilly soul,” Miller told Lowdown, sitting in a restaurant at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, a week after he returned from the Nelson session. “It’s a gospel, country, blues, rock record, all mixed together with a Tex-Mex thing and throw in some Mohawk swagger.”

Miller, a native of the Six Nations Reserve of Grand River in Ontario, went to Austin’s Wire Recording to work with Double Trouble — bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton and keyboardist Reese Wynans — after a business associate suggested the idea.

“I thought that would be a great idea if it could come together,” says Miller. “Contacted them. They said they loved the material. Said they’d love to do it. We organized it for February down there and kicked out 15 songs in 10 days.”

Miller already had some songs written and ideas for others, but also ended up collaborating with husband-wife team Bill The creative flow came just as easily with the members of Double Trouble, whom Miller had not met before heading to Austin.

“We had no idea what was gonna happen,” says Miller. “We didn’t know what it was gonna sound like, so it was a big gamble on everybody’s part. I started February 12, done on the 22nd. Overdubs ’til the 25th. Flew back home. Willie said he’d record on the record, went and flew back down. He recorded that day, March 1.”

The Nelson coup came when Miller switched studios to do overdubs at Perdernales Studio, owned by the country music legend, 30 miles west of Austin. It is situated on a game preserve and includes a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts and Olympic size swimming pool.

“A business associate said, ‘Cut that CD for me so I can go give it to this guy who knows Willie,” Miller tells Lowdown. “So I said, ‘Okay.’ He gives it to Ed Russell. Turns out it was his gardener, knows him pretty well. Threw it on in the bus — Ed never did anything like this before I don’t think — and Willie loved it and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play on it,’ so I flew back down Saturday.”

The song is called “Damned If You Do” and Nelson sings a verse, sings on the choruses, duets, and plays his legendary beat-up guitar Trigger, a Martin N-20.

“I’d written ‘Damned If You Do’ a long time ago,” says Miller, “but I always had Willie’s phrasing and playing in mind when I did it, so it was a perfect fit. He just went and threw on his magic and it sounds amazing.”

He also spent some quality with the man, even though it was a brief visit.

“We hung out on his bus, watched a couple of videos, had a frappucinno. We tried to go golfing on his course, but he didn’t have any left-handed clubs for me, so he said he’s going to buy some for me for next time I come down. Then, I just hung out on his movie set [on the ranch] and talked about what he wanted to do movie-wise. He wants to shoot some westerns.

“So we were just talking about some of his business ventures,” says Miller, referring to the Willie Nelson Bio-Diesel and his XM Satellite Radio show, Willie’s Place, for which a broadcasting studio is being built inside the Bio-Diesel Truck Stop at Carl’s Corner. “He invited me to be a part of that and Willie’s Place.”

Miller had a film crew following the entire session with Double Trouble and the Willie Nelson hang. The documentary and the album are not yet titled and don’t have a release date. Miller is independent, and plans to release a live DVD this summer that was recorded last year. “I’m doing everything myself,” he says. “If I can pick up distribution on something, so be it.”

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