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'I’m Marie Miller and I play the mandolin'

Marie Miller
Marie MillerPhoto by Jason Davis/Getty Images

You’ve probably seen it a million times before. An artist comes up on the local scene, guitar in hand, and captivates audiences wherever she plays. Then a record company swoops in, and eventually, you see this artist making the rounds at radio, on television, and on big tours.

The only thing missing is the guitar. You can still hear the voice you once heard in your local club, but the record company has decided that the instrument has to go. Just stand there and sing.

Marie Miller wasn’t having that. Not when she was 16, and not now at 25.

“I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old, playing bluegrass at festivals all over the place with my mandolin and my guitar,” she said. “And when I was 16, I got signed to Curb (Records). One of the first things that happened was, we were about to do my first radio visit, I was 16 years old and the guy said ‘do not tell them that you play the mandolin.’ I was a pretty bratty 16-year-old girl. (Laughs) If you told me not to do it, I probably would, so as soon as we walked in, I was like ‘hi, I’m Marie Miller and I play the mandolin.’”

That was that. No one has questioned her since, and for good reason, as she is not only a top-notch singer / songwriter, but she can shred on that mandolin when the mood hits.

“You’ve gotta play your instruments; that’s part of the deal,” Miller said. “With the type of music that I play, it’s important that you do play. I write songs, sing songs, I play them all stage, and that’s just it.”

Currently reaping the benefits of a lifetime in music with a well-received EP, You’re Not Alone, that has produced two popular singles in the title track and “6’2,” which was featured on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Virginia’s Miller is on the verge of big things in both the pop and country worlds, and she also has a huge following in the Christian music community, and despite a strong faith, she wouldn’t necessarily categorize her music as being part of that genre.

“I just let the songs speak for themselves,” she said. “I pick the songs that I wanted to record, and when we finished them up, we realized that this isn’t really a Christian record. It’s just a record with a bunch of different songs about love, about God, about friendship, about family, and I love to read, so a lot of my songs are inspired by different books. And it’s so neat that so many different people can listen to it and love it.”

And to think, she once walked away from the industry as a teenage prodigy, something that the third of ten children has no regrets about.

“It wasn’t very difficult,” Miller said. “I just didn’t feel very peaceful doing music. I was missing out. I played soccer during that time and I was in plays and I just wanted to be a normal high school student. I practiced my instruments a lot and sang, but I just didn’t make it a job. So it was pretty easy, and my parents are very supportive of music, but they’re also like ‘yeah, if you don’t want to do it, that’s okay.’ They’re less like that now because they’re like ‘now it’s your job. You gotta do it now.’ (Laughs) But it was a very easy decision that they were supportive of, and actually my record label was too because I think they knew that I was burnt out at that time. They probably said ‘She’s gonna quit anyway, we might as well give her a break’ and I think it worked out really well.”

A particularly brutal final exam in school was the catalyst to bring her back. “Man, that music thing sounds really good,” she laughs. But once Miller was in, she was all in, and there’s no stopping her and her mandolin from here on out.

“It’s just completely different now,” she said. “I love traveling, I love playing, and it’s so fresh now because it just feels like it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”