The Accidentals call Millard an “incredible songwriter” with a “really cool roots rock vibe.” He plays Grand Rapids’ River City Saloon with his band on Saturday.
THE ARTIST: Charlie Millard
THE MUSIC: Eclectic mix of roots rock, jazz and blues
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 9 p.m. Saturday with Charlie Millard Band at River City Saloon in Grand Rapids; March 29 at Beards Brewery in Petoskey; March 30 at Orpheum Theater in Hancock; March 31 at Ore Dock Brewing Co. in Marquette
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Charlie Millard started playing piano at 11, performing at churches, restaurants, farmers’ markets and weddings at 13, writing songs with his dad at 14 and tackling his first studio album not long after that.
Now 21, the pianist, guitarist and songwriter from Alanson who performs regularly across northern Michigan, hosts a regular open-mic night in Petoskey and fronts indie-rock’s Charlie Millard Band.
Suffice to say, music has been the driving force in Millard’s life.
“Ray Charles, Greg Brown, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison are staples in the house along with a bit of blues,” said Millard, whose skills were honed with help from his guitar-playing father, two piano teachers – one from the classical side and the other steeped in jazz – and a diverse palette of musical influences.
“I discovered the songs of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan through my sisters’ ballet teacher, and through Waits and Brennan, everyone else; Mose Allison, James Brown, The Gershwins, Sparklehorse, Vic Chesnutt.”
Not only that, but in addition to collaborating with his father as a songwriter and business partner in Hattie Jane Records, Millard has worked and developed his talents with a wide range of Michigan artists, including Jacob Filarski, Olivia Mainville, The Cookies, Dan Hall and others. The Charlie Millard Band plays River City Saloon in Grand Rapids at 9 p.m. Saturday.
AN ‘INCREDIBLE SONGWRITER’ WHO ‘KNOCKS IT OUT OF THE PARK’
“Charlie is an incredible songwriter,” said Sav Buist, of Traverse City’s The Accidentals, who “grew up in the music scene” with Millard, whose music has been described as “small movies for the ears.”
“We have watched him develop a really cool roots rock vibe with blues undertones. Just as easily, he can transition to a quiet piano bar concert. I think being versatile in this industry is really important for longevity and Charlie is a multi-instrumentalist with the ability to do that.”
Northern Michigan photographer Myrna Jacobs calls Millard “the single most promising individual I have seen since I first saw and heard (Vulfpeck bassist) Joe Dart.” She describes Millard’s live performances of his original music as “fabulous and dynamic. Charlie knocks it out of the park.”
For his part, Millard describes his band’s music as “bouncing around” rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, blues and film scores.
“Our music is based around the piano, but we try and lyrically write songs that the listener can interpret how they want,” he said. “There’s not one particular reason that a song exists, maybe other than to make a certain connection with a listener. Unique phrases and musical nuances are fun for us to play around with, and we hope the audience likes that, too.”
The band – Millard, guitarist JerCat Millard and drummer Michael Binenda – has been “writing some new songs, recording a new album and playing some real neat venues,” Millard disclosed earlier this week. “I also have been doing session work with my friends The Go Rounds, Kansas Bible Company, Andy Fettig and Distant Stars, playing piano, organ and accordion.”
As for the open-mic and jam he hosts monthly at Beards Brewery in Petoskey, Millard said he’s “made great friends from the musicians and people that come through, as well as getting to play with them.
“Others have stopped in to the open-mic, or shows we’ve played, and asked us to play festivals, other concerts, sit in on studio recordings, which has made us a lot better at playing together, and (we) have performed at some very cool venues,” he said.
“That’s pretty much what I want to be able to do for the rest of my life: write songs, record them, and we’ll find people who want to hear them, then rewind, and do it again.”
It’s all about “creating new songs to play and give to the people,” he added, “dipping into downstate for shows and preparing for a grand summer.”
VIDEO: Charlie Millard Band (Live)
VIDEO: Charlie Millard, “Seaworthy”
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