Zack Miles’ Sights We Rarely See

Zack Miles eats, sleeps and breathes music.

When meeting for the interview, he asked to change locations to Barley’s so we could watch the 6 O’Clock Swerve. He was heading to another event after that. He lives in his band Handsome and the Humbles’ practice/recording space, where he also recorded his second full-length solo release Sights We Rarely See, which he released in February.

The Oakdale native “grew up around bluegrass–everywhere,” he says, in churches, with family, friends, bands, sometimes all of them at once on a porch playing “jams that lasted for hours and hours.”

Miles grew up immersed in classic country, bluegrass, rock, listening to and learning songs by Chet Atkins (“good practice finger-picking,” he says), Doc Watson, and the immortal Bill Monroe (“I especially like his real depressing stuff”).

Starting with that solid traditional foundation –which is evident in his finger-picking prowess on album cuts like “The Captain” and “Postcards”– he later branched into rock and indie-folk. “In high school, there was this weird transition where I started listening to rock…someone gave me a Band of Horses album when I was 19 and got me on the right track.” He also says he got really into Sam Quinn, Tallest Man On Earth, Ben Howard and Andrew Bird.

Since then Miles has been drinking from the fire hydrant, even going as far away from bluegrass as humanly possible by entering the wide world of electronic music.  “That new Bon Iver album has really got me itching,” he says. Miles self-producing his music from the ground up, playing everything and even mixing and mastering himself in ProTools must lend to this new fascination with interesting sounds.

Even so, Miles’ new album, while using some subtle effects, feels very organic and natural, mostly finger-picked acoustics with clean layered electrics and minimal percussion. The vocals may have some delay or doubling, some trickery–but the point is, it’s all employed in service of the song in a very subtle way. It’s no surprise Steve Wildsmith included Sights We Rarely See, along with Handsome and the Humbles’ Have Mercy, on his Top 20 East Tennessee Albums of 2016.

Miles is already working on his third album, cataloging demos and decided what works for the final list for tracking.

He just played a pretty set of Christmas tunes at Knoxvollidays, the all-star songwriter showcase put together by Adeem the Artist, and he is playing at Town Pump in Black Mountain, North Carolina on January 28 and the WDVX Six O Clock Swerve at Barley’s with Wayne Bledsoe in March. He can also be seen onstage in the all-star songwriter band From the Living Room Presents at Barley’s Maryville January 21 and Central Collective February 4.

 

 

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