Making Friends With Ryan Miller

Since moving to Vermont, the lead singer of the band Guster has been actively seeking out ‘high functioning weirdos.’ 

Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner and Brian Rosenworcel met during a freshman wilderness orientation program at Tufts and formed an alt-rock band. Twenty-five-years later, the band Guster is still going strong with four albums, the hit single Fa Fa Fa and a 25th anniversary concert tour with four shows in Boston, Jan. 12-14. Miller has also composed numerous film scores and hosted a series on Vermont PBS.As part of the show, called “Making Friends with Ryan Miller,” Miller traveled the state seeking out “high functioning weirdos.”

So if this is a chairlift interview, what chairlift would we be on?

We live in Williston—not the big box store part but in the secret hidey-hole, out-in-the-woods part. I can be on at Stowe or Smuggs or Sugarbush in like 20 minutes, and we went over to the Catamount Outdoor Center the other day. But mainly, we’re at Smuggs since my wife and two kids do the Smuggs’ program. I’m not a shredder: my board doesn’t leave the ground—just give me the longest groomed blue I can find.

It seems like Guster plays in a lot of ski towns.

So Adam [Gardner] is a crazy good skier. He’s been in a Warren Miller film, and he always figures out how to book these places. We played at the Hermitage Club last February, and we’ve played the Pickle Barrel in Killington and Okemo. It’s great, we all go, do a concert and then ski and ride with our families. Adam’s also put together this super band of really good skiers called  Yukon Cornelius [named after the character in the TV film, “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer”]. It’s Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, Stefan Lessard of Dave Matthews Band, Spymob’s Eric Fawcett and that dude from Pearl Jam [Mike McCready]. They are always figuring out these cool ski trips and I’m like “Uh, can I come along? Need another singer?”

You played Grace Potter’s Grand Point North festival here (shown at left) in Burlington in September. Are you tight with Grace and the local music scene?

Yeah, Grace is great. But there are some other really good bands coming out of Vermont like Madaila, Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band, Caroline Rose and And the Kids—they’re playing with us in Boston.

You’re from Texas, and lived in L.A. and New York. So what brought you here?

My wife Angela grew up in the Northeast Kingdom and the Randolph area, and she always wanted to come back. I was like, “We’re never f-ing moving to Vermont.”  Two weeks after our son was born, she says, “We’re moving.”  In 2010, we did.

Did it help to film “Making Friends?” 

Yeah, I missed the really creative, artist culture you get in cities, so I went looking for high-functioning weirdos. It’s great, I got to meet people like Alan Newman [who started Magic Hat] and these weirdo farmers and lots of other cool people.

Whom haven’t you met that you’d like to be friends with?

“I’d really like to meet Jake Carpenter—he just seems he’s on my bandwith and hey, I’m a B-list celebrity, maybe he’d hook me up with a Burton board? I’m kidding, that’s not my M.O.— I just think he’s cool. Also Ben Cohen [of Ben & Jerry’s] and Martine Rothblatt, [who created the robot Bina48]. She’s badass but elusive.

What have you discovered since moving here?   

There are all these cool little communities, like Greg Davis’ experimental music series. I went to Main Street Landing’s free horror movies and was like “Look at all these cool, weird film people.” These scenes exist in Vermont,  but you have to seek them out. I had never been to Shelburne Museum before, and how weird and far out is that? I could really get into going back to the Apothecary shop in Shelburne or to see the 19th century mechanical doll exhibit or the Horseshoe Barn.

Do you feel like a Vermonter yet?

I’m still trying to be a Vermonter. You kind of have to work hard at it but it’s slowly happening. By and large it’s a wonderful community and I’ve been very charmed and welcomed. Vermonters are so proud of being from Vermont.  It becomes contagious when you figure it out. —Lisa Lynn