Last weekend whilst in Norway, I saw a post on Facebook that shocked the ground beneath me. I had to look twice but then the reality hit.
My Producer, songwriting partner, mentor and most of all one of my best friends Blue Miller had sadly passed away.
Over the past few months myself and blue often communicated via WhatsApp, with small amounts of banter and just general chit-chat about the his world and mine. Politics seemed to be the main topic, but more often than not it was about music.
However; I knew something wasn't quite right when the messages stopped. I phoned several times and eventually his wife Beth answered and informed me that Blue was struggling to recover from his illness, but I did get to have a talk with him. Blue died Nashville on the 11th of August 2018.
I've lost a great friend. He was a great musician who was admired worldwide, He was a great producer and mentor and it's obvious to me, seeing all the recent tributes over the last week, he touched the hearts of many and he was respected by all who knew him.
I first met Blue in 1997 when Smokie recorded our "Wild Horses" album. Myself and Blue sat together in a session, he on the acoustic guitar and me on electric. He knew I was struggling with the Nashville number system and he quickly came to my rescue! We instantly hit it off and he kind of took me under his wing a little bit.
Barry Becket who was producing on that session had already warned me about Blue Miller saying "you'll love him Mick"
After the session that day Blue gave me a capo which he said was a new design and really good, it was the colour Blue . . . . 23 years on, I still have that capo today. That was the start of a friendship that continued to the very day he died.
Sometime in 2006, Blue was on Tour with India Arie in the UK, We hooked up after the show and myself and some friends introduced Blue to his first Indian food experience . . . . . . We also provided him with a steaming hangover the day after, which he cursed me for! The photo I have here is of that night in Manchester.
A few years later I was mixing my first solo album in Nashville at the House Of Blues. I called Blue and told him where I was. I also suggested he come on over for a few beers and bring a guitar! . . . . . . When he arrived we were already set up for him to play, although he was totally unaware of this situation I'd put him in. He said "Hey man, what do you want me to play"? I said "anything! . . . I just want you on my album and I ain't paying you" . . . and he did. I never did pay him but we had a few beers and caught up on old times!
In 2016 I'd started to write songs for my second solo album and I sent a couple of songs over to Blue, I was really just looking for a bit of encouragement, I knew that Blue would be constructive and point me where I needed to be. He did a little more than that though! . . . . . . "Jump on a plane man, I'll get the musicians and you get your goddamn Limey arse over here . . . . and so I did!
The very first morning I arrived at Blue's studio, we started the banter! . . . . . I told him Yanks knew jack-shit about making tea . . . . He told me a Brit couldn't play the blues (to which I reminded him about Jeff Beck, Clapton and the likes) That was the foundation for making my new solo album. Lots of fun, great musicians, and of course, tea with milk on a morning!
When we had lunch he would suggest where we go. I said it doesn't really matter Yanks can't cook for shit . . . . the slagging never stopped!
On that very first day of writing and recording though, Blue asked me a question. "Do you want me to help you Mick? or do you want me to Produce this album"????
I said "I need you to Produce it and get the best out of me" .(I didn't pay him for that either) . . . . He walked out of the room and came back with a freshly printed sheet of paper with my song written out, but ever so slightly different to what I had wrote, yet much better . . . . . "those are you new lyrics" he said, and with that we got started.
We wrote 5 songs together in less than a week and he kept explaining to me the importance of just how the listener has to understand the lyric. He shared his memories of Bob Seger and how Bob had told him the very same thing about lyrics and songwriting when Blue was younger.
When we eventually got around to recording, Blue as promised, got me the best guys for the job!
This is when I noticed a more serious side to Blue the Producer (he even wore a jacket in the studio) . . . . I gave him shit about that too!
Now; here's what I liked about Blue in the recording studio. He was inclusive and everyone got a chance to have their input, yet he was strong enough to tell you just how wrong you are, but in the nicest possible way . . . . but he also is just a good at telling you how good you were too . . . . he would often say " you can do better"
He would also say "man your good, you can play that thing as good as anyone" . . . . simple statements designed to get the best out of you!
Once when we started editing, I stated that I felt the bass guitars were a bit too loud. Blue turned and looked at me and said "Man your too white" and from that day on he started calling me "Casper" (you know, the friendly ghost)
A couple of days later we had lunch in Waffle House and he said "Hey Casper, you got change" . . . . . I gave him some dollar coins and he went to the jukebox and put on some crappy "Waffle House Song" . . . . . when I asked what this shit was? He said "I wrote that song man, didn't make me a million, but I wrote it" . . . I told him at was about as good has is dress sense!
When "Under My Skin" was finally released in March 2017, Myself and Blue spoke about our achievement to deliver a really cool blues/rock album and that the next one would be even better! . . . . . Sadly, that won't happen now.
I was lucky that Blue came into my life all those years ago, we remained friends and my memories of the great man are fond ones.
As India Arie used to say when she introduced him onstage, "He ain't exactly black, and he ain't exactly white" . . . "He's just Blue"
RIP Blue Miller