Rhett Miller has been at it long enough that he has an unusual perspective on time. His band, the Old 97's, will play at the Visulite Theatre in Charlotte on Thursday.
Even after close to two decades, the Old 97's are still one of the hardest-working bands in showbiz. The 97's have an album in the stores, "The Grand Theatre Volume One" (New West Records); a second "Grand Theatre" volume due out this summer; and a Miller solo album coming in the fall.
"That will make three in a year," Miller says. "I love doing records with no gap. I do try and give the band first dibs on songs, but I've always been prolific and written a bunch of songs that didn't really work for the 97's. Now, if I'm in the midst of making a solo record and I write something of a piece with what I'm doing, I can skip playing that for the band and they won't get too upset."
It's been a particularly high-output stretch for Miller, who has been cranking out songs at a feverish pace over the last year or so. Originally, "The Grand Theatre" was supposed to come out as a double album. But the label balked, and Miller came around to agreeing with that.
"Making a whole album that people will actually listen to seems to be a thing of the past," he says. "Nobody's got any attention span anymore. Plus if you do a double, the tiny amount of money you eke out gets eaten up by the extra costs. Publishers don't like it, either. There's a myriad of things. As it is, the good part about doing a separate volume two is that we wrote some extra songs at the last minute that are 10 times better."
"Volume One" has plenty of get up and go, plus attitude to spare. "Champaign, Illinois," a rewrite of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row," likens the University of Illinois' hometown to a purgatorial underworld. And the rollicking "Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)" makes breaking up sound like the most fun you can have.