Scotland Uncovered #10: Emma Miller

After all the frenetic energy of the last few weeks on Scotland Uncovered. We’re slowing things down a little. Breathe in, breathe out. Ahh, that feels nice, doesn’t it? And hey – this mini-meditation I’ve got you on could use a soundtrack, could it not?

There are a litany of amazing songwriters in Scotland at the moment, but the one I’ve enjoyed most in recent weeks is Elgin’s Emma Miller. Miller’s second EP ‘Set Me Down’ is full of sparse piano melodies, haunting vocals and pristine songwriting.

Miller has had a complicated journey so far. Having released music since 2017, the songwriter recently moved back from a disappointing time in the jaws of the music industry in London. “Self-care” is probably a cliche by now, but ‘Set Me Down’ is about just that. Replacing the grey streets of the English capital for the lush hills of the Highlands, Miller’s most recent work is reflective and thoughtful.

Fans of Nina Nastasia, Frida Hyvonen and Joni Mitchell will swoon at Miller’s lush vocals. She has a unique, rich timbre, backed by reverb-laden pianos and soft electronics. The production on ‘Set Me Down’ is luscious, with striking vocal harmonies and an icy sheen.

‘Carried Away’ has a refrain of “I can’t help how I feel I’m emotional/please forgive me”, but it’s sung with an air of determination and inner strength. Lyrically, Miller takes on themes of loneliness, fatigue and capturing the isolation of nature, with exploratory chord progressions and ideas backing her to the hilt.

On the fantastic lead single ‘Sail Away’, Miller shared to Wonderland: “I wanted to write the song from the perspective of what a friend might say to me, rather than the critical inner voice we can slip into when we’re feeling particularly inadequate. I hope when people listen, they’ll be comforted in the knowledge that they’re doing just fine and no matter where you are in life, it’s ok to take the road less travelled.”

Pursuing a diploma in Counselling Psychology, there’s a wisdom to Miller’s lyrical self-assessments. Many have travelled the route of writing about themselves from another’s perspectives, but her fresh take on the theme is startling.

Overall, it’s mighty impressive stuff. Emma Miller has all the attributes to be a big name in years to come. Her music is a perfect respite for the chaotic world we find ourselves in. Listening to ‘Set Me Down’ feels like gently lowering yourself into a warm body of water. I urge you to do it. Take approximately 17 minutes out of your day to love yourself.

[Euan Davidson]

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