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Dan John Miller always expertly captures the emotional heart of a novel with his audiobook performances, whether he's narrating classic Philip Roth (MY LIFE AS A MAN) or classic Pat Conroy (THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE). How does he do it? "I want to get into the mindset of the author," Miller says. "The book is someone else's work of art, and I want to respect that."--Best Voices 2010
Dan John Miller is a busy man. In addition to being guitarist and lead vocalist for the band Blanche, he has appeared in such films as Leatherheads, Walk the Line, and the soon to be released My One and Only (with Renée Zellweger). He's recorded a dozen audiobooks for Brilliance, and he and his wife, Tracee, are expecting their first child.
We asked Miller how he got from alternative-country music to Hollywood, and then to audiobooks. "I've always done voice-over work," he says. "I started doing it in Detroit back in the days when they used to have automobile companies there. Way back! I was doing automotive industrial stuff. A lot of it was on-camera narration, talking about incredibly technical things about which I had no idea, which was good training because I had to really make it sound like I knew what I was talking about." The Hollywood writers' strike prompted Miller to record a spoken-word demo, and one thing led to another. "I really love it. It's a blessing to be able to do something you really enjoy."
Miller grew up surrounded by the spoken word. "I had a very creative, funny father. I remember him reading to us. That has a huge effect on any kid. He produced car commercials and would bring home demo tapes of Casey Kasem (also a Detroit native). That fueled things for me as a songwriter and a performer. He made everything fun."
Miller's style as a narrator is very subdued in contrast to his style onstage with the goth-country band Blanche, or his earlier country-garage band, Goober and the Peas. "When I'm singing a song--something I've written--it's my own." In those cases, he feels free to perform with his own frenetic style. But when narrating an audiobook, he says, "I want to get into the mind-set of the author. The book is someone else's work of art, and I want to respect that. It's like cutting hair. Once you've taken too much off, you can't put it back."
How has Miller's experience as a musician helped him as an audiobook narrator? "As a musician, I'm used to being sequestered in a studio with headphones all day.
And then there's the rhythm of the words," he says. "As a musician, I'm experienced with the way words sound--with figuring out the syllables, pacing, and phrasing. There are a lot of similarities between music and narrating."
The link between music and the spoken word is clear in Miller's reading style.--Steven E. Steinbock
Photo courtesy of narrator
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