Texas native Rhett Miller is perhaps best known as the frontman of the Dallas-based alt-country band Old 97's, although he also pursued a critically acclaimed solo career during the 2000s. Formed in 1993, the Old 97's built a devoted following with their blend of country and power pop influences, which won the group a brief stay on the roster of Elektra Records. All four members also pursued side projects, but Miller's solo career captured the most attention, with the literate songwriter training his eye on such subjects as fatherhood, sex, and love.
Technically speaking, Miller launched his own career before the Old 97's even formed. He recorded his first solo album, a series of acoustic folk songs entitled Mythologies, in 1989. Future Old 97's bassist (and solid songwriter in his own right) Murry Hammond produced the album, and the partnership later blossomed into a full-fledged band. While releasing a string of well-received albums with the Old 97's, Miller and Hammond also performed together as the Ranchero Brothers, a two-man acoustic duo that was originally launched as a means of testing new music for the Old 97's in front of a live audience. The Ranchero Brothers developed their own distinct following, although no albums resulted from the project.
Taking time off from the Old 97's, Miller began recording his first major-label solo effort in February 2002, this time with the help of producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion. The Instigator appeared nearly seven months later, followed by a tour with ex-Crowded House frontman Neil Finn in early 2003. Miller then returned to the studio with the Old 97's, squashing worried rumors that he planned to halt the band's career and focus on his solo efforts. He did, however, find time to balance the two projects, and The Believer marked his first solo release for Verve in February 2006.
After returning to the studio with the Old 97's one more time, Miller continued his juggling act by recording another solo album. The self-titled record appeared in 2009 courtesy of his new label, Shout! Factory. His next solo albums, 2010's The Interpreter: Live at Largo and 2012's The Dreamer, were both released by the Maximum Sunshine label. After releasing one of the Old 97's' strongest albums in years with 2014's Most Messed Up, Miller took a new turn in his solo career with 2015's The Traveler, which featured backing from the band Black Prairie (which includes several members of the Decemberists) and a guest appearance from Peter Buck of R.E.M. ~ Laurel Greenidge