February 28, 2014 1:00 am • JIM VOREL H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR — It’s a memorable day for a young musician when he’s able to quit his day job and make a living exclusively from music.
Particularly for a singer-songwriter or band leader performing originals, making a living is validation of your own innate abilities or worth as a musician. No matter how humble, it’s a constant reminder there are people out there who want to support your passion for music.
Mike Miller is thankful.
“I was able to quit my job a few years back and I pay taxes on the band earnings, so I guess that means I’ve made it,” said Peoria native Miller, who will bring his blues-rock band Easy Riders to Decatur tonight for a featured show at Donnie’s Homespun Pizza. “We’re able to play often, get our discs out there and travel farther and farther from home for our tours, so that’s pretty much all you can ask.”
Easy Riders has already gone farther than many local bands will ever go, with shows throughout the American Southwest and Colorado in addition to Midwestern touring. They bring an eclectic rock ‘n roll sound to each stop that draws equal inspiration from classic blues guitarists as it does from jam bands like The Allman Brothers or “hippie rock” outfits such as The Grateful Dead. The band does perform covers in addition to its originals, but many receive unique new arrangements.
“We will change up the groove, do anything creative we can as long as it still sounds good,” Miller said. “I play a lot of guitar slide in the style of Duane Allman, as a huge fan of his. But at any given time, we can sound a lot like The Allman Brothers or the Dead or maybe Jimi Hendrix.”
Regardless though, Miller primarily considers Easy Riders an original band, a place for him to showcase his own music inspired by his guitar heroes. He draws directly from his day-to-day experiences in the band when writing, creating a self-fueling musical project.
“A lot of the songs are about going on the road and the things we see between gigs,” he said. “Like, we just did this tour out in Colorado during all the floods, and we had to drive through some of them, so I got a couple of songs out of that. But someone else might take something completely different from those songs.”
The band’s first album of originals, “Earthbound,” was released in 2011, and they are currently preparing to head into the studio in the near future. Live shows and touring continue to make up the bulk of Easy Riders’ daily activities, but Miller also believes the time spent on professional recording has had an impact on his own professionalism and how the group views its work.
“Going into the studio makes your live show better because it makes you really analyze your songs a lot more and refine them,” he said. “I’ll think a song is finished and then overhaul it a year later. I never say ‘that’s it, this one is done’ any more. They can always be improved.”