Miles Nielsen has clearly inherited a certain amount of work ethic from his pops, legendary Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen. He and his band The Rusted Hearts have kept very busy, not only in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois but nationally as well, touring on their own as well as with bands like The Bodeans, Soul Asylum and others. They put on a really interactive live show and record inspiring studio albums and after releasing an ep on their website, the band is currently working on a new full-length follow up to 2012’s “Presents The Rusted Hearts”. I recently rang up Miles to chat for a bit about everything going on, read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi Miles. You’ve spent so much of the past year out touring with other national acts yourself. Has watching bands like The Bodeans or Soul Asylum prepare or play every night rubbed off on The Rusted Hearts in any way?
Miles Nielsen: I think so. I think the biggest thing for us is just seeing how the artists are off the stage, even more so than on the stage. Obviously, when someone has a career that’s lasted the long they are good at what they do. It’s been really interesting and fun to meet these people who’ve been in the industry for 25 years and talk to them because they still have a good appreciation for music, traveling and the whole process.
LRI: I try to keep an eye on your schedule as much as possible and can’t help but notice that you play a tremendous amount of gigs. If you’re not out with other bands you are most likely headlining somewhere on your own; basically you are always on a stage somewhere. Is it a grind or is that schedule what keeps you sane?
Miles: No, you know what? The grind is when I’m not busy. The playing, the traveling and all that stuff keeps me happy and healthy for sure. It’s the other stuff that wears on ya.
LRI: You guys recently released an EP which is available on your website, www.rustedtrunk.com. I didn’t even know you were working on it, how did “The St. Louis Sessions” come about?
Miles: Yeah, we weren’t really working on it, that’s the thing. We had two days off of tour last summer and booked two sessions at a friend’s studio in St. Louis. We thought “Oh, well, we’ll record a song or two” and we wound up writing three songs and already had one that we wanted to record so we ended up putting four songs together. We weren’t really intending it to be an EP but it just sort of turned out better than expected so we ended up putting it out. We figured calling it “The St. Louis Sessions” was about as proper as it was.
LRI: Were those tracks recorded a bit differently than the last full-length album sessions?
Miles: Oh, absolutely. It was all done to analog, two inch tape. There were very few overdubs and we had very limited tracks to get it done so we made sure to try and record it as live as possible. We did the vocals, acoustic, bass and drums all at the same time so all of those takes you are really hearing the four of us recording all that stuff straight to tape without going in and fixing it.
LRI: Your live shows have a great energy, that’s one of the things you have in common with your dad. Is it a challenge to try and capture that energy in the studio or are you fine with keeping those two worlds separate?
Miles: I think if the two worlds can coexist then that’s great but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter to me. When we’re setting out to make records, we’re setting out to make records and the live show doesn’t concern me at that moment. When it’s time to play live I want to make sure that the song translates but I don’t necessarily think it has to translate the same way that the record does.
LRI: I get that. I was wondering how some of the experimentation and instrumentation on the last album would translate live but it did translate very well, albeit a little differently. How is writing going for the next full-length? Is it going down similar or altogether different avenues?
Miles: We’re all capable of playing a lot of different instruments so I think,with the new album, we are probably going to challenge ourselves again to maybe even up the instrumentation a bit more and then figure out how we’re gonna do it live. I’m just excited to make another record more than anything. I think the new record is gonna be just as varied stylistically. The moods that the songs are taking on are definitely varied again with songs going from light, sing-alongy, almost folk-ish backyard campfire things to an almost Radiohead-y kind of piece that I just finished the other day so I don’t know; it’s probably going to be as all over the place as the last one. I think that’s because my mental state and my moods are all over the place as far as that goes so …..(laughs). Lyrically, I tend to write about things that I observe, things I wanna see happen or things that I make up in my mind. They’re all coming from the same place, I think maybe some of them are just becoming a little more over the top ridiculous, at least in my mind.
LRI: Your shows kind of vary from mood to mood as well. The set at a big shed opening for a headliner is obviously very focused and tight whereas you may play a sitdown acoustic gig on the fly or a gig at a club with special guests jamming and sitting in. Is it important to you to have the shows take on their own personalities?
Miles: Absolutely, but it just kind of works out that way (laughs). it’s never a set, rehearsed thing that’s going to be the same exact presentation every evening but it’s also not a premeditated attempt to make one show loose and jammy and another with a completely different feel. It’s just how it works out and how we’re feeling at that time. Also, some it is just the fact that when we’re opening we do have to keep it to a more concise set of material but when you’ve got two hours or more you are obviously more free to cut loose a bit and do things you might not ordinarily be able to drift into.
LRI: Be honest. How many times do you play a gig where you have a setlist taped to the floor onstage?
Miles: (laughs). We rarely have a setlist, which is…I don’t know, you know it’s hard to have a setlist where you are kind of anticipating how the crowd is going to react or be. You can’t really dictate that, it’s not always going to be “that” way, the crowd can be different or the place can dictate a different mood than you were anticipating. In those instances, to follow the setlist would kind of upset the natural energy of the room,so we don’t. For us, not having a setlist is good because we can kind of feel it out and have a journey with everybody, rather than forcing something upon them.
LRI: Your band has remained fairly stable since forming The Rusted Hearts, has that kind of enabled you to enjoy that sort of freedom?
Miles: Definitely. I’m sure once in a while some of the members of the band might think “It’s kind of frustrating not having a setlist…it would kind of be nice to know in advance what we’re playing” but on the other hand, that’s kind of why we do what we do and that’s why the people who are in the band are in the band. We all love being challenged and we all wanna go out and make music a different way every night. I don’t know, seeing bands that do the exact same setlist night after night for the whole tour, I would get so bored.
LRI: Last question. A lot of times bands are kind of self conscious or too cool to care about what they throw on the merch stand but you and your band continue to come up with killer ideas. I love everything I have ever plunked down for. Is coming up with those concepts fun for you creatively?
Miles: I’m super obsessive about the merch thing. I am always trying to look in catalogs and different places, trying to find cool little things to put at our merch booth. I just think it makes sense to offer things that are different and totally unique to us but make sense to us. It’s fun for people to have a little stash tin or a little burlap sack with an elephant on it. We’ve got underwear that our team printed which we will have at the shows, we have four different colors of unisex underwear with the elephant on them. For the guys, we have the elephant on the front, for the girls we have the elephant on the back. We just wanted to offer something different, it’s summertime and underwear just seemed to be a logical fit.
LRI: Thanks for talking with us Miles, that’s reason enough for me to show up at a show.
Miles: Yeah, it is. No problem, we will see you there.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Madison!!!! @ The Frequency
121 W Main St., Madison, WI (United States) – Map
Set: 8:30 PM
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Supporting Willie Nelson. @ La Crosse Center
La Crosse, WI (United States) – Map
Set: 7:00 PM
Friday, July 19, 2013
good Ol’ Fashioned Rock Show. @ District Bar & Grill
205 W. State St. Rockford, IL, Rockford, IL, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 10:00 PM
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Nashville w. Daniel and The Lion @ The Basement
1604 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM
Friday, August 2, 2013
Three Oaks, Michigan @ Acorn Theater
107 Generations Dr., Three Oaks, MI (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Peak Pool Party @ Peak Fitness on Perryville
Rockford, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 1:00 PM
Friday, August 9, 2013
Supporting Bodeans @ Summer Concert Series w. Bodeans
Freedom, WI (United States) – Map
Set: 7:00 PM
Friday, August 16, 2013
Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival @ Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival
Rochelle, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Farmfest 450!!!!! @ Farmfesst 450
Kinsman, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 12:00 PM
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Davenport, IA @ River Roots Music Festival
LeClair Park, Davenport, IA (United States) – Map
Set: 5:00 PM
Friday, September 6, 2013
Bloomington, IL w. The STEEPWATER Band @ Six Strings Club
525 North Center Street, Bloomington, IL (United States) – Map
(309) 829-9977 Set: 8:00 PM
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Joey’s Song Benefit Concert w. Rhett Miller @ High Noon Saloon
701A E Washington Ave., Madison, WI (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM
Friday, September 20, 2013
Oktoberfest in Oak Park!!! @ Oak Park City Center
Oak Park, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Thanksgiving Eve… Back in Lasalle!!!! @ Uptown Grill
601 1st Street, LaSalle, IL (United States) – Map
Set: 8:00 PM