Legendary guitarist Don Ross and Canadian songwriter Brooke Miller bring their musical marriage to Victoria
What happens when a legendary Canadian solo guitarist and one of Canada’s finest songwriters blend forces? Musical marriage. And what about when those two decide the magic is just as strong off stage as on? Actual marriage.
Victoria will have a chance to witness that magic first hand as Don Ross and Brooke Miller bring their duo stardom to Hermann’s Jazz Club tonight, March 9, at 8 p.m.
Ross, who now resides in Halifax, has been touring his acclaimed instrumental guitar stylings full-time for the last 20 years, and has become a Victoria favorite. Meanwhile, Miller, originally from P.E.I., started her relationship with music from the age of 10, when she picked up her first guitar. The two joined up in 2004 to make an album together, but discovered the spark didn’t stop there. They were married a year later.
“I admired Brooke’s music even before I met her, and I really wanted to work collaboratively and make an album with her,” says Ross. “Then, we decided we really liked each other, so we got married.”
Ross and Miller don’t talk much on stage about the fact that they’re a couple, but their humorous banter and “kibitzing” gives every audience an eye into their chemistry. But while the two have made albums and been touring together seriously for the last few years, they both still look at their collaboration as the joining of two solo artists.
“You won’t hear us calling ourselves ‘Apple Pie’ or some funny band name, because we are still two individuals coming together,” says Miller. “We have a fun repoire, but we both really respect each other’s art, and it’s been a wonderful challenge and opportunity for us to get to work together this way.”
Ross will be releasing his newest album this month, and Miller released her latest record late last year. Just since September, the two have travelled through Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Canada, with decidedly more shows than downtime. Still, in their pre-release tour, the two have managed to balance home and personal life, and have been each other’s support system.
“Because of the way things have worked out, we’ve both been able to dedicate 100 per cent of our time to our craft, and it’s given us the freedom to keep up with all the behind-the-scenes details — which we’re pretty good partners in as well — along with performing,” says Ross.
Miller says Ross is still her “best friend in the whole world,” and that they’ve learned the most about each other through their touring.
“I have so much respect for Don as a partner in music, and as a husband,” says Miller. “Certainly you find challenges in every situation, but you find strength too — we just seem to have found our stride, and we don’t worry about the little things that could affect our experience.”
When it comes to that experience, Ross says that he still gets excited before every performance, but not so much nervous now — though he has one especially memorable moment when the two were doing their first headlining show in Moscow.
“We’d never been to Moscow before and, you know, you’re not sure what the crowd is going to be like, and I started thinking, ‘Man, I just hope some people show up,’” says Ross. “When Brooke went on, I was holding my breathe, and then I heard the crowd — it sounded pretty big. There must have been about 1,000 people there, screaming their heads off … Now, whenever I’m feeling down about things I just think of that night. That really refuels you as a performer.”
Ross, who is known for his solo performances, has performed in front of crowds as big as 60,000 on Parliament Hill before, but says the Moscow trip showed him the success of performing as a duo — something he enjoys doing with a variety of other artists now, as well as his wife.
Meanwhile, Ross and Miller continue to make waves back at home. And with inspirations ranging from Bach and Bruce Cockburn to Joni Mitchell and punk, it’s easy to see how diverse the two have built their force.
“I have no expectations of making the Top-10 lists, or being Lady Gaga, but this is what I want to be doing, and we both know it’s so rare these days that artists get to do what they love full-time,” says Miller. “We’ve toured so many wonderful places that I’ve had to put extra pages in my passport. It’s really been a remarkable situation — we’ve become professional hobos.” M
Catch Ross and Miller tonight at Hermann’s (753 View). Doors at 6 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $25 at the door, or $20 in advance from hightideconcerts.net, Lyle’s Place (770 Yates), 250-382-8422, Ditch Records (784 Fort) 250-386-5874, or McPherson Box Office 250-386-6121. Learn more about the two at donrossandbrookemiller.com.