CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)
HED:Gary Perilloux: Miller’s tale: Children hold the fountain of truth
A wisp of a woman, Julie Griffin Miller might be the envy of her age.
With jet black hair and striking dark eyes, she looks 20. She sings in a high, reedy voice, sounding mysteriously like no one you’ve ever heard, yet confoundingly familiar.
She sounds 10. She has cats named Winkie and Tinkie.
Imagine your surprise then, at learning her actual age: 41.
Oh to be 41, look 20 and sound 10. But Julie Miller’s story is less a fountain of youth chronicle than a fountain of truth miracle.
Julie Griffin grew up in Austin, Texas, where she and her “hip” mom listened to music ranging from Jerry Jeff Walker to Muddy Waters.
In high school, Julie’s heart leaped at the sound of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons. One day, she called a radio station and demanded the identity of a stunning voice accompanying Parsons. It belonged to Emmylou Harris, who would emerge as the premier female interpreter of country rock and the ideal Julie Griffin would pursue.
Julie launched a career that chugged through Texas nightclubs. She chased urban cowgirl dreams in New York and lived with her band’s guitar player, but all was not well.
A child abuse victim, she struggled to shirk that shame along with the anxiety of anorexia nervosa and guilt over an abortion at age 20.
In New York, she suffered through drug-induced psychotic episodes in which she walked the streets asking strangers to kill her. Mercifully, no one obliged and one night she wandered blindly into a church.
A conversion to Christianity followed and she bolted for a Texas commune. Her befuddled boyfriend pulled out the Bible that propped up the sofa in their apartment.
“God made me put Buddy in His hands,” Julie told The Lighthouse magazine.
Six months later, despite having replaced Julie with Shawn Colvin in his band, Buddy Miller embraced Jesus, returned to Texas and wed Julie. They landed a contract with Word Records and released 1990’s “Meet Julie Miller.”
Here we met the mysterious 33-year-old voice, sounding like a 10-year-old (going on 80) and singing the unforgettable opening lines of “Love Will Find You”:
Don’t you feel like the little child you used to be
Always wanting someone’s warm embrace
The confoundingly familiar quality resonated from a world-weary timbre in Miller’s voice, empathizing with every impulse toward anxiety in your own life. Yet her mysterious, childlike voice transcended the weight of the world.
Miller’s voice traces a path toward rediscovering your own childhood: unblemished, vital and whole.
“I’m kind of stuck here on that one lesson,” Miller said of that rediscovery. “It must be the one I really needed to learn, because I keep thinking, ‘Are we done with this one yet?’ It’s just the Lord setting me free to be myself and letting me feel His affection for me and His delight in me like a parent for a child.”
The battles continue. Julie suffers from back problems and a neuromuscular disease. She dedicated her fourth album, “Invisible Girl,” to a 4-year-old niece abused by a stepfather.
On her latest record, “Blue Pony,” Julie Miller has galloped full circle. Emmylou Harris sings on it and Buddy Miller produces. With two acclaimed albums of his own, Buddy now plays guitar in Emmylou’s band, with whom he performed a Julie Miller song Wednesday on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”
The fountain of truth in the Millers’ tale springs from a song they wrote together: as perfect a wedding song as has ever been conceived, concluding with the line, “Nothing has touched me so deep inside, as when I see Jesus … in your eyes.”
Gary Perilloux is assistant news editor at the Daily Journal.