Chris Milam has found his sound. On his new album Kids These Days, he explores instrumentation and vocal tones in new and inventive ways. The title track, out now as an iTunes single, was inspired by a broken engagement and the tumultuous year that followed. In a short period of time, Milam lost both his fiancée and his home, leaving him with only what could fit into a car. Then, his car was stolen. Forced to find a newfound resilience, Milam questioned what his future would be.
Kids These Days explores what happens when things fall apart and life doesn’t look like we thought it would. Capturing a real day in Milam’s world, the title track demonstrates him driving to play an out-of-town show. Along the way, he stops for gas and hears the cashiers complaining about “kids these days” — how lazy and entitled and unfocused they are. At the time, Milam was working three jobs in addition to playing music, commuting six hours to play a gig, skipping meals, barely getting by and then coming home to an unraveling relationship. He got mad, thinking, you don’t know me. “‘Kids These Days’ comes from that place,” he explains. “I know a lot of folks who, despite hard work and good intentions, aren’t where they thought they’d be. I’d always had a clear idea of what my future would look like. It was transformative to wake up one day and realize I had none of it.” Milam says the whole album explores the different answers to the question: What now?
Life hasn’t always been so trying for Milam.He has had the opportunity to live and work in a variety of places along his way. He learned to be a professional in Nashville. He expanded himself creatively living in New York. But he feels his best work has always been done in his hometown of Memphis. “I feel like I can be myself here,” he says. “I love it.” The album features local musicians, all playing live in the studio. “That is very important to me. This city has a way of filling songs with its atmosphere — beautiful, fearless and endlessly weird.”
When he was growing up, Milam’s parents were both teachers and big fans of music. Summers were for travel — long car trips and the like. The family of four all took turns picking the music. “That was a huge education,” Milam recalls. “We each had our preferences, but there were albums that we all agreed on. That’s a huge part of what made music so important to me — shared experience. It was something we all had in common.”
Milam cites ‘60s and ‘90s music as his biggest influences. He was listening a lot toSimon & Garfunkel’s Bookends, REM’sAutomatic for the People, Chris Bell’s I Am the Cosmos and The War On Drugs’ Lost in the Dream as he made his new album. Many of his greatest heroes are singer-songwriters. But what he’s really drawn to are sounds and lyrics that are fresh in perspective — be it rock, rap, or Americana.
Milam’s attention is undivided now. His personal goals are his career goals. And what matters most to him is his music. “I want to reach as many people as I can, making the music that I want to make,” Milam says. “I’m 100 percent independent, so the next step is getting the right team around this album. It’s a process, but I’m optimistic.”
Milam plans to release another single this fall and release the album in early 2017.
The Pathway to Surrender
Singer-songwriter Chris Milam lets go in his latest album, Kids These Days
Story by Emily Davidson Nemoy