Okay, let’s get this out of the way right now. Miles Nielsen is the son of Rick Nielsen, guitarist and founding member of a band called Cheap Trick. The famed quartet hails from Rockford, and became fabulously famous in the late 70s for pop rock renditions of original songs of teen angst and desires. Miles plays his own music, which is not really related to that of his famous father either lyrically or musically. In fact I would say it is much more mature and timeless than anything Cheap Trick ever put out, but that’s only one guy’s opinion. And Miles has dealt with many opinions about being the scion of a legend.
“I’ve learned to embrace it, but I didn’t always feel that way,” said Nielsen the younger. “To me, ultimately I feel that if that is what brings someone to my show, that’s okay. It’s up to me to keep them there.”
During our conversation Miles referred often to the band mates in his various combinations of music making in glowing terms, both musically and personally. This respect and admiration seemed very important to him, an essential part of his persona as a musician.
“I’m not into making music with people who I don’t have a connection with,” he explained. “It’s much more authentic when everyone gets along.”
At this point in his career Nielsen plays with a couple different groups and likes to keep the combinations of musicians varied, making “every show a little bit different.” He just released his first solo album effort, Miles, in 2009 and travels with a full five-piece band to promote the recording (that’s the group performing with him in Springfield). His last visit to our town came with Harmony Riley, a fun-loving group Nielsen fronted for several years that toured the nation and has a reunion show planned in Rockford this month. He also plays bass for an up and coming group from Wisconsin called Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons who appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” last October and are scheduled for a slot on the “Late Show with David Letterman” in January. He also enjoys doing listening room venues played in the singer-songwriter mode and often performs those solo or with another guitarist. All in all, Nielsen generally “keeps as busy as I can, doing all sorts of fun, good stuff” and from the looks of his schedule he does just that.
The music he writes and performs as a solo artist comes off with a melodic roots-rock sound. On hearing a recording of Nielsen’s song, A Festival, my oldest son, Owen, proclaimed it to be a cross between Rufus Wainwright and Tom Petty, which Miles heartily endorsed when informed of this comparison. He himself labels his music as “Beatlesque-Cosmic-Americana” to show you the artist’s take on his art with most reviewers reveling in his penchant for more countrified adornments than one might expect. But then again most of these comparisons hail back to “you know who” and what they sound like, otherwise the alt-country, folk aspirations Nielsen embraces are entirely in line with influences of a Midwest songwriter, regardless of the parental influence.
Miles somewhat laughed off the typical interview question of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and reverted back to his typical justification of “having fun playing music,” which is a really good answer if you’re a musician and enjoying life.
“I’m playing shows and making records, happy that people come out and listen,” he casually said. “And it looks like that’s the way it’s going.”
Sounds like a fine direction, involving no cheap tricks in getting there.
Contact Tom Irwin at email@example.com
Miles Nielsen performs selections from Miles with a full band, Fri., Dec.18, at Bar None (Fifth and Monroe) from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.