Jow’rs sounds a bit like getting lost in the moment while spreading out in a meadow. There’s an open-air soundscape to the harmony-rich folk-rock of husband and wife duo Kyle and Gretta Miller that feels free and liberating. Inspired by the nature surrounding their hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, the pair have shaped a musical and personal life full of expression.
“We met in college (at Northern Arizona University) and we actually started playing music together before we even dated,” says Gretta. “We were just friends. So it’s always been part of our relationship. We don’t really know our relationship without music being a part of it. But that’s only after we were married for about a year. that we had a collection of songs [where] we were like, we just need to record them and see what happens.”
What happened was that Tow’rs found an audience. Since 2014, the group has released four albums of original songs, plus a 2020 Christmas album (holly and ivy). The duo work in tandem, with Kyle often being the poetic starting point for songs and Gretta being the editorial voice in the room. The way the duo describe the process, it’s almost a metaphysical experience.
“There is a kind of mysterious feeling that I have with everyone [song],” Kyle says, “if it feels good in our body and has the right amount of lightness. And communicates clearly, but also poetically.”
The lightness of their music draws on many influences that they are not afraid to wear on their sleeves. In the early days of Tow’rs, Kyle was particularly influenced by the ambient sounds and floating voice of Sigur Rós, but more recently he has drawn inspiration from Canadian songwriter Leif Vollebekk and his hero of storytelling, Jeff Tweedy (Tow’rs 2019 LP, New nostalgia, specifically inspired by the organic feel of Wilco’s sky blue sky). For her part, Gretta has recently taken inspiration from Sylvan Esso and Madison Cunningham.
Jhere are certainly many unique elements being both a group and a married couple. While it’s fun to work and travel together, the greatest benefits of such a relationship – both positive and negative – are felt most intensely during the song-making process.
“In songwriting, my goal at least is to try to be as honest [as possible] while being poetic. And sometimes those things are really hard for me. I feel like I can get a little greedy with poetry when I’m writing right off the bat,” Kyle says. “And one of the best things about writing with Gretta is that she’s so good at helping me decipher the things I’m feeling and put them into a language that might be a little clearer, even to me.”
“The hard part is there’s an extra layer of vulnerability that you have to keep digging into in songwriting,” he continues. “Sometimes that vulnerability can be really uncomfortable and cause a lot of tension. And you just have to be careful how you communicate ideas, but I think we’re better off because of our songwriting relationship. We were able to diving into parts of our lives that might not have been so natural or easy.”
An additional element for the Millers is that they are also parents. They have two children, ages 4 and 6. This can naturally add obstacles to a musical life. When they were still babies, their eldest child joined them on the road as it was the only way they could work while Gretta was breastfeeding. At times they hired touring nannies to help with the somewhat chaotic nature of life on the road. But the couple like to travel with the kids and will be taking them on the second leg of this upcoming tour.
For now, Tow’rs are just trying to approach their music with a little more joy and levity after the struggles of pandemic times. They’re due to record a new album in Colorado in July with a full band, but currently they’re just in song mode that feels like an incredibly heartwarming creative version of domestic bliss.
“Most of our energy right now is spent trying to write songs that Gretta and I like to sit in our kitchen together.” ♦
Tow’rs • Tuesday, February 22 at 8 p.m. • $15 • Lucky You Lounge • 1801 W. Sunset Blvd. • luckyyoulounge.com • 509-474-0511