By Morgan James
Miri Hunter found herself inspired by our beautiful desert so much that a short trip to recharge turned into a new life full of the creative energy she had been hungry for. Listening to this skilled performer is like sneaking a peek at a mirror, then suddenly remembering that someone else is singing the lyrics inside your head. While Miri’s songs are noticeably deeply personal, her thoughts resonate with sentiment that is shared throughout the human spirit. Honest! Relatable! Miri Hunter carries her audience through a delightful journey in every song. I was fortunate to speak with the talented songstress about the desert, her music, upcoming performances, and her artistic nature.
MJ: Tell me how you came to be in our desert and about your background in music?
MH: “I moved to the desert in 2013 for what I thought would be a couple of months. I was trying to re-charge myself. At the end of those couple of months, I couldn’t remember why I wanted to go back to LA. So I rented a house in Joshua Tree and eventfully bought a small place out in Wonder Valley.”
“I was born and raised in southern Virginia and I started piano at age nine. I rarely play piano anymore in public, but I do love it. I remember getting a guitar when I was about 11. However, my musical hero at the time was Elton John, so the guitar took a backseat. In addition to Elton, my musical influences were all over the map. My mother loved country and western and my dad was heavily into jazz and blues. My favorite radio played everything from John Denver to James Brown to the Moody Blues. Then there was the classical piano influence. I ended up with a Bachelor’s degree in music with a concentration in composition. In college is where I started doing coffee houses and small clubs.”
MJ: What other musicians have you played with or do you play with regularly?
MH: “For most of my music career, I have been a solo singer/songwriter: a woman with a guitar. When I started playing in the Hi desert I began shyly to work with other musicians. First there was Julie Scott, who sang harmony, then I added Thom Merrick on bass and Matthew John Julliet on drums. Occasionally, cellist Jennifer Irvine would sit in. Both Julie and Matthew moved away and for the past few months I have been working with Thom and Rick Chaffee, who plays amazing lead guitar. I have also had the pleasure of working with a Hi desert duo called Arroyo Rogers as well as inspirational singer Will Kelly. When I play outside of the desert I play with LA people like violinist Tony Selvage and keyboardist Wayne White.
MJ: Tell me about your upcoming show this Friday at The Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs and what other shows you have planned?
MH: “So Friday, I will be working with Thom and Rick and a special guest. We are going to do some songs from the upcoming un-named recording and a couple of our favorite covers. For most of October, I will be in and out of the desert working in the Bay Area. I’m planning a CD release for mid to late November.”
MJ: What is your most recent album and what can our readers expect to hear while listening to it? Any others in the works?
MH: “My most recent recording is entitled The Ways of Love. It is ten original songs based on the Book of Psalms. The songs are not so much religious as they are spiritual. It was great to work with the text and to update it so that the lyrics have a contemporary meaning. The music is mostly vocals with some percussion. It was recorded in Los Angeles and was produced by Linda Tillery. She is an amazing singer and percussionist from the Bay Area. I am just going into the studio again at the end of September to make a new recording of material that has been written since I moved to the desert in 2013.”
MJ: How would you describe your writing style and what influences your original music?
MH: “The new recording is totally influenced by my time in the desert. When I came out here to visit, I had no intention of staying, but I after a few days, I felt no desire to go back. Many think the desert is a cool place just to hang out, but for me, I have never been so busy being creative. The desert expands you that way. I even took on a songwriting partner, my bass player, Thom, which was something I never thought I would or could do. Those are some of my/our best work. My songwriting is influenced by relationships, spirituality, nature. The music is not overtly political, but those topics are always personally political.”
MJ: You are a very creative soul. What other arts are you involved in?
MH: “I am also an actress and last season, I had the pleasure and the fun of working with the Hi Desert Cultural Center in Joshua Tree in two productions: “The Spitfire Grill” and “Motherhood Outloud.” I also star in a Wild West show in Pioneertown called “Showdown in Pioneertown.” It’s an ongoing show and I play the part of the saloon owner. So in addition to music, I am also looking forward to doing more acting.”