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This filmed music series features local and nationally touring musicians performing in the Lake Effect Surf Shop in Shorewood. Live at Lake Effect is hosted by Lake Effect’s Audrey Nowakowski and Milwaukee musician Trapper Schoepp.

Rhett Miller: Live at Lake Effect

"Live at Lake Effect" is a new music series featuring local and nationally touring artists performing in the Lake Effect Surf Shop in Shorewood, Wis.

We brought the Lake Effects together, along with Visionary Studios, to showcase musicians once a month through an interview with the band exclusively on Lake Effect, plus filmed performances. Today we have Americana songwriter Rhett Miller.

You may be more familiar with Rhett as the lead singer of the Old 97's, but he's also a solo artist with eight albums out so far.

Miller's latest solo album, The Misfit, steers away from the alt-country genre into more experimental territory. "It felt like it was the right title because this record, more than anything I've ever done, feels like an outlier," says Miller.

By design, his solo records tend to be very different compared to Miller's Old 97's work. "Originally that was supposed to let the audience know why I'm making solo records," he explains. "I've got this mountain of songs that [the band doesn't] like and I need to do something with them, but I don't want to encroach upon the Old 97's territory or sound too much so I'll make these records that are weird or poppy, or just different. But [The Misfit] is the most different."

Created along with producer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Cohen, Miller explains that the pair would begin by each taking a piece or even idea of a song at the start of each workday. "Then we would separate enough to where I would go finish the lyrics and he would record a basic track of the music, we'd come back together and by the end of that evening we would have a completed song and it would be weird," he admits.

From using instruments like a Korg synthesizer, to sounds influenced by Tom Petty, Miller hopes that his fans will be generous listeners to The Misfit, just as he had to be for himself.

"I am my own first listener as I'm writing songs and as songs are going from rough mix to mix to album proper, I'm having to sort of experience it like fans are ultimately going to experience it. And I had growing pains listening to these songs, so I know some fans will have to get over the hump a little bit on this one — I hope they will," he says.

Outside of music, Miller also writes children's books and hosts the podcast "Wheels Off with Rhett Miller." He says he doesn't see a huge difference in working across these disciplines — "It's just creativity with a slightly different set of rules."

"I've always felt like art was a thing that happened like the blast from a shotgun," says Miller. "[It] sounds like a really violent metaphor, but it's that idea that it's like a scatter shot, like it's all over the place."

In what he calls his "big tent of creativity" making a living as a musician, songwriter and performer, "to take a side step and write these children's poems to me doesn't feel like that big of an aberration," says Miller.

His Wheels Off podcast has been underway for over two years, and for Miller the core of it is simply talking about creativity with creative people. "It's talking with people, originally just kind of friends, and it's now expanded into a group of people where I'm meeting people for the first time on a Zoom call and talking to them about creativity and their creative process in life. To me it's so inspiring," he says.


  • Point Shirley (0:24)
  • Go Through You (3:41)
  • Barrier Reef (7:32)


  • Rhett Miller: vocals & guitar

Live at Lake Effect Team:

  • Executive Producers: Audrey Nowakowski & Trapper Schoepp
  • Audio Engineering: Jason Rieve
  • Location: Lake Effect Surf Shop in Milwaukee
  • Production Company: Visionary Studios
  • Camera Op: Brad Roehl, Kieran Walter Sundaram & Brandon Stearns
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Trapper Schoepp is co-executive producer of Live at Lake Effect, a filmed music series from WUWM's Lake Effect.
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