Singer-songwriter Miles East will be performing at The Bitter End in New York City on July 8, marking a turning point in this artist’s career from being a drummer on national tours, to committing solely to his passion for singing and songwriting. His sound completely his own, but sharing a likeness to James Taylor, Duncan Sheik and Ray LaMontagne, East spoke with us about the inspiration he gains from the North Fork of Long Island, his new album, Ghosts of Hope, and why right now is the most memorable time in his career thus far.
What process did you go through to create “Ghost of Hope,” from the title to the lyrics, to the sound itself?
I’m very lucky to have the kind of producer that I have. Blake Morgan. He’s one of the few producers left in the industry that really cares about what you’re trying to say, and how you’re trying to say it as the artist, so that when people see you, and hear you, they know exactly who you are, and they know exactly what you’re about.
What are you inspired by?
My muse is being anywhere near and by the salt water. As far as the subject matter of my songs—every artist paints themselves. But my process is generally more retrospective than introspective. I can’t write songs about things I’m going through at the time. Sometimes I don’t get around to writing about something in my life until five or 10 years after. The reason why is because I want to come to a perspective that has more depth to it. There are only two songs I’ve ever written where I was writing about what I was going through at the time. One of the songs is on Ghosts of Hope, and it’s called “The Hard Part.” It was what I was going through. It was clear that it was dire. There was no ambiguity about it. I knew where I was, and I had to get out of there and go somewhere else. I knew where I needed to be, so the chorus of that song is kind of like the version of me in that place telling the present me—don’t worry, I’m here waiting for you when you get around to getting there.
You were quoted saying “A lot of people tend to see their lives in terms of journeys, but I’ve always seen mine in terms of destinations—emotionally, romantically, musically.” Can you elaborate more on this outlook on life, and how this is reflected in your lyrics?
That’s really what The Hard Part is all about. Here I am in a place I got to get out of, and I know where I need to be. My life has always been more the locations. It’s always about where I’m trying to get to next, and what locations— whether they be actual locations, or in the mind, or a state of being.
What did you feel as you were creating and completing your album “Ghost of Hope?”
It’s just a great feeling. This record is a milestone for me. I’ve been in the music business for going on nearly two decades now— both as a studio musician, and as a drummer, and also as a singer/songwriter. But professionally the drumming for this whole time has taken the front seat, and the singer/songwriter has been in the backseat. And now, I’ve played on over two dozen records, and for various artists, and been on national tours as a drummer, and this marks the switcheroo. And it’s not a brief thing either. This is the permanent switch now, and now I’m in the driver’s seat as the singer/songwriter.
You’ve been a drummer for recording artist and producer, Blake Morgan. What have been some of the most memorable moments in you career?
There’s been many, but I’m going to have to say that this right now is my most memorable moment— making this record and actually having it come to fruition pretty much trumps everything else I’ve experienced up to this point, and the big thing right now is my record release show that’s at the legendary Bitter End. I’m so excited. We’re going to have signed copies of the record, special guests and a few other surprises.
How does your drumming background influence your songwriting and singing?
It’s actually kind of the opposite. I attribute my success as a drummer to the fact that I’ve always been a singer/songwriter, because I approach the drums as a singer/songwriter. So in my mind, the drums have to serve the song no differently than the guitar part as to serve the song, that the lyrics have to serve the song for that matter, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
You live in Mattituck. What do you love about the East End of Long Island, and how has this landscape influenced your music?
It’s everything. It’s the air. It’s the breeze. There’s a phrase in my wife’s family, which is “It’s a perfect Mattituck day.” And it doesn’t matter that it could be the same weather 30 miles west—it’s not the same thing as being out there. It’s the combination of the salt air, the light, the topography— it’s deep. It’s not like the Caribbean where it’s almost too postcard-like, it’s too escapist. But that’s not what it’s like out there. You can go out to the North Fork and think about serious stuff. I feel a strong connection, and it’s what I’ve had a strong connection to all my life— it’s my muse—the salt water, it just makes me tick as an artist.