In the lonely hours of midnight, when New York city's lying wide awake, tuck your shirt into your trousers, comb back your hair and hold hands with the evening. It's time to step out of the house and make your classic mark on the world.
Singer, songwriter Tor Miller innocently flirts with the past, delicately transporting an older generation through to the current day, grasping onto a traditional era that has since started to fade. His upcoming album 'American English' combines a mixture of genres and times with a modern twist, letting his story-telling lyrics lead the way. Gelling his hair, tightening the buckle on his jeans and performing a hip shake, he's like a 21st century Danny Zuko. Growing up in the city that never sleeps, his warm New York twang carries through his crispy voice. Found in a candle lit underground Brooklyn bar, playing a grand Yamaha piano, where each dusty key touched tells it's own story. Transparent lyrics and touching melodies pour from his mouth like flowing Budweiser on tap. Eyes closed, he steps on the piano peddle, curling his mouth into a smile; 'Baby Blue what should I do.'
Now on tour in his home from home, Cecilie Harris
captures Tor, as he shimmies through the streets of Soho in his colourful Katie Eary silk shirt. We are welcomed into his new playground, a dingy London venue, where he will later take over the stage to tease fans with songs from his debut album. It's all grease and cool moves in the mirror tonight.
Hey Tor, how are you doing, and how did you find the shoot today?
I’m doing well, I’ve been enjoying my time here in London - it kinda feels like home here now, because I have been coming here on and off since I was 18. Yeah, the shoot was good, it’s definitely something I’ve become accustomed to as times goes on.
What was it like growing up in New York?
It gave me a massive sense of independence. I think anyone that grows up in a big city has their wits about them, you have to know how to survive and get around. I was born in Manhattan, then we moved to Brooklyn for a bit, then eventually we moved to New Jersey.
Has music always been a big part of your life?
Growing up, my mum and dad always had the radio on. I used to listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra with my dad, and when I moved to New Jersey and still went to school in New York, they used to give me a lot of old records to listen to for my journey. It’s something that has always been there I’ve always been singing and I started playing piano when I was about 8 or 9.
Your album is out next month, are you excited for it?
Yeah it couldn’t come any sooner really. It has been finished for a year now, so it’s just the waiting game. You sit on some of these songs for like four years.
It’s called 'American English', is that something to do with the fact you’re split across both countries?
Definitely, I think it also stems from how the slang is so different in the two countries. During my time in England I picked up a lot of the slang, so I'd say I definitely have a mixture of both countries in me in a way.
How do you feel about your upcoming tour?
Performing is probably my favourite part of being an artist. I’ve been on stage since I was young, so it comes quite naturally to me. I get really excited for shows. The US is such a beautiful country too and there is so much to see, so I get excited to just travel and see different parts. The North West of the United States is so beautiful.
If you could take three things on tour what would they be?
I’d take my computer, so I could work on new music. I would take some sort of book, although I probably wouldn’t read it, but it’s nice to take for peace of mind, and I’d bring a neck pillow. People overlook that one, but it’s important.
Is fashion important to you?
I think so, I always want to look good. I think I have quite a classic style, but in terms of brands and all of that I’m not really that bothered. I would definitely like to grow in fashion knowledge as time goes on.
Do you ever get compared to older icons in the way that you look?
Yeah, for sure, I’ve had Elvis and James Dean a couple of times.
Do you take any musical inspiration from any older stars?
Yeah, I think so. Growing up my father listened to a lot of artists like The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, so they were important in my formative years. I think maybe subconsciously you might be influenced, and all combined was engraved in me. I’d say David Bowie is one person that definitely inspired me in life though.
Were you effected by his passing?
Yeah, it was really sad to see it happened, but I guess life goes on.
If you could have lived in generation what would it be?
I’d love to experience the 70s in New York, but I’m happy with this generation.
Do you ever switch off from music?
I try to sometimes, it gets to a point where it gets a little too much. When you’re constantly around people from the industry that talk about music you sometimes need a break. Luckily my parents have a farm in New Jersey, so it’s good to go there and have a break, especially after a long tour it’s important to switch off.
What does a normal day for you consist of?
It varies a lot, it could be like this, when it includes a shoot or press stuff - or a normal day could be where I just wake up on the farm and hang about there. I have both extremes, which is really good for my mind.
If you were allowed a day off, what would you do?
I’d probably chill on the farm or maybe walk around the city. It’s crazy, because the farm is only an hour from New York and 20 minutes from the beach, so you have it all. It’s real small town vibes.
How would you describe yourself to others?
I’m pretty laid back, kind, all the normal shit that people say. I'm pretty down to earth I guess.
What would you say the best part of your journey so far?
I think from when I was younger I always had a romantic vision of being on the road and travelling, and this year I’ve been able to do it, so that’s been an important journey for me. It’s just what you make it really. When you get a couple of days in a city it’s really nice to go around and see it all. I always wanted to do a cross country trip and it was only half way through a tour I did that I realised I was actually doing it.
What are your lyrics about?
On this record a lot of them were about a relationship I was in and the city that surrounded us during that time. It’s about all the experiences we shared together.
What do you want to bring to people with your music?
I just want people to take whatever they want from it. I guess I just wanna convey real emotions, so that people can connect with it. I think there’s a lot of oversaturated stuff in the world of music,so I want to bring real music.
Do you ever get people contacting you about what your music has done for them?
Yeah, it’s a really great feeling when you get messages from people saying that your songs have comforted them through dark times, it’s kinda what it’s all about. There are songs that have made me feel a lot better when I’ve felt shit, so if my songs can do that for people then that’s great.
Do you feel that the Scandinavian in you helps you be more honest?
Definitely, I think it’s why I’m very open. I try to be pretty transparent with everything I do, because I think people respond deeper.
What do you think of your generation?
I guess my generation varies with a lot of things, it can be pretty overwhelming, because you can have access to everything, but that can also be a great tool. I think in regards to music it can be difficult, because there’s so much out there now. It also means people have the opportunity to do that.
What would you say the future holds for you?
I want to keep releasing records I enjoy, and hopefully others enjoy. I have a few goals that I would like to do, like there's a venue in my hometown that I would love to sell out.
Tor's debut album 'American English'
is out on 30th September, pre-order it on his website
Interview and words by Ede Dugdale.