Miles Nielsen Talks Tour Strategies and Why There Are Seven Members of his Five Piece Band

March 17, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

We had a 1992 Ford Club Wagon that we bought for $2500 from a baptist church 4 years ago, we put about 60K miles on it and it was a really great van for the time we had it. We have since upgraded and sold Old Blue to our Milwaukee friends the Sleepwalkers. We jumped from 1992 to 2012 in a day. We bought a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter (The Silver Spoon) which is an amazing piece of Germany engineering. I’m not a fan of trailers, so given the headroom and extended back end, we don’t have to pull a trailer. We’ve put a little over 60k miles on it in the last two years, which really seems like a small amount considering all the time we spend on the road. I would relate that to good routing and the fact that it sits parked if we are not touring.  It gets pretty good gas mileage (it is diesel)  between 18-20 mpg, depending on city vs. highway driving. The one thing to keep in mind is you have less frequent maintenance with a diesel, but, since it is a Mercedes, they really get you on the tune ups and oil changes. I had to adjust how I saved $ for that expense.  Thankfully we have had good luck with the Silver Spoon thus far.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

It’s damn near impossible to do both. Road food is the worst. We don’t do the fast food thing, we typically will wait until we arrive at our destination to seek out a reasonably healthy option. On occasion we get our rider filled, which is great. We save the peanut butter, hummus, bread, water etc., and that will give us road snacks for a few days. Unfortunately, it’s just more expensive to eat healthy on the road, most of the band doesn’t mind paying a bit extra to feel way better.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

We go through a lot of guitar strings, I would say easily 6 sets a week. Thankfully, we have a deal with D’Addario that really helps cut down on the cost of strings. A few hundred dollars a year is pretty realistic. Then you throw in drum heads, batteries, gaffers tape, reads, cables… That’s easily over $500 a year. The hard part about this expense, is where does the money come from?  It’s really a hidden cost to the outside observer. When factoring your band’s guarantee, all of these things have to be taken into consideration.

Where do you rehearse?

We are very lucky to have a studio that sits on a 12 acre farm outside Rockford, IL. The wildlife is something to witness and hear late spring – fall. It is a beautiful space to create.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

I was 4 years old, I had scraped my knee pretty bad and was starting to think that the wound may never heal. That when I penned “no new skin ever again.” It was never released.

Describe your first gig.

I think my first gig was at my neighbor’s graduation party when I was 14, we were terrible.  The Marks family, who lived two doors over, let us rehearse in their basement, so I’m thinking their logic was: “if we ask them to play Courtney’s graduation, they have to finally learn some songs all the way through.” It worked.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

My last day job was in 1998-2000, I worked at Electrical Audio in Chicago, IL. Steve Albini was a great person to work for, he allowed and encouraged all his employees to play music, so I did.

A favorite day job?  I enjoyed making sub sandwiches when I was 15 at a place called The Treat Shop.  They steamed their subs, I still crave them to this day.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

It has become way more consistent, but so has my work ethic.  Once I had kids, I kind of decided to start really focusing in on the financial side of music.  I study and learn everyday, and I am always on the clock, so to speak.

I do want to mention that we are a 5 piece band and have 1 full time crew member (Skicat).  I treat the band as a 7th member when it comes to paying out. It helps to put money back in.  I also never pay out on merch sales, as we always put the money made back into our product.

5-10 years from now? I’m hoping in each year it gets a little easier to breathe. Hard work is my model, I expect a vacation this next year would suit me just fine too.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

I think I would have done a lot less “touring to tour” and spent a lot more time on supporting larger artists. That can really burn you out, and cause you to lose sight of what it is you’re trying to achieve. I suppose more big picture.

Somewhere between a bar and the recording studio, Miles Nielsen stirs up his own pop rock brand of Beatles-eque Cosmic Americana. Pop rock arrangements and sunny melodies tucked between a long lost country folk steel guitar floating through speakers around crashing drums, bouncing bass lines and smooth as butter keys.

The differences between Miles Nielsen and his father, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen: Miles writes gentler songs that break your heart and ice up your windshield, and he also plays on a guitar with one neck instead of six.

Miles co-owns a recording studio in Rockford, IL, FUSE, that has served as the recording home to Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons. He has worked with many artists such as Augie Meyers, Lonnie Brooks, Gabriel Reed, Cheap Trick, and The Good Year Pimps. From writing and performing his own tunes to recording and performing on other artists songs, Miles Nielsen continues to help carry out that very rare rock n’ roll torch that only few can claim out loud, “that sound?… it came from the Midwest.”

Nielsen’s most recent studio release is Presents The Rusted Hearts.  You can connect with Nielsen online and on the road.