Downtown’s Busiest Lady: Diane Miller

Charly Haley, MSUM Multimedia Journalism

Diane Miller plays many genres of music.

FARGO, N.D. – She may be found in a dark downtown music venue, with lights and a band behind her, yelling to an audience “Yo, we’re D Mills & The Thrills and we’re from right here in Fargo.”

She could also be found behind a desk in a quiet office at the Brownstone on 8th downtown.

If she’s not in either of those places, maybe she’s holed up somewhere with her acoustic guitar, searching for the right note.

Whether she’s writing songs, rapping on stage, editing newspaper stories or teaching guitar, Diane Miller stays busy.

“It seems like a lot, but I enjoy what I do,” Miller said.

The 26-year-old performs music in downtown Fargo with D Mills & The Thrills, Heavy is the Head and under her own name, Diane Miller. She teaches guitar and banjo lessons at Marguerite’s Music in Moorhead, Minn., and she’s also editor of Fargo’s alternative weekly newspaper, the High Plains Reader.

Working as an editor

Diane Miller performs folk music on banjo and guitar, and teaches lessons for both instruments.

The High Plains Reader is distributed throughout Fargo every Thursday, and is free for anyone to pick up.

“It’s an alternative newspaper, so we put more focus on local music and artists,” Miller said. Some of the newspaper’s goals are to help people learn about art and entertainment events in the area and to draw attention to the work of local artists. High Plains Reader also prints some miscellaneous, non-art feature stories, Miller said.

Miller started at High Plains Reader as the music editor, in fall of 2011. In March, she became the editor.

As editor, Miller works in High Plains Reader’s downtown office contacting writers, assigning stories, editing and writing stories.

“High Plains Reader definitely keeps me busy,” Miller said.

She has interns who help at the paper, too, she said.

“The best thing about High Plains is the flexibility,” Miller said. Although she’s editor, her schedule is still flexible enough for her to find time to practice and play music, and work with other musicians’ schedules.

Heavy is the Head

A few of the musicians Miller coordinates her schedule with are the other members of nine-piece reggae band Heavy is the Head.

“Of all the bands, I’m probably most active with Heavy is the Head,” Miller said. “It’s just really, really fun music.”

Before joining Heavy is the Head, Miller didn’t listen to much reggae music, she said. Now, she loves it, and describes Bob Marley as brilliant.

Miller plays a gig with Heavy is the Head one or two times a week. They play reggae cover songs at Fargo-Moorhead events and bars.

“It’s fun music to have at events,” she said.

Miller didn’t pay much attention to reggae music while growing up because she was listening to rap.

“I grew up listening to rap music, ever since elementary school,” Miller said.

Time by D Mills & The Thrills

D Mills & The Thrills

For a little more than a year, Miller has been rapping with D Mills & The Thrills. They play a couple of covers, but it’s mostly all original songs.

Diane Miller raps with D Mills & The Thrills.

“It’s hip-hop with a live band,” Miller said, which is somewhat unusual, because rappers often perform with DJs or pre-made beats.

D Mills’ sound is even more unusual because she’s a female rapper.

“It really expands our audience,” she said. “Even older people like D Mills.”

Folk music and teaching

When Miller’s fans simply see “Diane Miller,” they won’t be hearing reggae or rap – she also plays folk music.

“They’re songs I write on my acoustic guitar,” she said. “I like to write music.”

Miller’s folk-writing inspiration is drawn from the other genres of music she performs and listens to.

“It’s definitely not traditional folk music. It’s my own twist on it, but it’s rooted in folk,” she said.

Between her three bands, Miller mostly plays at downtown Fargo venues, like The Aquarium, the Hotel Donaldson, Sidestreet Grille & Pub and the VFW.

In addition to playing music and working at High Plains Reader, Miller also teaches guitar and banjo lessons at Marguerite’s Music in Moorhead.

With two jobs and three bands, it would seem that Miller may get overwhelmed, but she said she likes being busy, and she loves everything she’s doing.

Upcoming shows:

Oct. 13: D Mills opens for DJ Spooky. Plains Art Museum, Fargo. 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Photos and audio courtesy of Diane Miller.

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