From the Promoter
After dropping out of college two years in to chase his musical dreams, Tor Miller found himself living them in real time. In early 2014, the Brooklyn native signed to independent label Glassnote Records, putting his professional career on track at 20 years old. Following his debut EP Headlights the next year, he released his first full-length, American English, in September 2016, putting him on an international tour that included stops at SXSW, Lollapalooza and multiple visits to Europe.
But when he returned to the States and the tour wrapped, it all came crashing down. “I didn't have an apartment and hardly had any money after touring so much and you realize that everything comes out of your pocket in the end,” recalls Miller, now 24. Despondent, he moved back in with his parents in New Jersey, disillusioned by where he had ended up. “I was stuck back in my hometown with no prospects of what to do next—no idea.”
Depressed and uninspired, he reconnected with his old childhood mentor, a local producer, who listened to sketches of new material, inspired by the bleak suburban life he thought he’d fled for good. The sessions, recorded in one take with five instruments in a room, yielded his sophomore album Surviving the Suburbs, a stark portrait of an artist whose life didn’t materialize as planned and how he coped with it.
Leaner and simpler than the lush, full-bodied arrangements of American English, Surviving the Suburbs is an honest self-reflection framed as a musical coming of age. It’s a step forward into vibrant territory where the vitality of a live backing band gives Miller more Americana flavor, as if, he explains, “Elton John made a Bruce Springsteen record.” On the electrified title track, he intones on the chorus that “we can’t get out of here,” reflecting on how, when he returned to live with his parents, he reconnected with his townie friends who had never left and drowned his sorrows with them in alcohol and pills. The remorse sets in on the wistful “Sunday Scaries,” a piano-driven promise to oneself that, after a weekend of binge-drinking and partying, he’ll never do it again, only to repeat the same cycle once Friday rolls around.