In Episode 4 of AMC’s Showville, the residents of Athens, Ohio chose The Miller Family singers as the winning act of the local talent contest. In this interview, Doug, Pat and daughters Ashley, Elizabeth and Amber discuss writing the winning song and why they got mooned on the streets of Athens.
Q: In addition to singing, you also run beauty pageants?
Doug: Yeah, we own Pure American pageants. In our family, from momma through the girls, they’ve all enjoyed competing in pageants. They got started a few years ago and started winning some major titles. After a while, we decided that we’d like to put something together that would be a Christian-based type pageant system. We felt we could build pageants that would have lessons — lifelong lessons that the girls could take away from them. So ours really isn’t a beauty pageant so much as it is a learning pageant.
Q: Ladies, do you think your pageant background helped you to win the Showville contest?
Ashley: I do feel that it helped because of the experience that we had onstage. The presentation that comes along with pageantry, we were able to morph it over into this competition. So a lot of it just came from the confidence we had from being onstage and performing so often.
Q: Is there ever sibling rivalry as to who’s the best singer?
Amber: I don’t think there is. We kind of have our parts that we sing. Ashley can’t really hear harmony, so she usually takes the lead. I usually sing the alto part and Liz usually takes the tenor line or the soprano lines. So we don’t really find any rivalry with the singing. Ashley and I tend to have a little more growl to our voices, whereas Liz is a little more high-pitched. So if we need a softer sound, we usually let Liz take it over. It really comes down to the song and what it needs.
Video: The Miller Family’s Performance from Episode 104: Showville
Q: You tried out some dancing during rehearsal. Who has the best dance moves in the family?
Elizabeth : Well, our dad definitely does not have the best dance moves. And my mom is not far behind him. [They all laugh]. But my sisters and I, we all cheered for years… But it was a little uncomfortable for us. We’re used to singing gospel music and with gospel you just kind of start singing and go with the flow whenever you feel it, wherever God leads you. We’re not used to the Brady Bunch-style dancing, as we call it, where you have in-sync dancing and it’s all planned out
Q: How did it feel, incorporating movement into your act?
Amber: The three of us girls felt comfortable from the beginning because all the movement that Lisette had us doing were pretty natural with the words in the song. We probably would have ad-libbed our movements, so they probably would have been things we were doing anyhow. I don’t think Dad was ever comfortable —
Doug: I wasn’t comfortable —
Amber: I think he was worried about being made fun of. Which happens anyhow, so I don’t know why he was worried about the music part. [They all laugh] But he ended up pulling it off and that’s really all that matters.
Q: You worked a lot on choreography with Lisette. What did Alec help you most with?
Doug: Have fun!
Pat: Yeah, to just have fun with it. A lot of times doing gospel music, people don’t think you should have fun. You have to be really serious with it. He helped us to let loose and to enjoy everything that we were doing. Alec really talked to us about stage presence. We’re used to doing our own thing, but of course, we still make sure to pull people in with our vocals, our presence, eye contact, with our body language. We just seem to do that naturally, not really so much staged. What they were teaching us is that it’s okay to be staged at the same time. It was tough trying to combine the dance with this patriotic song that I wrote for the show. So learning to overcome that discomfort was probably the best thing that we learned from Alec.
Q: So you wrote that song specifically for the show?
Pat: Yes. We did “When the Saints Go Marching In” for the audition, but we wanted to be prepared in case we got into the final four. We were trying to figure out what we would sing. Once we found out that we were asked to come back a song list was put up and they told us to go on there and pick out a song. We thought there were a lot of songs on there that weren’t appropriate for a family and not necessarily the styles that we wanted to try. My husband and I were sitting around the table one night and we had the news on TV and there’s just so much turmoil going on. I just looked at him and said “If this nation could just come together and we could just be one and help one another wouldn’t that be awesome?” So from there, the song was birthed and within minutes the words came and we wrote it. Then we came up with kind of a tune and we called a friend who had a recording studio and hired him. Within two days we had the soundtrack, we had the vocals done and we just practiced and practiced. We’re actually planning on recording that song on future CD we’re making.
Q: You had some fans in the crowd wearing crowns and sashes. Who were they?
Elizabeth: We did have a few of our queens from our Pure American pageants. We’ve also done a few charity fundraising pageants where we just host them and anyone can be in them. The proceeds go to various organizations, whether it’s for cancer research or a food drive. Some of those people were queens who represented those local charity pageants as well.
Q: While you were promoting the show you got mooned on the street. Does that happen a lot in Athens?
[They all laugh] Pat: That day on the campus of Ohio University somebody had robbed a store and he had a gun, so they closed the campus down. All of the kids were out early. Athens is a big party town, so all of the kids hit the bars. There were a lot of drunk kids around. Anyway, we were walking down the street and these kids just ran up and mooned us. But I think they thought that the camera crew with us were still part of the news crew covering the campus incident. He ran away, then came back and mooned us again. So we got several shots of that.
Showville airs Thursdays at 10/9c on AMC.