BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Mark Miller: Who's The Real Sawyer Brown?
By Mia Evans and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Scott Ross [reporting]: He’s not your average country superstar. Mark Miller’s the founder and frontman of the group, Sawyer Brown. But he doesn’t sing about cheatin’ hearts. Much of his music reflects his deep Christian roots.
After more than 25 years together, the band just released it 20th album, and Mark attributes their staying power to their uncompromising faith. I visited Mark at his studio in Franklin, Tennessee, where he talked openly about his unlikely claim to fame, overcoming his biggest fear, and that name that’s topping the charts.
Ross: Everyone asks the question, but for people who don’t have the education or are so knowledgeable… I’m driving around, and I see Sawyer Brown this, Sawyer Brown that. There are various roads, lanes, and things. You’re not Sawyer Brown; you’re Mark Miller.
Mark Miller: Right.
Ross: So who’s Sawyer Brown?
Miller: We actually took the name from a road here in Bellevue, TN. It’s Sawyer Brown Road. When we put the band together we came up with this fictitious name. But still to this day, 20 times a day someone will call me Sawyer. I always answer to it.\
Ross: Is there such a person?
Miller: From what I understand, the road separated Sawyer Farm from the Brown Farm, and it ended up being called Sawyer Brown Road.
Ross: The group itself was formed where?
Miller: Here in Nashville. Hobie and I moved up from Florida.
Ross: Hobie being?
Miller: Our keyboard player. He and I moved from a little town in Poplar, FL, in 1980. We all met here. Everybody kinda congregated in Nashville to pursue a music career. We initially put the group together to play around, do some studio work, and make some rent money.
Ross: You look like you may have made it (laugh).
Miller: I think so.
Ross [reporting]: The band known as Sawyer Brown was introduced to America on television’s biggest talent show...
Miller: Well, Star Search was the name of it. Ed McMahon was the host. I tell my kids, we were the original American Idols, and they go yeah, right Dad. (laugh)
Ross: Play the old tapes.
Miller: It was 1983, and it went all the way to 1984. We ended up winning the competition.
Ross: Was that the launch pad for you?
Miller: That was. That was incredible. That was to see what the power of TV will do.
Ross: How did it change your life at that point?
Miller: Initially, I tell you success is a whole different animal, and Satan knows our weaknesses. I think with me he just gradually tried to lead me away from really the kind of person who I was growing up.
Ross [reporting]: Mark Miller grew up in a blue-collar family that attended a Pentecostal church. By age 13, he surrendered his life to Christ. A firm foundation he would later need to save him from the trappings of success.
Miller: With success comes pressure. I’m very competitive, and sometimes that is not a good thing. It took about a year and a half for me to settle in and say this is just my job -- just like everyone checks in and goes to work when they come home... For me I had to treat the whole celebrity and fame thing like it was a job.
Ross: They that the four big traps for people who make it – and you mentioned one of them – is money, fame, sex, power. How have you avoided those pitfalls over the years because they’ve all come at you I’m sure?
Miller: Maybe it was because [of] I was raised. To this day I’ve never drank a beer. I never have. I was always taught that was wrong. If you do something that makes you do something that you normally wouldn’t do, then you’re not supposed to do that. Probably the one thing I struggled with early on was maybe the power. I really didn’t struggle with the sex thing or anything like that. It was mostly just keeping myself grounded, because Satan knows how competitive I am.
Ross: How long have you been married?
Ross: Then I’ll ask your wife (laugh)
Miller: 17, coming up on 17 years.
Ross: You hope you got that right.
Ross: Yeah and maintaining a marriage, two kids, being a husband, plus all the other stuff you do, how do you manage that?
Miller: Everything revolves around putting God first, and my family second and then everything else has to come after that.
Ross: Talking about the music for a minute. How would you define your music?
Miller: In simple terms, it’s country rock.
Ross [reporting]: …And at times it delivers a very Christian message.
A man hanging on a wooden cross
giving everything to save the lost
not knowing what he's going through
somebody said "you don't have a prayer
if you're the king come on down from there"
the man just turned his head
looked up and stared. ~ “They Don’t Understand”
Miller: I even wondered early on why God didn’t put me in Christian music, growing up the way I did. Then I had to come to terms with God needs Christian bankers, God needs Christian teachers and Christian country rock singers. It really wasn’t a path I even wanted to go down. I had no intentions of ever being in a band or singing in public in front of anyone. That was not my dream. My dream was to be a professional basketball player.
Ross: But you’re not 7 feet tall.
Miller: No, I’m not, and I realize that. (laugh) That’s where the road split, and I went to the right.
Ross: Sitting here talking with you now, you’re quiet and soft-spoken. What is it that turns in you when you hit the stage?
Miller: Well I grew up in the Pentecostal church.
Ross: Oh, there it is.
Miller: Really I feel music. I feel it through every ounce in me. All through my bones. You know something rhythmic comes on. There's just something that comes alive. The other thing is that I think the church I grew up in, you really just learn to let yourself go. That’s what I do on stage is I really have fun.
Ross [reporting]: Behind the scenes, Mark is a Grammy and Dove award-winning producer for Casting Crowns… He discovered the band and signed them to his own record label, Beach Street Records.
Miller: Yeah, they’re doing very well. I’m embarrassed to even say that because I’m so humbled by what’s happened in their career. God literally just kind of chose me to be here.... Mark Miller has traveled a road he didn’t choose on his own. And he’s trusting God to keep him there. My faith has grown, and I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen how big God is and how powerful -- all the way from our own personal weaknesses. I’ve had an incredible shyness. That’s why I tell you it was never my dream to be in a band or singing in public. I wouldn’t ever read out loud in high school because I had this incredible fear. But I know if God’s opening these doors, you have to get to the point where you walk up to that door and say, "I’m gonna walk through this because He’s brought me to this door." I’ve done enough of that throughout my life that it really has instilled my faith in knowing that there is a God. He’s powerful, and He’s watching over all of us. He cares for us.
Contact Scott Ross.
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