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Ole Miss’ Ryan Miller Wins American Songwriter Magazine’s Lyric Competition

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Not only does Oxford resident and Ole Miss faculty member Ryan Miller find power and strength in music, it has now garnered him an award in one of the top music magazines coming out of Nashville.

Ryan Miller playing at Proud Larry’s. Photo courtesy of Ryan Miller.

“American Songwriter Magazine”—a music magazine published bimonthly—recently announced the top four winners for its November/December 2018 Lyric Contest.

The LOU community’s very own Ryan Miller took first place in the competition for his song “The Captain’s Son.”

Miller, an Oxford resident and associate director of external operations for the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, said the inspiration for his winning song came from his father who died in a car wreck almost three years ago.

His father was a very prominent person in Miller’s life and the lives of his children, he said.

Everyone who knew Miller’s father called him Captain Max due to his service in the Coast Guard, serving people and living sacrificially for others, Miller said. Writing the song, “The Captain’s Son,” was a coping mechanism for the absence of his father along with him often feeling inadequate to walk in his father’s footsteps, he said.

“I actually wrote the song shortly after our accident and had no intention of entering it in anything,” Miller said.

Possessing a passion for writing and playing music, Miller said he saw the contest online and thought to himself, “Why not?” Although he didn’t expect to win, fate, along with the judges, thought differently.

Lyrics from Miller’s “The Captain’s Son.” Photo via American Songwriter.

“American Songwriter Magazine” is one of the most respected publications out of the Music City which is dedicated to the art and craft of writing, Miller said.

Miller received an email from the editor of the music publication notifying him that he had one for his song. When he had learned he had won the lyric competition, Miller said he was in complete shock.

“I had a follow-up phone call with the magazine to go over the details,” Miller said. “I am sure I only heard a fraction of what was said because I was so excited.”

With a victory under his belt, Miller said the experience of the American Songwriter contest has now given him the energy and courage to continue entering his songs into competitions.

Even though he has now conjured up the energy and courage to continue in the realm of competition, Miller said if his musical pieces never go beyond his living room or his “Stairway Sessions,” he would still be satisfied.

“It’s still fun to dream,” Miller said. “I look forward to doing more of that.”

Ryan Miller singing in the stairwell at the Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

Miller’s “Stairway Sessions” is when he typically takes a break from the work week on Friday and slips into a unique location on campus to perform his music—stairways.

“Stairway Session” was created as Miller’s own musical therapy but has morphed into an encouragement to others to be musical, to play and to sing.

“If I were to close my eyes and describe to you what I see myself doing for a career, I think music is always going to be a part of that visions,” Miller said.

Music is a true passion of Miller’s; however, he said he still has an additional passion, as well: his job, the students, his colleagues and the mission of the University of Mississippi.

“But, music is such a part of me,” he said. “And I can’t turn that off. Let’s see what happens.”

For a full list of the winners, honorable mentions and each contestant’s lyrics—including Ryan Miller’s “The Captain’s Son”— visit Lyric Contest Winners: November/December.

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