This is the third time I have seen this outstanding young performer on a London stage and he keeps getting better, not in performance of his songs as this has always been at a very high standard, but in stage presence. In fact, on taking the stage at The Courtyard on Thursday evening, Tor took a few seconds to take a look at the capacity crowd in this delightful venue in Hoxton, before launching into the first of his songs and in so doing exuded a growing confidence.
Tor is a native New Yorker, born to lawyer parents who were supportive of his musical interests but probably never thought it would be a career and were keen for Tor to be well educated. By his own admission, Tor describes himself as a bit of an outcast in his school years whilst he channelled his energies into writing his music before he decided to sing at an eighth grade talent show, when he was fourteen. His music was well received and he suddenly realised he was getting a whole lot more attention, especially from girls. His influences had been the music he would listen to in his mother’s car on the way to school which included David Bowie, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac. But it’s more the influences of Ray Charles and Otis Redding that infuse his music these days, with a gospel quality which complement the undertones of Johnny Cash’s story telling.
Tor Miller recorded his first song ‘Hold The Phone’ on his iPhone when he was seventeen, attending NYU and getting a little depressed. He uploaded it to the internet where it garnered interest before it was spotted by Radio One’s Zane Lowe and played on his show. Off the back of this, Tor was snapped up by his record company Glassnote, who already boast Mumford & Sons and Chvrches, and he moved to London for a short time around the time he was 19 to promote his music. Now, back in the States, Tor is balancing performances in the UK in London and Manchester with gigs Stateside through March and April before hitting the festival season.
At the Courtyard, Tor sang through his current tracks with confidence, including fan favourites ‘Midnight’, ‘Always’, ‘Headlights’, and new single ‘Carter and Cash’. The new song is a nod to the way he and his recent girlfriend used to sign off letters to each other as well, as an obvious allusion to Johnny and June. He performed a fantastic stripped back version with his trusty keyboard which worked really well. The new single has a more upbeat backbeat when compared to other tracks and it was nice to be reminded that the track was probably born in the same way as Tor’s other songs. Tor is building a loyal fan base and when he sings “Midnight” and starts into: “Jeff Buckley’s Grace was playing loud as hell in the back of an old dive bar” the crowd not only enjoy these opening lyrics but sing them back at him with gusto. He delighted some Swedish fans when he understood their compliments (his Mum has Swedish roots) and remained cool when girls waved mobile phones virtually under his nose capturing his every move. It doesn’t hurt that Tor has a little of the young Elvis about him.
Tor Miller is a guy to watch and I would recommend you capture him in an intimate venue when his piano accompanied vocals perfectly capture his lovelorn lyrics. I really believe Tor is going places and will look forward to seeing him play next time he is back in England. It’s interesting that as he was influenced in his Mother’s car, my songwriter son lists Tor as a major influence after hearing him in my car. The world of song writing and music has that lovely symmetry to it. He and I are looking forward to the release of Tor’s debut album “American English”.