Multi-instrumentalist and composer will debut “I was wrong about most things to do with other people” with octet at Vanderelli Room on Saturday

Last summer and fall, musician Caleb Miller read Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. At the same time, Miller began to intentionally spend more time with other people in physical spaces.

“People are probably more connected digitally than ever before, but I think people don't feel that way, or at least that's been my impression. Anxiety, depression, suicide — all those things have risen in the last five, six years,” Miller said recently by phone, emphasizing the importance of being around other people “just for the sake of it.”

While regularly meditating, a thought occurred to Miller over and over again: “I was wrong about most things to do with other people.”

“A lot of my meditations have been surrounded in emotional awareness and emotional regulation, and that's just the thing I kept thinking to myself,” said Miller, a keyboardist, saxophonist and composer who set out to write a piece of music to match that recurring thought. But he wanted to approach this project in a new way.

“I really wanted to add a sort of casualness to the creation,” he said. “I used to do everything with so much grit, like everything's a magnum opus. … This was the first thing that I did slowly over time.”

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While composing, Miller began writing with specific musicians in mind, some of whom overlap with him in a number of other projects ranging from jazz improvisation to indie rock: Radarhill, Sun Trash, Here Here, Keating, Francis Bacon Band, Worms Rise Up and more. “No matter what project I'm in, I always want it to be a synthesis of worlds [and] something that strives to be itself,” said Miller, who also teaches at a public school in Groveport.

Last year, Miller also launched Very Much Recordings, issuing five releases in its first year. “I make and record a lot of things, and I've always self-released a lot of things, so a lot of it was just having a home for those things. And so many friends are in that position, too,” he said. “I'm also concerned with the Midwest and making music where I am. I think that can be shied away from. … I try not to shy away from the Midwest.”

After slowly chipping away at a new piece of music, and then visiting venues that would be conducive to a performance, Miller landed on the Vanderelli Room, which, barring a coronavirus cancellation, will host Caleb Miller and seven other musicians for “I was wrong about most things to do with other people” on Saturday, March 14, with an opening set by Sea State. The octet will feature Miller on keyboard and sax, Justin Dickson on tenor sax, Troy Kunkler on drums, Nick Weckman on trombone, Nick Simko on trumpet, Andrew Kovaleski on alto sax, Abhilasha Chebolu on guitar and Jason Snoody on tuba.

“There's a lot of improvising in the piece, but it is all composed. The improvising is all within a process or a structure,” Miller said. “It's very dense. It can be pretty loud at times, but there’s a little pretty section, too. Oh, and I do a lot of shouting.”