A Man Apart: Exclusive Interview with Miles Bonny

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Singer, producer and flugelhorn/trumpet player Miles Bonny has a croon that can put a full room at ease. There’s an enviable confidence in his delivery, as evidenced from the muted horn on “Lumberjack Soul,” currently an office favorite. The tone seems to carry a certain subtle wisdom.

“You silly city dweller,” he sings while exploring a lush forest in the song’s video. The lyric is fitting, as he has now fully embraced the persona he alludes to in the song. Currently, he’s cultivating a new start among the open landscape of northern New Mexico, where he and his family are literally re-building from scratch.

Looking for true independence, they’ve moved away from the city to design their home, build it themselves and decide exactly what they do – and don’t – need to live a fulfilling life.

While most would find such a reboot too daunting to actually pursue, Bonny views it as an opportunity to learn more skills and grow as a human being. “It’s a way of starting fresh and then building back up to whatever matches our needs,” Bonny says.

While we had him on the phone from New Mexico, he noted how growing up with a professional musician father opened his ear, shared the vision he’s looking to create with his family out in New Mexico and elaborated on what those unfamiliar with his work with producer B. Lewis can expect during their performance on the RBC Jazz Beyond Stage.

What was it like for you growing up with a father who was a professional trumpet player? Did his influence lead you to take a similar creative path?

I think in many ways, my relationship with my dad – him being around and watching him play at different gigs – really laid a foundation that was unique compared to other people’s childhoods. As an adult, I’m learning how everything – from going with him to symphony rehearsals and Latin gigs, where I got to meet people like Tito Puente – greatly influenced my understanding of the realities of the day-to-day music business as a whole.

With him doing so many gigs and taking on full-time jobs like playing on Broadway, I think I was encouraged to create music more often to keep my relationship with music fresh so it never felt like a job I didn’t enjoy. I think that’s why I became interested in recording, and thankfully those recordings went on to gain the interest of other people.

It sounds like that upbringing exposed you to a number of musical styles from a young age. Do you think that really influenced the way you look at music today?

Yeah, that’s accurate. In addition to performing and singing, I also enjoy sharing recordings from a wide variety of genres. Growing up exposed to classical music as well as Latin and jazz, and then growing up around New York in the 80s and 90s during hip hop, all those things were kind of mixed together [in my mind]. I really do have an appreciation not only for the music that later became popular, but also music that didn’t really go very far because there’s still value in what [those artists] created. It’s still on par with the bigger names of whatever period the artists created in.

In addition to your musical side, you have a PR firm and are even available for weddings. With so much dividing your time, what is it about certain projects that really catches your attention?

I kind of view everything that I do with my time, outside of my family or things I do just for myself, as social work. I just feel as though I have some skills to lend the world. Over time, it seems as though music and communication are things I can help others with. I’m just kind of fulfilling a societal role in that way.

As I learn and pursue that, I’m also thankfully able to choose things that I gain personal enjoyment from. In addition to recording music, I’m currently learning a wide variety of skills pertaining to construction in a community in northern New Mexico. I’m building houses and play houses and learning about gardening. Even though I live in New Mexico now, I’m still involved in a school in Kansas City and helping them share what they do because they do amazing work.

What brought you out to New Mexico in the first place?

My family and I realized that there were certain things that we didn’t want to have to do. [For example], in many cities it’s actually illegal to live in a dwelling that doesn’t have certain utilities. Given the nature of the business interest that is behind so many aspects of our society, we were just seeking a greater degree of freedom toward living a more simple life that fits who we are as people rather than trying to fit into a box demanded of us by others.

There’s also something about the beauty of the city that really struck us. The power of nature – everything from the storms to the changing temperatures every day to the terrain being a mix of desert and forest. All those things are just really energizing and fulfilling to us. I definitely feel that it’s the right place to be at this time.

You’ve mentioned that in New Mexico, you’re currently living as “minimally and self-sustainably as possible.” How do you define that?

We found a place that we really liked and then put all our savings into purchasing raw land that hadn’t been developed yet. Through the process of creating a place to live, we’re utilizing as many locally sourced materials and even getting them ourselves, whether it’s timber from the forest or lava rocks from the local mine. [I have to give] a lot of credit to our neighbors who already have these skills, but it’s just an amazing process to not rely so much on purchasing everything for our lives but actually creating it to our own vision.

For your upcoming Summer Fest performance, you’ll be linking up once more with local producer B. Lewis. For those unfamiliar with the Egg Black EP you two released last year, what can listeners expect when they enter the Pagoda to see your set?

I think they’ll find that it’s audibly an electronic composition mashed with live singing and flugelhorn playing. I think the listener will find that B. Lewis is not only an electric composer and beat maker but that he has an amazing ear for composition and chords and arrangements. To me, it’s modern music that’s not trying to fit into any one box – it’s just kind of jazz and soul and hip hop and classical composition all in one.

Miles Bonny will appear on the RBC Jazz Beyond Stage with B. Lewis Fri Aug 9 @ 9pm. The duo will also open for Derrick Hodge Sun Aug 11 @ 8pm on the RBC Jazz Beyond Stage.