Buddy and Julie Miller Celebrate Johnny and June
'June,' is the title of one of the songs on 'Written in Chalk,' the new album by married songwriting couple Buddy and Julie Miller. And, yes, it's a song about the late June Carter Cash, written in 2003 by Julie Miller in the moments after her husband broke the news to her that June had passed away. The Millers certainly were not the only ones who expected that June would outlive her husband of 35 years (Johnny Cash died four months later), but it was a loss that resonated so deeply with both of them, in part because as a married couple who often write and record together, which they've been doing since the late 1970s, they felt a kinship with Johnny and June on a level to which few others can relate.
In an in-depth interview with the creative couple, Julie tells Paste magazine about the day she wrote 'June.'
"There was supposed to be an eclipse that night, only the weather had changed to clouds and rain," she says. "In the midst of this, I just went outside in the rain and looked up into the sky. It was as if all nature was expressing this sorrow of the loss of this amazing, incredibly goodhearted woman. Though Heaven had to be rejoicing to gain her, it was crying for all of us on Earth who had lost her."
"She showed me the guitar part, and we recorded it right there in our home studio," adds Buddy. "She wrote it just to send to John, not for anything but to comfort his heart, like songs can do. That night it felt like Nashville had become a different place, and that song paints a picture of that feeling."
'Written in Chalk' earned Buddy one of his five nominations at this year's Americana Music Association Awards. The success of the album has been a bright spot for the couple, who've faced their share of adversity. In February, Buddy suffered a heart attack while on tour, and Julie continues to battle fibromyalgia -- a disease of debilitating fatigue, heightened chemical sensitivity and chronic pain. And less than 24 hours before learning that June Carter Cash had passed away, Julie received a call that her brother, Jeff Griffin, had been struck by lightning and killed while mowing his mother's yard in Waxahachie, Texas.
In spite of the grief and hardship the couple have endured, together and separately they have also crafted some thoughtful and exuberant -- if not entirely mainstream -- country music, covered by artists including Dierks Bentley, Brooks and Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Dixie Chicks and Emmylou Harris.
And although the Millers weren't close friends with the Cashes, Julie did have one comical close encounter with the iconic pair.
"One time I got the last seat on a plane to Montreux [Switzerland], and I ended up in the same row as Johnny and June. She was reading a USA Today story about the Rolling Stones and said, 'Look, John, Keith [Richards] looks so good.' And he said in this deadpan voice, 'He must have had his blood changed again.'"