The Sign of Love is the beautiful new album by New Zealand singer/songwriter, Grant Hindin Miller. Grant has already released several albums over the years, and his songs are loved by so many around the world.
Grant’s ability to tell stories through his music is amazing. I remember the first time I heard one of Grant Hindin Miller’s songs some 20+ years ago while I was in New Zealand. A friend played me “Nine Lighted Candles“, a song about Sulayman Khan Tabrizi, one of the followers of the Bab who was publicly tortured and killed. Halfway through the song, tears were streaming down my face; Grant’s ability to captivate the listener as the story unfolds, combined with his beautiful melodies, is an absolute work of art.
Grant Hindin Miller has also written three feature films, three books, a stage-musical, and teaches creative writing. I’ve been blessed to have gotten to know him over the years, and he recorded “O Son of Dust” and “Humble Thyself” for Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions series. I also interviewed Grant for the Ink of Light Writers’ festival. When I heard about his new album, I had to reach out to find out more and share it with the world:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Grant! Can you tell us a little bit about the album and some of the songs and themes you focus on?
You try to find tasteful ways of rendering the Writings and I like to tell stories. This album is a balance of the Writings, and of stories from Baha’i history.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as singer/songwriter, and what inspires your music?
Growing up I was exposed to examples of excellent songwriting: Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan. So I was heavily influenced by them. And also one or two European writers. I was influenced by the songs my father would play on the piano at night. All through my childhood, I listened to my father playing songs of the ’40s and ’50s – and I still have a great love and admiration for those songs.
Obviously, as a Baha’i, I’m inspired to write songs with Baha’i themes. Sometimes I’ll hear a story or read something and it will plant a seed, and that seed will grow into a song. Once in my early years, I was returning on the bus from a summer school and on the bus I read the story of Mirza Mihdi’s fall through the skylight at Akka, and I felt this electric quiver all over my body and I knew I had to write a song about him. When I got back home I spent the next two days writing a song called “The Purest Branch”. I’m incredibly receptive to stories.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope listeners will walk away with after listening to this album?
I hope the people who hear the songs will use the songs – especially the Writings – in Feasts, Holy Days, and in personal reflection. I hope the example of the heroic stories: of Zaynab, or the equally heroic story of Abdu’l-Karim, will lead them to find out more about those individuals – to go to The Dawnbreakers and read about their time and place in the history of this vital and irreplaceable Cause.
I hope the listener will be filled with awe and respect for the sacrifice of these believers – like the story of Eduardo Duarte Vieira, the first Baha’i martyr of Africa, who was persecuted in the 1960s by Christian authorities. One of the contributions an artist can make is to bear witness. I hope by framing these lives and incidents in song, that more people will discover these stories and deepen their connection with these stunning souls and celebrate them as they should be remembered and celebrated.
Baha’i Blog: Were there any personal stories or highlights you can share from the journey of making
This was a Covid album – a number of the songs were written during a two-month Lockdown.
Tom Francis, a wonderful New Zealand singer-songwriter, told me about an app where musicians can be accessed online. I was so excited about this prospect and found a wonderful harmony vocal singer called Lo in Tennessee. I developed a brilliant online association with her and she really responded to the spirit of the songs – we felt this instant rapport – and all of the harmony vocals were recorded in her studio in Tennessee and we mixed them in Auckland. It was amazing.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I wanted to call the album “Pomegranate” because that’s the national fruit of Iran – and I thought the image was inviting because it conjures up something red, round, with rich seeds inside. But when it came to creating a cover I couldn’t find an image of a pomegranate that worked. My daughter bought some pomegranates and we took photos at home but I didn’t love them. So I had to change direction and I was listening to the first track “For Mercy’”- singing four Hidden Words – and the first line said: “the sign of love” – so I thought I’ll go with that. Then I realised all the tracks are about signs of love.
I went online to look at photos of the Baha’i Shrines and found a special site with photos by Farzam Sabetien. I emailed him and asked if I could employ one or two photos – and he was so generous – and gave me his blessing to use the photos which now represent the album. I just love the lamp (attached to the Shrine of the Bab) which hangs in space like a cosmic jewel. I’m grateful to him. Baha’is are great.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Grant, and thank you for giving the gift of your beautiful music to so many of us!
‘The Sign of Love’ album can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, CD Baby, and all the streaming platforms, including, of course, the Baha’i music website 9StarMedia.com.
Check out more music from Grant Hindin Miller here on 9StarMedia.com.
You may also enjoy this video interview with Grant Hindin Miller: Grant Hindin Miller Interview at Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival 2019