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Glen Iris: The Story of a Street, a Band and Love Songs in Eagle Rock

How two Eagle Rockers—a budding poetess and a musician—found their destiny in each other, started a band and developed a fondness for local sandwiches.

Visitors to the recent Eagle Rock Music Festival could choose from a diverse roster of music: from edgy to welcoming. Glen Iris, a local duo fronted by singer-songwriters Debbie Miller and Stephen Marr, is of the latter variety. With a spirited set list of effervescent songs and an engaging acoustic-anchored performance, the band was a perfect fit for the Family Stage.

Miller and Marr share an ongoing history in Eagle Rock. The two grew up here— Miller on Glen Iris Street, Marr on Ridgeview Avenue—and both attended the now-closed Westminster Elementary School that was located on Colorado Boulevard and Hartwick Street. 

When they met at a volunteer program, Debbie was writing poems that Stephen, already an accomplished guitarist and melody writer, encouraged her to turn into lyrics. “He found a poem and said, ‘Why don’t you sing it the way you think the words would sound,’” Debbie recalls. “He wore me down—that became our first song and the beginning of Glen Iris.”

One of the pair’s early gigs was a performance at the Eagle Rock Community Garden. “My memory is these three-, four- and five-year-old girls dancing to our music,” says Debbie. “These kids were into it. It’s not necessarily our focus, but it’s somehow fitting.”

Stephen proposed to Debbie on the campus of Occidental College, the locale where their nuptials were subsequently celebrated. They realize that maintaining both a personal and a musical partnership is a nimble balancing act. “Oh, it’s the worst!” says Stephen, with a laugh. “It’s like two separate relationships, but they’re combined.”

He clarifies: “The good part is that we’re constantly collaborating with each other. If we are inspired by something, the other person is right there.” Adds Debbie: “Ideas of songs are so fleeting that it helps to have that other person there to bounce them off of.”

The duo is supported by Joshua Monteroso (bells, keyboard and percussion) and Derek Halet (lead guitar). Two studio musicians, James Willis (cello and bass) and Spencer Wynn (drums), who originally played on tracks with Glen Iris, are also now full-time band members. Nashville-based Ryan Truso produced the sessions.

The band's eponymous debut helped it land residencies at Pasadena venues such as the Old Towne Pub, 72 North, and Kings Row. Glen Iris was also featured on local radio shows and at large-scale public events, including the Outdoor Cinema Food Fest, and this past summer at Street Food Cinema.

Last January, Glen Iris signed with Angry Mob Music Publishing, a media company that connects music to film, television, brands and advertising. With new songs already completed, the band envisions recording a full-length release in early 2013.

Debbie and Stephen recall when there were far fewer restaurant options in Eagle Rock. They profess that their favored spot for a pick-me-up is Swork Coffee, and that they are ardent fans of the opulent sandwiches at Dave’s Chillin-n-Grillin—so much that this local venue provided eats for their wedding rehearsal dinner.

Although they didn’t apply to perform at the 14th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival this year, somehow, having applied in 2011, they were selected to perform 12 months later.

“I don’t know how it happened,” Debbie speculates, “but this has been a little dream of ours. Eagle Rock is our home and we’re redefining it.” Says Stephen: “And it’s so good to play for our town.”

Check out the attached Youtube video, which features "Black and Blue, my Heart is Still not Over You"—a Glen Iris song filmed in an Eagle Rock home on Highland View Avenue.

Listen and watch more at: www.glenirismusic.com

Cheryl Leutjen October 11, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I passed by Glen Iris street after the Music Fest and I wondered if the band name was related! We only caught the last couple of songs of your set, but we loved the music. Keep it up!
Sky Minor October 11, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I love Glen Iris!
Phil October 11, 2012 at 04:57 PM
These guys are getting better all the time. RECORD THOSE NEW SONGS!! I need "Another Way" to play in my car.

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