Q’s With Scott Boorey: On Mixing & Managing Steve Miller For 29 Years

Scott Steve Backstage 2
SPACE COWBOYS: Manager Scott Boorey and Steve Miller hang out backstage.
Photo by David Woo

Scott Boorey points to a few instances that inspired him to work in the music industry, from seeing the 1970 “Woodstock” documentary “30-40 times,” organizing a show with Elvin Bishop and Tower of Power at age 16 to raise money for his school’s marching band uniforms (with advice from none other than Bill Graham), and seeing his very first concert in 1968 when he was a junior in high school, headlined by the Steve Miller Blues Band.

“Steve didn’t really believe me, but his wife Janice has this book and it [lists] every single show Steve had ever played and sure enough – because I was almost second guessing myself at this point – it was Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California,” Boorey says.

Over the years Boorey has mixed sound for a variety of artists, been a tour manager and business manager, including managing the solo projects for multiple members of Journey. In a full circle moment he’s worked with Miller for the past 29 years (and counting), both mixing his sound and managing the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

How did you first meet Steve Miller?
Scott Boorey: Herbie Herbert called me up one day [in 1994] and said I don’t like Steve Miller’s front of house guy and I know you’re a great front of house guy. Is there any way you would consider going out and mixing Steve Miller? And at this point I was still managing … and he goes, “You stay in five star hotels, first class, etc, etc.” And I talked to my wife about it, and she said “Sure, why not go out and have some fun.” So, I did it.

And how did you start managing him?
It was a full four-month summer tour and during the tour Steve and I used to sit and we’d have lunch or dinner together in catering and I remember he would ask me questions and then the more I would answer him, the more questions he would ask me, and then he starts asking me questions about business. And I said, “Well you probably don’t realize my background. … I made a deal with David Geffen. I’ve managed this guy and that guy.” And he said, “Really? I had no idea about any of that.”

So then the questions got more and more intense and so after that the tour was over, I went home and Steve did whatever he was gonna do. And I went off as a favor of Herbie and I mixed a band called Mr. Big in a Pacific Rim tour and so we were in Kuala, Lumpur Malaysia. And I get a phone call [from Steve Miller] and he goes, “Is there any way you would consider coming to Ketchum [Idaho, Miller’s home studio] and mix all the live shows that we did? – and further things” – without saying what it was. So, I said Ssure.

So I went to Ketchum for three weeks. And I mixed during the day and then it was a three-week interview (laughs) about how I would handle his career. And at the end of the third week, he said, “Look, I want you to fly to Seattle, meet the business manager and negotiate your deal. I want you to be my manager.” And 29 years later (laughs)

Can you talk about how you juggle your roles?
The good thing about being able to mix and being a musician at one point, I could directly relate to where Steve was coming from. So he and I would talk about mixing and I would explain to him certain things and I was super hands-on. … [Both are] full-time jobs … but I was young, I was hungry and I was so into it.

Were there any shows throughout the years that really stood out to you?
Red Rock shows – we always sold them out and we would do multiples. Pine Knob [in Clarkston, Michigan] was a favorite of mine. When we went to Europe [in 2010] he had not been to Europe in 17 years. We did the Royal Albert Hall and he had always dreamed of doing it. We sold it out. And that’s a bucket list [venue] for any act. … We did the Ryman with Marty Stuart opening a couple times. I mean, the list just goes on. I would say Steve and I have done probably over 1,200 shows during my tenure.

My first year [managing Miller] I explained to him that we should start packaging with other major acts. Prior to that, we really weren’t doing that … I came up with the idea about having the Doobie Brothers support us. …

And it just so happened that Bruce Cohn, who was the manager at that time, I knew, because he was a Bay Area guy. So I called him up and I said, “Bruce, would The Doobie Brothers be interested in supporting Steve?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “I got one other thing I want to ask you – is there any chance that you could get Michael McDonald to rejoin the band?” By then Michael McDonald wasn’t even in the band anymore. He called me back and he said, “We made a deal.” And that was the third highest grossing box office tour for that genre of music that year in 1995.

What’s your philosophy as a manager?
The first thing, and I’ve always said this from day one, is a manager has to understand the artist. Steve is a legend, his catalog speaks for itself. And what I’ve tried to do is guide [his] career in such a way that rather than going south and over-playing certain markets that we’ve actually been able to succeed onward and upward, quite frankly. Now there’s been some valleys, I make no bones about that, but, generally speaking, Steve Miller during my tenure has only done one co-headline. My golden rule is he will always close and he will be the headliner. Now, if the package is extremely strong, I never have a problem giving whoever the other act is time on the radio spots, time on the TV spots [and] on the ad mat, same size print because I firmly believe there’s a reason why they’re going to be on that tour. And the reason is to sell tickets and give the fans the most bang for their buck. …

The only co-bill we ever did was with Journey [in 2014-2015] and that was a ’70s / ’80s package. And it was magical and everything sold out and it was great for Journey because they were playing in front of a ’70s act. And it was great for Steve because he was playing in front of an ’80s act. So it was a homerun for both artists.

What’s it like working with Steve for nearly three decades?
He’s a very, very smart guy. And he understands business. … As you know, he has a pretty big birthday coming. Happy birthday, Steve! And not only is he the lead singer, he’s also the lead guitar player, so he’s wearing two hats. And I have to tell you, he’s singing in the original keys, which shocks me. I can’t think of another artist his age that sings in the original keys. There’s no sampling … the band is fantastic.