“YOU’RE REALLY GOING TO FEEL JAKE MILLER IN THESE SONGS, BECAUSE IT’S ONLY ME.”
If you saw Jake Miller on the street, chances are you wouldn’t immediately think he’s a singer. The 26 year-old Florida native more closely resembles a a fit professional body builder than he does your average, string-bodied singer/songwriter. But for every ounce that Miller could theoretically pack in a physical punch, he brings as much passion, thought and energy to the musical table, too.
Grinding as a musician since 2011, when he won a national talent competition sponsored by T-Mobile and Samsung, Miller’s been experimenting with his sound, moving from pure rapping in the early days to a pop singer/songwriter approach as of today. In that span, he’s bounced around a few label partners looking to find the right partner that maximized his talents and aspirations, but has ultimately come to find himself at peace most when he’s simply allowed to create music independently and on his own time.
In 2018, Miller’s career began to heat up once again with a handful of single releases, including May 2018’s “Better Me, Better You” with Clara Mae. Despite the song’s catchiness, it wasn’t a song that Miller wrote himself, ultimately leaving him feeling unfulfilled. By August he’d inked a new deal with Sony’s RED Music, which allowed him to take the reigns on his own career and drive his own ship, creatively.
Following a couple more collaborations with Justin Caruso and New Jersey pop-rock outfit The Stolen, Miller released his first single written under the new RED partnership, “WAIT FOR YOU,” in November, and everything’s looked different since. The focus single from his Spring 2019 BASED ON A TRUE STORY. EP reached #35 on Top 40 Radio in April, and continues to pave the way for people to become exposed to the new-look Jake Miller.
Each of the songs on the BASED ON A TRUE STORY. EP were written and co-produced by Miller himself, giving Miller’s audience their most authentic Jake Miller experience to date. I caught up with Miller to talk about his musical journey and what it’s been like regaining full control over his career. Listen to Miller’s EP and check out our interview below the player.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
EB: what made you pick up a microphone when you were young and why’d you decide to begin your career with rapping?
JM: “I loved rapping early on because of Mac Miller. He was young, just a suburban kid like me and I could just kind of relate to him. So, I started rapping, I did it in a very non-traditional way. I was writing shit about anti-bullying and suicidal awareness – storytelling through my music, but rapping.
I would take all of my poems that I’d written in high school as my senior project, and I would record them and turn them into rap songs. That’s how I started making music. But I’ve always loved music, and I always have been kind of playing it with my dad, but I never really saw it as a possible career till I was 19 or 20 years old.”
EB: Now you’ve ditched that for full-blown singing – why the switch?
JM: “I wanted to try something new. A lot of people were telling me early on in my career that I should convert from rapping to singing, and a lot of label people were telling me that if I wanted to have a radio hit, I’d have to cut out the rapping. Back then, it was pretty hard, because that’s how I started and that’s what my fans knew me for, and loved. Looking back, I think it was a good decision, just because times change, music changes, and I think singing is just what I like to do more, now. If they never told me to stop rapping, I probably would have naturally, anyway.”
EB: That transition from rapping to singing – was it difficult to find your voice and your range? Was it natural for you to just start singing?
JM: “It wasn’t natural at all, and I’m still finding my voice and range. I’m still trying to get better. I’ve only been to a few vocal lessons, and I’m a stubborn learner, so I didn’t really pick up anything I learned in those lessons. one of these days I should probably get more serious and go to a vocal coach, and really try to nail that down, but you know, every day i’m trying to get better. I’m taking care of my voice, discovering new vocal exercises and warmups before shows. It’s all about getting better and becoming a better artists.”
THE CREATIVE VISION, THE ARTWORK, THE MUSIC VIDEOS AND THE MUSIC – I’M NEVER GOING TO GIVE THAT FREEDOM UP TO ANYBODY EVER AGAIN.”
EB: You said you discovered singing as people pushed you in that direction. After having been with a few different label teams – what was it about the type of environment that you needed, or people you needed to be around, to feel most comfortable to get to where you are?
JM: “I just needed to be alone. I needed to be by myself, and not have anybody whispering in my ear, what kind of music I should make, write about, what I should stay away from – if I should rap, or sing, or yodel – I want to do whatever I want to do. it’s really nice now, being in my room by myself, not having any pressure. If I’m not in the mood to write, I stop, and if I’m in a room and the mood’s right, I’ll sit down at the piano and pick something up.
Walking into these studio sessions, and having an hourly rate, and knowing you have to get out of there by 6 O’Clock, it was way too much pressure, felt like doing homework. So I would much rather do it by myself, no pressure.”
EB: Your song “WAIT FOR YOU” is currently getting a lot of radio love – what’s it like hearing your music on the radio?
JM: “That’s everything to me. When you’re making music and you see the physical CD, that’s one thing, and then seeing a vinyl is one thing – but to hear it on the radio is huge. It’s so much different then just hearing it over your Spotify, or iTunes, or your headphones. Those are classic things. Being able to hear something on the radio is so classic – it’s very official.
When I heard it for the first time, I was in Florida and I was with my parents. We were driving through this zoo where you just drive through and animals pull up to your car. There was a giraffe halfway sticking his head through the window and my song came on, which was crazy and weird – it was unforgettable.
When you’re able to hear yourself on the radio you say okay, I’m doing something right. I don’t know how far I’m going to be able to take this but it’s on the radio, and that’s something that 99.9% of people won’t be able to say.”
EB: What excites you most about the current chapter of your music career?
JM: “What excites me most is that I think I’m the best I’ve ever been, and I’m only getting better. I think I’m about to put my best music out, and I really hope that the world connects with it as much as I do. There’s a lot of songs in there that mean a lot to me, musically and emotionally. There’s a song called SKINNYDIP, I can listen to it and cry honestly. That rarely happens when I listen to other music, so if that happens when I do it through my own music, then I know I’m doing a great job.
I think “SKINNYDIP” is a really cool intro to the EP, then “NIKES,” “WAIT FOR YOU,” and just a lot of cool uptempo songs, slow songs – something for everybody…Different things that I’ve never tried. I have a saxophone on it, a choir, just cooler sounds and I’m a more experienced producer now so i’m working with better plugins, better sounds, jazzier chords, better melodies, lyrics, I definitely think I’ve taken it a step further with this EP.
EB: You’ve been a musician for almost a decade, and even longer unofficially. You’ve performed with worldwide stars and you’ve traveled all over. What’s one lesson that sticks with you as you look over your career so far?
JM: “Never give up the steering wheel of your ship – always be the captain. Never think that anyone’s ever going to step in and work harder toward your dream as you are. Always take things into your own hands – if you want things done, do them yourself. That’s not to say that you can’t have people around you, and a team around you – I have an amazing team, a lot of people who work day and night for me. But, I’m the one that drives it. Once I give that up, that’s all I have as an artist.
The creative vision, the artwork, the music videos and the music – I’m never going to give that freedom up to anybody ever again. When I did that, I didn’t feel like a true artist. I wasn’t connecting with my music, because other people were writing the songs.
When you don’t connect with the music, other people aren’t going to connect with it when they listen to it. I knew it just had to come from my heart, so I took it back, and said I’m going to do it by myself – I’m going to write it, I’m going to produce it… You’re really going to feel Jake Miller in these songs, because it’s only me.”