Jake Miller is a quadruple threat - singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer. He has completely renovated his space into a studio, where he most recently created his lovechild, "Silver Living," and is ready to serve up more. Former Warner Brothers artist and newest member at RED Music, Miller is no stranger to the music scene. You may be familiar with some of his older bops, like "Overnight," "Rumors," or the infectious Travie McCoy collab, "Dazed and Confused," but perhaps his best work comes from his most recent projects, "2:00am in LA" and "Silver Lining." Both albums were created independently and all in-house, showcasing just what type of artist Jake is. If his range of talent and restless drive aren't enough, his unique sound will be sure to captivate you. With the influence of artists ranging from John Mayer to Jon Bellion to LANY, Jake has created his now unique lane between genres. We chatted with Jake about his journey, reinventing himself, his creative environment, learning how to produce, and what the future has in store for him.
OTW: You've been making music for a while now and used to be signed with Warner Brothers. How was your experience at Warner?
Jake Miller: I was 21 or 22 when I was signed to Warner. It was really great for a while, but there were some creative things we didn't really agree on and as an artist that's all I have: my creative freedom. Once I realized that was being stripped of me, I knew I had to get out of there. I still love and respect the people over there who I worked with, but I knew that I had to be independent or with another label that would give me 100% of the creative control. After leaving Warner, for about a year and a half, I became independent. That was probably the best year and a half of my life because I really honed in on how to be the best artist and how to do everything in-house - not relying on the label to book me studio sessions. I just took it upon myself to learn how to do everything. In that year and a half that I was independent, I made two full-length albums by myself in my room. I wrote all the lyrics and made all the beats. I mixed and mastered it, recorded all the vocals right in my bedroom, uploaded it iTunes and Spotify - everything by myself. So getting out of the deal with Warner was the best thing that ever happened because I proved to myself that I could do this and learned things that I will take with me forever as a musician, a producer, and a writer. Now I've gotten to a point where I do feel like I want a little help and a support team behind me, so I thought it was the right time to start looking for another home. Sony reached out, following all the success I had with my recent independent album, and they wanted to sign me. I met with them. They came to my New York show and they were all super enthusiastic. I just know it's going to be a good fit for me not only because they really believe in me, but they've given me all the creative control. They pretty much told me, "when the music is ready, you bring it to us and we'll help you promote it and blow it up." So that's where I'm at right now - I'm just getting my music right and when I think it's ready I'll bring it to them and we'll put it out.
Tell us about your home studio and how you turned your room into a creative space.
First of all, it's not just my room, but the house I live in. I live with 4 of my best friends and we're all creatives. I'm doing music, everyone else does TV and film. It's really cool cause I'll be up in my room making music and then I'll go downstairs and we'll come up with a concept for a music video. Then we'll go out and shoot it. It's all in-house. It goes along with what I was saying about learning to do everything yourself. These days you don't need a lot of fancy equipment or a big budget to go out and make amazing music or videos. We're doing it all in the house. It's a very creative and energetic place. I've completely turned my room into a studio, with my bed in the corner. It's probably my favorite place in the entire world. I never leave my room. I have 20 guitars hanging up. I have 30 of my favorite pieces of vinyl on the wall, a grand piano, a saxophone, a mini-fridge that looks like a guitar amp, and it's got a bunch of alcohol and drinks inside for when people come over and help me write. It's just a really cool room and I'm always inviting friends and writers over to bounce ideas off of and help me with the music.
Is there something that you enjoy more than the other when it comes to songwriting and producing?
I've been writing lyrics and melodies for the past 10 years of my life. I just started producing 2 years ago when I left Warner. So I'm getting better and better, which is why it's so interesting. Now I feel like I'm Beethoven on the piano because I make records every day and I'll just youtube "playing the piano" and sit there and memorize it. Songwriting is fun for me because I can put more of myself, my experience, and story into it. It's really interesting and fun learning how to produce because there are unlimited amounts of sounds. If you dive into logic, which is what I use, there are literally unlimited amounts of sounds that you can tweak and mess with - you can record a vocal and make it sound like a guitar. And that's just very inspiring because there's always a way you can make your music sound different from the next person. The goal as an artist is to always come out with sounds that are not 2018, but 2019 - ahead of the trend and ahead of the curve. It's all about diving in and putting yourself into it, but also trying to create a new vibe.
What is one place you would like to tour?
I really want to tour Asia - I have not done that. I also haven't gone to South America, so both places are on my bucket list for 2019.
A lot of your fans get tattoos of your lyrics - how does that make you feel?
I have a tattoo on my arm that says "Stop This Train" and it's my favorite song in the world. It's by John Mayer. It's about not letting life pass you by too quickly and cherishing your family while they're still here. It's a great song that I love so much and know I'll always love, so I wanted to tattoo it. The fact that other people out there are doing that for my lyrics - I completely see where they're coming from. It's so special because if I'm making a song that's doing for them, what "Stop This Train" has done for me, then I know that I've done a good job. Maybe I haven't had a song that's gone platinum yet or haven't won a Grammy, but if I have a song that's touched people the way that that song has touched me, then I've done my job.
Well said. How would you describe your sound?
My sound is always evolving. It's definitely pop with a little bit of funk incorporated. I love Daft Punk and Pharrell but I also love The 1975, John Mayer, and LANY. I put everything that I listen to into my music - stir it up in a pot and out comes whatever you want to call, my genre. Technically, it's pop, but everybody's got a different little twist on the music they make.
What’s one song that was challenging for you to write or produce?
Good question. On my last album, the one that took the longest is a song called "Be Alright." It was the most inspirational, positive, and message-heavy one, so I wanted to make sure every lyric was perfect. I wanted that to a be a song off the album that people got tattoos from, so I really took my time with it.
Do you have any rituals or must-haves to get in the zone to make music?
I listen to a lot of other music to inspire me. There's a script called "Jonsi and Alex" and it's actually just straight up instrumentals - it's like spa, meditation music. There's no vocals or anything. Whenever I'm feeling stressed out or on an airplane, or I just need to clear my mind, I'll play something like that.
If I'm looking for musical inspiration, I'll listen to Charlie Puth. He has amazing chord progressions. I'll listen to Lauv. I think his lyrics are really cool and to the point. I just draw inspiration from a lot of people, as an artist should.
I saw that you threw the first pitch at a Marlins game and met Jeter. How did that match up to some of the other big experiences you've had because of music?
That was more of full circle type thing - growing up, I played travel baseball and I pitched. I thought I was going to play baseball forever and make it in the MLB. But I got older, my dreams got bigger, and I felt less and less like baseball was my destiny. So to step on an MLB field and throw the first pitch was a very ironic and very cool thing to experience. Jeter was one of my favorite players growing up, so getting to meet him was also awesome.
Finally, who are your ones to watch?
Definitely LANY. LANY is really amazing and very emotional. I love Jon Bellion - I feel like I was one of the first few people to discover him, like 7 years ago. I met him in a studio, he played me some of his music, and ever since then I've been a massive fan. In terms of hip hop, there's this guy named SAINt JHN, who's like a mixture of Travis Scott and Kid Cudi, who I really love. I also love this 80's-esque group called The Midnight. All of these groups and artists are completely different, but they're all really dope. Those are the kind of artists I'm watching right now and I'm definitely going to support them and go to their shows and watch them grow.