Jake Miller still maintains his independence despite being signed by Sony (Exclusive)
At just 26-years old, Jake Miller has been around the world and back all thanks to his devoted fan base and impressive musical talents.
The Florida-born musician may be the only artist today that writes, produces, mixes and then uploads his songs straight to iTunes and Spotify completely on his own -- straight from a laptop in his bedroom.
The singer-songwriter is gearing up to release his latest EP titled "Based on a True Story" (he just dropped his new single "Nikes" on Friday, following the release of the mega-successful "Wait For You"). AOL's Laura Galvan caught up with Miller earlier in New York City after a private performance at Sony Hall, where he talked about the shift from being an independent artist to now being backed by label -- and the 20 guitars hung on his bedroom wall.
You recently dropped the "Wait For You" music video. How did the visuals come about? It's pretty psychedelic.
We just wanted to do a more abstract video that isn't so sticking to the storyline of the song. Just more cool, artsy and beautiful colors and flowers.
You're getting tons of radio play on the new single. As an artist how important is that for you?
I have my core fanbase and they are amazing, but as an artist my whole main goal is to expand the fanbase and so radio really does that. Just being able to gain new listeners and fans and people tweeting me, "Oh I just discovered your music from the radio today," that's really cool. It just makes me realize that everything I am doing is working. When you hear yourself on the radio, you're like, "Okay, cool."
Do you feel in a sense that it almost makes it more legit?
Yes, it's validation that I did a good job and I made a good song in a sense. And from music industry people that they're willing to -- I mean, there's only about 20 songs that get played over and over again on the radio, so it's very tough to have your song be in rotation and competing with Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.
Speaking of Ariana, she recently made a comment about the GRAMMYs not being "too important" to her. Is that important to you?
I want to win many, many GRAMMYs. When you get to the point where you can beef with the producer of the GRAMMY [Awards], you know you've made it. That's like even better than winning a GRAMMY [Laughs] That's definitely my longterm goal -- to have a platinum song and to have a GRAMMY. But as long as I am happy and making music that positively affects people (I know that sounds so corny, but it's true). Music is the only thing that drives me and keeps me up at night, so to be able to do my job and make a living off of it while creating a positive impact, that's the dream for me.
There's so much music out there. How do you make sure your sound doesn't get lost in all of the noise and saturation?
I think there's something in my music -- I don't know exactly what it is, but there's a certain thing in my music that just has a positive vibe to it and any age can listen to it. You can listen to it in the car with a 10-year-old or a 60-year old. I'm just singing about real life stuff. I'm a real person, and I'm just writing about things that anyone can relate too. I'm not any different than you or anybody in the crowd. I think I'm just very real when it comes to my songwriting and I want people to kind of listen to it and get emotional and relate to it. That's kind of what I want people to take from my music.
Your success sort of reminds me of Khalid and Bazzi in the sense that you all didn't have that Disney or Nickelodeon machine behind you. It was all people listening to your music online and then word of mouth. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
A lot of kids started from Vine, like Shawn Mendes, and nothing against them -- use whatever you can to your advantage. But I just started by making music -- I didn't go from acting to music or modeling to music. I just started making music and I grinded and got better as a musician.
I've been in a million studio sessions, I've seen a million studios and equipment, and I just picked up so many little hints and lessons that I've learned from different people from working with them and I'm just kind of like gathering all the pieces and putting it in my brain. So now, I write all my own music, I produce all of the beats, I mix it and I master it and then I upload to Spotify and iTunes, literally all by myself on my laptop in my bedroom.
What's that work environment like? You live and work in the same space.
It's the best. That's why I've designed it like that. I don't think I'll ever want to step into a real studio ever again. It's too much pressure. These are million-dollar studios that very famous people use to record at with million-dollar microphones. I've turned it [my apartment] into my man cave. There's 20 guitars on the wall, saxophones on the wall, ukulele's on the wall and a grand piano in the corner. I'm just always making noise.
What's been the biggest change since shifting from an independent artist to now having a label back you? Do you feel any pressure?
No, I don't feel any pressure with Sony. They trust me 100 percent. They're like, "Go make the music, go shoot the videos, go design the art work and deliver it to us when it's ready and we'll use our resources to blow it up"... and so that's an artist's dream. I have all of the control. I record it in my room and then I go downstairs -- all of my music video directors live downstairs.
What comes first? Is it the lyrics, the beat, the story?
Most of the time it starts just on the piano and then I'll make a beat around the melody I make on the piano. And then I'll do like gibberish melodies, so I'll record a whole song with no words just like gibberish. And then the lyrics come last. That's the most important part to me.
"Wait for you" is cohesive, but it has a lot of different elements. I feel like there are a lot of different eras of music in there.
For sure. It's dynamic, but it feels like very Zedd 2019 versus the chorus with the synth snaps and then the drop hits and it's totally 1980s. There's '80s drums and '80s bass and the rhythm changes. I'm just really proud of it as a producer.
Who should we be listening to right now?
Fly by Midnight, John Balian, I love LANY. I listen to a lot of music. I listen to Charlie Puth, Lauv and The 1975.
Lastly, there's so much that you owe to your fans, so if you were to end this and put down the guitar, what would you say to them?
Wow, that's a good question. I would just say thank you for so many great years and thank you for making my dreams come true. I have not accomplished nearly what I want to but I've accomplished more than 99.9 percent people who are trying to do what I do. I'm very proud of it an it's all because of my fans.
This interview has been edited and condensed.