A hunky new pop star rises to the top. Jake Miller — rapper, singer, dancer, writer, and producer — has embarked on his journey to superstardom, and the ever down-to-earth southern Florida native draws us in with his charming allure and that swoon-worthy voice. His latest EP, “Overnight,” is its own brand of fresh, making waves and gearing up for an epic 2017.
Photography by John Hong
Styling by Alex Shera
Grooming by Justin Tyme for Solo Artists/Murad Skincare
Story by Sarah Yoo
Composure Magazine: Where does your love of music come from?
Jake Miller: I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we had a music room in the house with a couple guitars and a drum set. … Music was just always a big part of our family. I started playing guitar when I was probably around five years old, but I didn’t really have dreams to be a pop star, rock star, or whatever, at that time. I just thought playing guitar would get me some girls in middle school. So that’s why I started doing that. Then I started going on YouTube and learned how to play more songs. Then I started messing around on the drum set. Every day after high school, I’d come home, plug in my iPod and drum to all these rock songs that I loved. It wasn’t until a little later that I realized I wanted to start making my own music and writing my own music, and once I did that I found a whole new appreciation for music. From about 2013 on, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
CM: And look at you now! You have millions of fans supporting you and your music, some even willing to camp out to see you live — how does that feel?
JM: That means so much to me because you can’t do that for something you’re not extremely passionate about. There was one time in Boston where we arrived a day before the show, and I was getting tweets that there was one group of seven or so fans who were already at the front door. They were sitting on the floor in their blankets, eating Oreos, and sleeping there overnight. So we surprised them! We showed up, and we just sat with them for an hour, had some food with them on the floor. It was a really cool time.
CM: Nowadays, that kind of interaction is almost expected from you as an artist and influencer. To be constantly connected with your fans, whether in person or online, how do you take on that kind of responsibility?
JM: It is a lot of pressure just because this is a time where it’s kind of like “out of sight, out of mind.” If you’re not putting out content, videos, or songs 24/7, there are a million other artists who are going to steal your attention and who are working harder than you. You just always gotta be on it, do the most work, be the one that is contacting fans the most, and have your finger on the pulse of what they want. I try to tweet them as much as possible, see what’s on their minds, and let them into my life as much as possible because I want them to know I’m a real person. Especially on Instagram these days, it’s very easy to make it seem like your life is perfect, but I think it’s important to be transparent with everyone. I’m a real person, too, and I’m going through stuff, too, whether it’s good or bad.
CM: This attention that you’re getting now, how do you think it’s affected you — how you carry yourself, the way you dress, the way you go about your daily life? What kind of transition was there, if any, adjusting to life in the spotlight?
JM: Honestly, I think I’ve done a really good job at staying the same person I was at the beginning of all this. … When I moved out to Los Angeles, I think I was a little worried that it would change me. I know a lot of people in Los Angeles, and this city can be pretty brutal sometimes. But you know, I talk to my parents on the phone every day, and I just try my best to stay grounded and not let the craziness of Los Angeles get to me. I need to be here for work; everybody in the music industry is. So there’s no better place to be in the world if I’m trying to be productive every day and respect my craft, but it’s not affecting me personally — I’m not dressing any differently, I’m not acting any differently, and I’m just the same ol’ person I was when I lived in south Florida.
CM: But still, at the end of the day, you’re finding yourself on red carpets, doing photo shoot, starring in music videos with Simone Biles! You can’t deny that a lot has changed.
JM: Oh yeah, I’ll be the first to say that a lot has changed, just not my attitude! I’m just the same kid that’s so appreciative of everything that comes my way and all the opportunities that I have. I have this huge canvas that I’ve blown up 4-foot-by-6-foot of me and my band in an arena with all the lights on and the whole crowd in the background — hundreds and thousands of people. I put it over my TV just so that every second of every day I can look at that and not only be appreciative of what I’ve done so far but also reminded of how far I still have to go. It motivates me. Everything has changed, for sure, but I have so, so much more that I want to accomplish.
CM: What goes through your mind in moments like those, on stage with your band before a sea of fans?
JM: Essentially, I kind of black out when I’m on stage. [Laughs] Everything kind of comes to a blur. I see all the faces, and I see everybody, but it all happens so quickly, and I’m concentrating on getting the right words and doing the right dance moves, making sure that everyone feels special, whether it’s people in the first row or people in the last row. But I’m never a better version of myself than when I’m on stage. Growing up, I was never someone who liked the spotlight. I told my very first manager, “I really want to make music and be super famous, but the thing I’ll never do is step on a stage. That’s just not who I am.” He quickly was like, “Jake, that’s not how this industry works. If you’re going to do it, that’s one of the biggest parts.” [Chuckles] I didn’t really know how the industry worked. I was just naïve and kind of a shy kid, but once I stepped on a stage, it was kind of addicting, and it became one of my favorite things to do.
CM: So it just clicked for you?
JM: Yeah, in high school, I wasn’t the most secure with myself. I had some self-confidence issues. I was that kid, you know. There was one year in high school when I had so much acne. In between classes when people would meet in the courtyard outside to talk, I would just stay inside and hang in the bathroom because I didn’t want anyone to see my bad skin. So being on stage [for the first time] and seeing everyone in the crowd looking up at me and singing the words to my songs, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I just felt more confidence than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m a completely different person than I was in high school in that I’m a lot more confident, and I’m so appreciative of everything that’s happened.
CM: Is that part of what drives you to share with your fans, to help them find the same confidence within themselves?
JM: Absolutely. I’ve made countless songs, especially when I first started out, that were story-based. One was an anti-bullying song, one was a suicide awareness song … and I have a song called “I’m Alright,” which basically says that no matter what, as long as you have your health and your happiness, you’ll be alright. I think it’s very important to relay a positive message through music and not only let people know that their dreams are possible, even if you’re just a normal kid with no sense of direction on where to start, but also to, even if you don’t have dreams to be an artist, let people know that everything’s going to be alright in general, no matter what they’re going through.
CM: This is clearly only the beginning of your success, but looking back on your journey so far, how do you think you’ve evolved as an artist?
JM: I’m really a two out of 10 right now. I feel like I have so, so much more to go. However, every day, especially since I moved to L.A., I’m learning so much about how to make a song, so much about using my voice. Recently, I’ve been really concentrating on my vocals, singing instead of rapping. I want to grow with my music and mature a little bit, so I’ve gotten really serious about my vocals. So every day I’m learning something new, whether it’s about producing or writing or how to use my voice. I feel like I’ve become a really great artist when it comes to walking into a studio session. I know how to take charge and make a great song.
CM: As you see it, where does all of this lead? Where do you hope to take your career?
JM: Long term, my goal has always been to be like Justin Timberlake and have a 30 to 40 year career. He’s a stud, he’s good-looking, he can act, he’s funny, and more than anything, he can sing and dance. If I could have even just half the success that he’s had, that’s where I really want to take it long term. For now, I just want to keep making music, keep getting better in the studio, keep singing better and better, and keep touring. As long as everything keeps going in the right direction, the shows keep getting bigger, and the songs keep gaining traction, then I’m cool to take it slow. I’ve been doing the same thing for about four years now where it hasn’t been an overnight success for sure, but I’m cool with it being a slow build as long as it’s headed in the right direction.
CM: Has anyone along the way offered you a piece of advice that’s become a sort of guiding principle?
JM: When I was in high school and first started putting stuff on YouTube, I would get really caught up on all the negative comments. And then I had a show with one of my favorite rappers at the time, Asher Roth. We shared a green room together, and he was so down to earth and so cool, and he told me that to this day his mom still goes on his YouTube channel and deletes the bad comments for him so that he doesn’t have to see them. He just told me not to worry about that stuff. The bigger you are and the more success you get, the more people are going to come out and say something. He helped me see how true that is, and if I’m not getting any negative comments, then I’m probably doing something wrong. I just don’t pay attention to that stuff anymore, and I just focus on me, what I like, and the music that I think I like. And if the fans like it as well, then that’s a bonus!
Keep up with the latest on Jake Miller at www.jakemiller.com