EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Jason Charles Miller
Jason Charles Miller is definitely not your ordinary urban cowboy. Rather, he represents the dark, gritty side of country music – the type of country music that should receive more acknowledgement than it does.
Regardless, this Virginia native knows his way around the entertainment industry. Although he might be most known for heading the rock band Godhead, Jason has travelled many paths throughout his life. His impressive resume includes writing, producing, voiceover recording and acting. If that wasn’t enough, Jason is busy overseeing his own recording studio, Central Command Studios.
We caught up with Jason today to talk about the release of his new single “Up To Me,” his recent signing with Render Records, how he feels about the music industry and what he has to offer.
We can promise you that this man has a mind and heart evident in both his thoughts and music that any country music fan could appreciate and love. Take a look for yourself:
Your single “Up To Me” was released to country radio today. Tell us about that song and what it means to you.
I wrote it with my friend Joe Doyle who is a pretty awesome songwriter. He’s had a 25+ year career as a professional songwriter. He’s had songs for Kenny Rogers, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and everybody in between – even Alabama. One of the keys to his success as a country songwriter is that he doesn’t listen to the radio or pay attention to trends. He just loves to write. I really admire that about him because as a country artist and as a country writer, I’m always listening to the radio. Sometimes I get really frustrated, but it also may influence my approach to songs. Sometimes that can be a dangerous way to approach the way you’re going to write a new song (based on a song that’s on the radio right now).
We were talking about the subject of what we wanted to write about. This is actually the first song we ever wrote together. We realized there are hundreds, if not thousands, of songs about a bar. But we couldn’t recall any song that was actually taken from the perspective of the bar and the bar that you lean on and order your drinks from. What if we brought life to that bar and personified this thing? Anybody that has ever been to a bar has leaned on, has ordered a drink from, has spilled a drink on or has met someone at a bar. A lot of these things that happen in our lives happen while leaning on a bar – at least most adults. We decided to take that perspective and just go with it. I hope that people get it, enjoy it and like it because the challenge as a songwriter, especially in a genre like country music, is that there are certain subjects that are almost expected of you as a country writer. But it’s about finding how to stay within the parameters of what a true country song is and still give it a unique perspective and a unique way of presenting maybe a story we’ve heard before, but telling it in a new way. I hope that we did that.
How has living in Hollywood affected you as a singer, especially a country music singer?
It’s really interesting. I have to go to Nashville to find anybody that likes the kind of music that I do (laughs). Although, if you scratch the surface, you’ll find people that really like country music. As far as fans go, the largest country radio station in America is actually in Los Angeles. But as far as country artists and writers go, they’re harder to find. In a way, its kind of nice because that makes it a much smaller community and a much more manageable community. We all kind of know each other. But at the same time, most of the writers out here are obsessed with pop music and that’s the big business in music in Los Angeles. So it’s a challenge finding people that are really familiar with country music to write with and to collaborate with. People that aren’t familiar with the genre don’t realize how detailed it really is. Unless you have either really grown up in it or really studied it for a long time, you wouldn’t know that there are so many subtle nuances to all of the sub-genres of country music. It’s really refreshing when you do run across somebody that knows what you’re talking about and knows what they’re talking about because it’s just a lot harder to find here.
You’ve opened for artists like Toby Keith, Gary Allan and Eric Church. Who would you like to tour with in the future?
Jamey Johnson is my musical hero, so I would absolutely love to tour with him. On a larger scale, somebody like George Strait would be amazing. Have you heard of Blackberry Smoke out of Atlanta? They’re on Zac Brown‘s label. The thing I love about them is they have a really infused southern rock element within their country sound. I would love to tour with them. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are so many. The great thing about country music is that I love how so many artists that are pretty widely varied but still fit under that umbrella of country all sort of tour together. I would love to open for Merle Haggard. He’s still touring and he’s one of my all-time favourites.
You signed with Render Records last month. How excited are you about that?
I’m really excited. With living in Hollywood, I’ve probably made at least fourteen trips to Nashville in the last two years. I was a shock to a lot of the major labels in Nashville. Almost universally, I got the same message back that was “he’s too extreme for Nashville.” I don’t believe that because I think that there is a huge disconnect between “the powers that be” and the fans. The reason that I feel like I’ve proven that that’s true is I’ve opened for Toby Keith, Eric Church, Justin Moore and Gary Allan. I co-write with Toby Keith’s bass player and music director. I co-write with Eric Church’s guitar player. What I’ve discovered is that when I opened for these artists, their fans embraced me from note one. They were in to it right away. I think that the same fan that listens to Toby Keith also listens to The Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd or even Disturbed or Linkin Park. I think that especially now in the age where you can listen to anything in a second if you want to, everyone’s musical tastes are widening.
I feel that there is definitely a place for me in country music. So it’s a big justification to me to sign with a Nashville label that gets me, understands me, and will let me be who I want to be and won’t try to water me down or try to change me to fit into this small little mold. I think that the fans are sick of that. I think that they’re hearing way too many things that sound the same and I want to break that mold and expand people’s horizons that already are expanded – just the “powers that be” don’t know it yet.
You co-wrote or wrote every track on Uncountry, your first full-length solo debut. How important is it for you to have a stake in writing your songs?
I think it’s pretty important for me. Coming from my rock career and coming from a band, I think it’s important because it puts your personal stamp and your personal signature on it. When I do cover songs, I try to put my own spin on them. My new album is going to be called Natural Born Killer. That is coming out in July. I do one cover on there, but all the rest are either solo-writes or co-writes. I just think that if you’ve been a writer for as long as I have – cause I guess I’ve been a professional writer for almost twenty years – you want to have that personal signature on there. So for me, it’s important. But then again, if I hear a song that just blows me away, I’ll want to record it as well and put my own stamp on it.
You own your own recording studio. Do you have any stories about recording sessions in the studio that you could share?
Most of them I try to put out of my head – all of the embarrassing ones (laughs). One of the cool things about owning the recording studio is coming up with interesting sounds. If my friends and I find something that we think is percussive and can make a cool sound, like a piece of steel or a box, we’ll take it into the live room and record it just to have our own samples of our own types of percussive instruments. That’s a lot of fun – finding new sounds and sampling that and adding it to recordings. With the stuff I’m doing now, I try to make it as organic as possible. I don’t want to have any kind of programming in there. It’s the opposite approach of what I’ve done in my spare time, which is create sounds from any kind of object. But any object has it’s own pitch so it’s fun to experiment with that.
What kind of experience do you hope to give your fans when they come out to see you play?
I want to give the kind of experience that they don’t forget. I want to play material that’s going to move them in some way. That’s really the key. I often get told that I don’t have enough party songs. But that’s not really my personality. I mean, of course I like to have a good time. It’s not that I take myself too seriously, because I really don’t. I’m a jokester just like everybody else. But I feel like the music that I’m trying to portray – I want it to have a bit of weight to it. I’m not going to sing about real party-party stuff. I want to make people think with my music. I want them to enjoy that part of it as well. I think with the live show, besides having a kick-ass band and everything else, I want to play songs that people remember and songs that will affect them in a positive way. Even if it’s not about going to the party, at least it’s something that will make people feel good.
I think that my problem with the party songs in general and me performing the party songs (which I don’t really do) is that I feel like you shouldn’t have to sing about having a good time – the music should just make you have a good time. The music could be about anything. I feel like there are too many songs about songs or too many songs about music. You don’t need to sing about music – you just need to play the music and play what has inspired you to write it. It doesn’t need to be about itself. I’ve seen that trend a lot and I’d like to break that trend. There are too many songs that are about themselves.
What has been your most memorable or rewarding experience during your career in the music industry?
There are a couple of things. The first time that my picture was in Rolling Stone Magazine with my band – that was a really awesome moment. That was something that I could show my dad. If your picture is in Rolling Stone, that kind of validates it to your parents. Another one was when I got my first gold record for being on the Queen of the Damned movie soundtrack with my name on it and able to get two more for my parents. Whether you know anything about music or not, everyone knows the term “gold record.” To be able to actually have two – I was also on The Punisher soundtrack – and be able to get both of those for my parents was pretty rewarding for me.
Is there anything in particular you would like our readers to know about you?
I’m pretty opinionated, but I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not trying to say that there’s not a place for the party song. I’m just trying to say that there’s not really a place for me within that. But I think that any fan of music is going to appreciate different styles and different subjects within the music that they listen to. I don’t know anybody that just wants to listen to party songs all day. I think that music is something that drives us all and puts us in different moods. I want to be able to set the mood for different things. But at the same time, if I have a song that reminds somebody of a bad time but then helps them heal or get through that, to me that is more important and can have a more lasting impression on somebody and can be a more rewarding experience for me when that happens.
Connect with Jason:
Check out Jason’s music video for his brand new single “Up To Me,” released to radio TODAY: