DJ Miller is a young Hoosier country singer signed to Evergreen Records. He released his debut single, “A Little Naughty Is Nice,” earlier this summer, and is currently working on his debut album. Recently, I had a chance to sit down for a chat with this talented young newcomer about his music, influences, career goals, and of course, Taylor Swift.
Ben: Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about the place you come from – where you grew up?
DJ: Yeah, I was actually raised way out in the country, a little bit north of a small town called Idaville, Indiana. It’s literally a three-blink town - If you drive through it and blink three times, you’ve passed it. I was raised out in the country, and that’s what I love. It’s where I’m still living at, and it’s really just kind of been a great experience living out in the country, and growing up there. I’ve been in country music pretty much all my life. My dad kind of got me started in it. My dad Darryl had a country band for about thirty years, so when I was real young, even about two years old, I’d always go with him to a bunch of shows that I could go to, and be up onstage with him, so it’s really kind of where I got my start in country music.
Ben: How would you describe your musical style? Would you say it’s more traditional or contemporary?
DJ: Well, I’m not really sure. I really kind of expand when it comes to country music, you know. I really see myself kind of going in towards kind of like a Jason Aldean-type kind of rockin’-type country, and then also I really like to fall back more on your traditional laid-back type country, kind of like George Strait-style. I’ve never really had a certain style that I’ve really stuck to, so I’m really just kind of all over the place.
Ben: Kind of a mix of influences?
DJ: Yeah, really. A big influence that I’ve really kind of stuck with is kind of like a Garth Brooks-type style – Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley. They’re big influences in my career, growing up, and as my career built. Mostly with Garth Brooks, because of his entertainment. I mean obviously even when I was two years old going with my dad to shows, I would videotape Garth Brooks’ live TV concerts, and I would memorize them basically, and study his moves as an entertainer, and apply that even to the stage I was on being two years old. You know, I’d take my hat off and wave it to the girls, and whatnot, and you know basically try to be Garth Brooks. And then Brad Paisley came along, and his instrumental techniques really shocked me, and got me interested in that, and his interaction with the crowd also, like Garth Brooks, so huge influences in my career.
Ben: Would you like to tell about any mentors you’ve had in your career as a recording artist?
DJ: My dad’s been a real huge mentor. He’s really been kind of like somebody I can vent to, or ask questions, and he always gives me some good advice. And definitely also my manager Johnny Morris has been a huge mentor in this career, kind of telling me what’s coming up next, and what I can do. And actually you know if you think about it, there’s so many people that have been mentors to me in this career. [AristoMedia Group President] Jeff Walker and [Senior Publicist] Christy [Walker-Watkins] and the whole AristoMedia basically have been huge mentors helping me out with these media interviews and whatnot, and Jack Pride has been a huge mentor. I mean there’s really a lot of people actually you could consider mentors in this career!
Ben: Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?
DJ: Well, it really kind of depends, you know, male or female. Female, it would definitely have to be probably Taylor Swift, and not just ’cause she’s a cutie. But you know, me and Taylor we’re around the same age, and I feel like we could really connect better with a song and whatnot. But as for male vocalists, definitely with my influences, Garth Brooks or Brad Paisley. Those are some huge dreams of mine.
Ben: Since you’re known for being an energetic live performer, I want to ask what would you say makes for a good live show?
DJ: Actually, the best energetic live show is putting your crowd into it. Your crowd really responds a lot better when you have them involved, and you interact with them. It’s one thing that Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley are really big on is interaction with your crowd. Part of my live shows is me going out into the crowd and running through ‘em, and that’s a huge influence on a crowd, you know, not being afraid of your crowd, shaking their hands, putting in your arm around them, and talking to them, even in the middle of a song if you have to, so that’s a huge thing for the crowd for a live concert.
Ben: Yeah, that’s really cool, and I understand you had a hand in writing some of the songs on your album?
DJ: Yeah, that’s right. I’m a co-writer on quite a few songs on the album. I always try to write every chance I get when I come down to Nashville with my writers, Don Goodman and Brad Wolf and Charlie Black – some great writers. And there’s actually a song on my album called “The Little Things.” I’m actually pretty proud to say that I wrote the majority of that song, and it’s really overwhelming for me, because we’ve been getting nothing but great feedback from that song, so I’m pretty proud of that one.
Ben: Would you be able to describe the creative process you go through in writing songs, or how the ideas come to you?
DJ: It really is a process. You first get influenced by an idea, and that idea could be anything – everyday life, hearing a phrase in a conversation – and then you really just kind of expand that idea into a whole song, and you put lyrics to it. You can rhyme them or not rhyme them, and then you gotta come up with that right melody. Songs can have different melodies put to them, but I mean it’s important to find that right melody for that song, the right feeling for it, and coming up with a way for the crowd to feel that same way – to relate to it. And then when you get into the recording studio, it’s amazing to watch that song build up into something so much better. You start with just a hard copy of just playing guitar on a melody, and singing raw lyrics, and in a few hours you watch it build with drums and bass and guitar and then you throw in special things like fiddle and banjo and backup vocals, and then you just watch it build and build and build. You just can’t stop smiling in the studio, ’cause it just gets better and better.
Ben: Were any of your songs inspired by real-life experiences that you’ve had?
DJ: Yeah, actually quite a few of them that we’ve co-writed. I’ve came up with some ideas that are personal experiences in my life, especially “The Little Things.” My experiences as a high school kid with girlfriends and whatnot, you know a lot of experiences came into that song, and influenced it.
Ben: What are your favorite songs that you’ve written or recorded?
DJ: My favorite songs that we’ve written would probably have to be… “The Little Things” is probably my favorite. It could be because it’s the one that I mostly wrote myself, and that I feel so proud about. But I really have to thank the musicians for putting all that positive energy into it, they really just turned it into something totally different than I even expected it to be, and it’s so much more, so it would probably have to be “The Little Things.”
Ben: Do you have more of a connection with the songs that you’ve helped to write?
DJ: Yeah, you do. You’ve got that more personal feeling with it, and you know exactly what that song’s talking about, and you know exactly where it’s coming from, and that’s important with music. It’s important to get in and try to write your own stuff, or be a co-writer at least, and that really just kind of gives you that more personal feel of knowing exactly what it’s about and where it comes from.
Ben: Have there been any other country songs that you wish you had a part in writing?
DJ: Oh yeah, there’s been quite a few of them actually. Some songs that we’re gonna be releasing I wish I had had a hand in writing, like “Snowman in Birmingham.” We’re in the process of releasing that now actually. It just got released on iTunes. It’s a great story song for the season. It’s not directed exactly towards Christmas, but it’s definitely a whole season song. It’s just really a song that a lot of people can relate to. It deals with the loss of a father, even for some people a mother, but there’s a positive ending with it, you know – believing in something or dreaming of something, and it coming true. So I definitely wish I had had a hand in writing that, but there’s also so many other songs. Dickie Lee wrote “She Thinks I Still Care,” and that was a huge hit, so that was a great song to be in on, so there’s quite a few of ‘em.
Ben: Would you like to tell a little bit about the experiences you’ve had in touring?
DJ: We’ve had some pretty great experiences actually with radio tours. You know, meeting so many of these new people is a huge experience for me, me being the backwoods kid that I was. It was pretty exciting just to leave my county, you know, let alone going all over the country! So meeting all these different people and their different styles, and seeing all these radio stations, and how they talk and whatnot. Their normal conversation is totally different than my normal conversation, so it’s been a great experience kind of adapting to those types of surroundings.
Ben: Would you like to tell a little about your single, “A Little Naughty Is Nice”?
DJ: Yeah, actually it was written by Don Goodman and Charlie Black and Bobby Resnick. It’s really a fun song. It’s an upbeat up-tempo kind of rockin’ flavor type song. It’s really kind of about boys and girls just kind of lettin’ their hair down and relaxing and having a good time, especially in this world today everything is so tight, and we’re just up and goin’ and up and goin’, and just trying to get stuff done, but you know it’s still important to lean back and relax and have a good time now and then on Saturday night.
Ben: So do you have any other projects you’re working on right now?
DJ: Well, we’re finishing up the album right now. We’re having to do the album in sessions because I’m still living in Indiana, and we’re real busy with these radio tours and whatnot, so we’re having to do the album in sessions. We’ve got one more session to do for the album, and we’re gonna record about two, three, maybe four more songs. We’re jugglin’ songs right now. It’s always great to have too many songs for an album, so we’re kind of picking and choosing what songs we want to put on this last session, so that’s our biggest project right now. We’re planning on releasing that by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
Ben: Is it hard to narrow it down?
DJ: It is, actually! It’s real tough to narrow it down, and you have to always remember you’ve got another album coming out after this one, so I mean you can always hold it off and save it for the next one.
Ben: Would you like to tell a little bit about the kind of music you have on your album? Is there a particular direction it’s taken?
DJ: Actually, it’s all kind of a mix, and I think that’s important because your audience isn’t normally directed toward one direction, and we’ve got all kinds. We’ve got up-tempo, we’ve got low-tempo, and all different types of styles. We’ve got some that are kind of a rockin’ flavor type song, and we’ve got some that are more of a mellow kind of traditional type style that, you know, George Strait might sing. So we haven’t really gone into one single direction. It’s all kind of a mix.
Ben: That’s a good one!
DJ’s OFFICIAL WEB SITE: DJMillerCountry.com