Bea Miller is only 18. That’s not to discredit her, but rather an impressive fact, as she’s more well-spoken about her music and her life experiences than some who are a decade her senior. After competing on The X Factor in 2012, she’s begun to forge a path for herself in music that’s truly her own, writing music that speaks to her own personal experiences and that she hopes will connect with others.
Miller’s debut album, Not an Apology, was released in 2015, but for the follow-up she decided to take a unique approach. Rather than releasing a single or two and then the full album, she chose to release three separate EPs over the course of the year, which will be combined with additional tracks to create her second album. Chapter 1: Blue was released in February, Chapter 2: Red was released in June, and Chapter 3: Yellow will be released on September 15.
Growing up listening to female pop artists singing about partying and all of the good things in life left Miller wanting pop music that was honest and that she could relate to when things weren’t going so well. With this new album, she’s aiming to be the artist that she would’ve needed when she was younger. From Blue to Red to Yellow, the EPs follow an emotional journey that she says “you have to go through… in order to figure out who you are.”
I met up with Bea Miller before her performance at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater for this interview. It was a special show for the New Jersey native; while she now calls Los Angeles home, she grew up going to Jones Beach all the time. Read on for the full interview, where we discussed the importance of the show, the writing process for her new music, and what it’s like opening up.
Substream: We’re here at Billboard Hot 100 Festival at Jones Beach. I was listening to that podcast you just did with Billboard and you said your mom is from Long Island, so you’ve grown up coming to Jones Beach all the time. From my personal experience whenever I have something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, whether that’s months or weeks or years, it’s almost surreal when it finally happens- so what is it like actually being here today?
BM: It’s crazy- I’ve been looking forward to this since I found out about it, just because I’ve come here my whole life. My mom told me that the last show that she saw at this amphitheater was with my grandmother who I never met because she passed away before I was born. So my mom hasn’t seen a show here in very many years and it’s really cool that the last time she came here was with my grandma, and now she’s coming back here to see her daughter. It’s really cool.
Substream: That’s pretty exciting. Has your mom always been really supportive of everything you’ve done in music?
BM: Yeah- my mom is really awesome and she’s always supportive and she’s always excited when there is something that she can come to. I am in LA a lot and she does live in New Jersey so she misses a lot of the things I do, so every time I do something on the East Coast that she actually gets to come to, she gets really stoked.
Substream: So- you’re only 18- how long have you been living in LA?
BM: I just got my apartment there in February, but I feel like I’ve lived there for a long time because the two years before, I spent so much time there in hotel rooms. I decided it was finally time to get my own place because sometimes I would stay in a hotel room for two months at a time. I didn’t have anything that was mine; I didn’t like it.
Substream: Does your mom come out to visit all the time?
BM: She comes when she can; it’s expensive for me to fly her out all the time and I also have my two younger siblings that she has to stay home with and make sure they’re all good, so if I really wanted to fly my mom out for a long period of time I’d have to fly them out too and then that would be a very expensive thing to deal with- but I do try to see them as much as I can.
Substream: You’re in the middle of releasing a three part series of EPs- Chapter 1: Blue, Chapter 2: Red, and you’re going to release Chapter 3: Yellow next month. When you set out to create these EPs, did you do all of the writing at one point all together?
BM: No. I actually wrote for Chapter 1: Blue before we released any of them obviously, because that was the first one we put out, and I was really just trying to hone in [on] my craft at that time and trying to figure out exactly what it was that I wanted this record to be about.
Substream: So what did you want this record to be about?
BM: When I was younger I would always listen to female artists that are my age now and I felt like I couldn’t always connect with them because all these people would constantly sing these party songs and I couldn’t always relate to them.
Substream: You want something that’s honest.
BM: Right, and when I was in a bad mood, I would always only ever hear these songs that were about going to parties and having a good time with your friends and being so happy and having a great life, and I couldn’t always relate. When I was younger it felt very alienating and I try my best to be the person that I would’ve needed, for other people.
Substream: That’s a piece of wisdom that I hear floating around a lot- “Be who you needed when you were younger.”
BM: I always wanted to have a young female artist that would tell me the truth about life and not only talk about the good things or the things that were exciting or interesting but also talk about the things that people in general are skeptical to talk about- the bad things that do happen. A good 50% of our lives is things that are happening that we’re not necessarily super thrilled about and I feel like that’s missing from pop music a lot of the time so my main goal is to be truthful about everything and not just specific things.
I wanted to put [the songs] in EPs like that because each one has a different emotion and I felt like they go really well with each other and I wanted to separate them before I put them all together.
Substream: You talked about wanting something that was more truthful in pop music- are there any other artists that come to mind when you talk about that, like contemporarily?
BM: They’re not pop but Paramore- they’re considered alternative- [have] always done a really good job of just talking about things that aren’t necessarily what everyone else wants to talk about all the time.
Also that song “Rockabye” [by Clean Bandit] that was huge on the radio a few months ago- I thought that was cool because if you really listen to the lyrics it’s really sad and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the story behind that. I just thought it was interesting to hear that on pop radio.
I think Lorde does a really good job of doing that. There’s certain artists who are kicking ass.
Substream: I feel like it’s starting to be more and more common that people do that in pop and I think that’s cool.
BM: I think, yeah.
Substream: Each of the EPs has a different emotion- blue was sadness, red was anger- what’s yellow?
BM: Yellow is- not necessarily that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but kind of to say that once you go through a certain experience that tears you apart at the time it makes you stronger in the end and if you deal with one thing that’s really difficult, it better prepares you for the next difficult thing. So- it’s basically saying that everything that is shitty, ends- but something will come along again that is difficult for you, but because you’ve already dealt with this one thing, you’re better [prepared] for the next.
Substream: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
BM: Yeah- exactly.
Substream: Did you write all of Blue, then all of Red, and then all of Yellow?
BM: I wrote all the songs for Chapter 1: Blue over the course of probably six months before we ever released it. That was the very beginning of the writing process for this album and for a while I was trying to figure out what the sound was.
Substream: Did you know when you were starting the writing process that you were going to do three EPs?
BM: No, I didn’t know! All the songs that are on Chapter 1: Blue actually started being created like a few months in to the process. We released Chapter 1: Blue and we already had one of the songs for Chapter 2: Red but I did want to keep them current and I did want to take the opportunity to write in between each EP so that each one could be current to my actual life as it was happening. After we released Chapter 1 I went back and I was writing for Chapter 2, then we put out Chapter 2 and now Chapter 3 is coming out September 15 and we don’t even have the 3rd song confirmed yet- I’ve been in the studio the past few weeks writing for it so everything is very current before it comes out.
Substream: Do you have a title for the album yet?
BM: I think I want it to be called Spectrum because all of my EPs are the three primary colors and in the same sense that the three primary colors make up every color in the spectrum of colors, you need to experience your Chapter 1: Blue, your Chapter 2: Red, and your Chapter 3: Yellow in order to be the best version of yourself that you can be, you know- you have to go through sadness and loneliness and anger and desperation and happiness and excitement and frustration and whatever else it may be in order to figure out who you are, so I just like the way that it all tied together.
Substream: You’ve said in recent interviews that you’ll be writing three additional new songs for the album that haven’t been on the EPs. Are these other songs gonna be a fourth chapter, like what follows yellow, or is it something that ties everything together?
BM: It’s gonna be the missing song from each chapter. So we get three more songs in December as the album comes out and it’s gonna be one more blue song, one more red song, and one more yellow song- essentially it’ll be like all along there were four songs per chapter rather than three.
Substream: In addition to your music, I’ve noticed that you’re really open with your fans on Twitter and everything, and you talk about a lot of personal stuff in interviews- is it ever hard to be honest?
BM: It’s not hard for me to be honest with my fans because that’s what I set out to do from the beginning- I’ve based my entire career off of just trying to do that for them- but I always kind of forget that my real life friends can hear my music and they can watch my interviews if they want and that’s when I get kind of like- “oh…”– I don’t necessarily sit down and talk to my friends about all the things that I write my music about, because it’s easier for me to write music than to sit and talk to my friends about it sometimes- it’s almost like writing in a diary.
Substream: If a stranger listens to it…
BM: Then it doesn’t matter if it helps them, but when it’s my friends it’s kind of like- ohhh– that’s when it gets a little…
Substream: Yeah, it’s almost hardest when it’s the people closest to you.
BM: Yup. A hundred percent.
After hearing what she had to say about the first two chapters of her upcoming album, we’re very much looking forward to hearing what Bea Miller does for Chapter 3: Yellow, as well as her upcoming album. For more on all things Bea Miller, head over to her official website.