Alex Miller has come a long way in just two short years.
For many, 2021 was the first time Alex Miller came on to the radar of those in the traditional country community when he brought an unapologetic country twang to season 19 of American Idol. He soon followed with his debut album, Miller Time, which doubled down on that traditional country sound and established him as one of the great rising artists in the genre.
As he prepares to enter his newest musical chapter, Miller is doing so by having his finger on the pulse of his fans and what they want to hear from his music, with his two newest singles zeroing in on those sounds. His first single following Miller Time, “When God Made the South,” has quickly become his most-streamed song to date, while his newest single, “Girl, I Know A Guy,” which is less than a month old, has rocketed out of the gates as well.
We chatted with Miller about his time on American Idol, expanding his sound, staying busy on the road and more!
Pro Country: You were featured on season 19 of American Idol at just 17 years-old. What was it like for you, at such a young age, to have the attention that the show brought to you in the time since the show? What kind of whirlwind was it like for you?
Alex Miller: It’s a whirlwind that hasn’t stopped. I was 17 at the time and still in high school. I hadn’t graduated yet and experienced things in life that a lot of kids my age were doing. It was a wild time; definitely a roller coaster experience. It was the best thing I’ve ever done; it was life changing. I knew music was what I wanted to do with my life, but I didn’t know it would happen so early. I thought I might’ve had to do other things to work it into a career, but I’ve been very blessed that it’s fallen into my lap.
PC: Soon after Idol, you had the opportunity to perform at The Ryman Auditorium. As someone who is so in tune with country music’s history, what was it like for you to perform at such a legendary venue where so much country music history has been made?
AM: It was a true honor. I’ll always be grateful to Ms. Rhonda Vincent for letting me get up there and play on that stage. That moment means more to me now than it did then. The Ryman is the most prestigious place in country music that an artist can play. My granddaddy, grandmother, my mom and dad; everybody got to be there and be a part of it.
PC: After Idol, you were quickly signed to Billy Jam Records and released your debut album, Miller Time. How important was it Idol to build on that momentum and present a full batch of music?
AM: It was great to have Billy Jam behind me. They’ve been nothing but great to me. They’re my kind of label: they allow me to be who I am. There’s huge labels that tell you what you’re going to do, but with Billy Jam, I get to make music that I like and enjoy, and most importantly, do music that my fans enjoy.
PC: To that point, the Miller Time record performed very well on streaming and established a strong base for you out of the gate. How important was that base, and what kind of momentum did you feel going forward after you saw that success?
AM: I like to say that album is a non-alcoholic version of a Miller Time [laughs]. It did very well for us. My audience didn’t know who I was, so I put a lot of different things on there. Generally, I’d consider it traditional country, but there’s a few more modern things on there like “Through with You” and “Boys in Uniform.” I wanted my fans to have an album that showed where I was at the time and where I’m planning to go. These latest songs I’ve released are more in the vein of those two songs, but I’m always looking back and doing traditional things as well. That record set a great tone for me as both an artist and person.
PC: What drew you and your team to release “When God Made the South” as both the lead single from your forthcoming EP and your first single since the release of Miller Time?
AM: That’s a song we needed for our show, and I wanted to get it out as soon as I could. It’s a little more rockin’ number than “Don’t Let the Barn Door Hit Ya” or “I’m over You, So Get over Me,” and that’s what I wanted to do with it. I like rock: I like KISS and Led Zeppelin and all those guys, so I wanted to have a country song that had that feel to it that I could play at my shows. When I was presented the opportunity to record “When God Made the South,” I pounced on it because it took me back to that rock influence. It’s upbeat, it’s in your face; it’s a genuine southern song. If you’ve never been to the south, it’s a great song to listen to before you go [laughs].
PC: “When God Made the South” has become your most-streamed song on Spotify in the six-plus months that it has been released. How encouraging is it to see the lead single from a new project perform the way that “When God Made the South” has?
AM: It’s very encouraging, because I was a little nervous putting something like that out. It’s different than the traditional stuff that I’m known for and tend to do. Seeing the positivity from that song is really great. Like you said, it’s my most-streamed song now, which is crazy to see. It’s also encouraging because it shows me what my fans want.
PC: What made you and your team believe that your newest single, “Girl, I Know a Guy” was the right follow up single to “When God Made the South” and the success it had?
AM: I sent a group of record label guys the songs from my EP, and I asked them to listen to them and let me know which ones they thought would do the best. We had a meeting, and they told me which songs they felt were the strongest. They said “Girl, I Know a Guy” is a good radio song. They said it would be a dumb decision not to release it to radio. We started out rocking with “When God Made the South,” and we went a little more somber with “Girl, I Know a Guy.” It’s not one where you’re going to turn on your radio and say “this is a drag,” [laughs]. It paints a really pretty picture of a guy that’s in love with a girl but hasn’t told her yet. We just filmed a video for it, and that’ll elaborate on that a little more.
PC: “Girl, I Know a Guy” was written by hit songwriters Walt Aldridge, Tim Rushlow and Danny Orton. How did you hear the song and what was it about the song that drew you to record it?
AM: My producer pitched it to me. He said he thought it would be a good song and good fit for me. Honestly, I told him, “There ain’t no way in hell I’m gonna record that song.” I felt like it was too pop for me. The demo I heard was very different from the way we recorded the song. That goes to show how inspiring a producer can be and what they can hear over an artist. They know more than artists do most of the time. There wouldn’t have been an “Achy Breaky Heart” if a producer hadn’t said, “You need to record this, Billy Ray,” and that’s how I felt with “Girl, I Know a Guy.” Everybody around me was saying it was a good song, and I wasn’t seeing it. I listened to it over and over again. We went in and recorded it, and I figured if it turned out bad, it would never get released. When it was recorded, I fell in love with the song and knew we had to release it. It really opened my eyes to trying different things.
PC: You have a new EP set for release in October. With two singles already released, what information, if any, can you give about the EP? What can listeners expect to hear?
AM: The next song is the cornbread song of the bunch, and it’s truly one of my favorites. It’s called “Getting Lucky in Kentucky,” and it’s a mixture of western swing and Kentucky guitar pickin’. When I wrote this song, it was about a guy who goes to a horse race and doesn’t only pull a lucky number on a horse, he pulls a lucky number on a girl. The song is everything I enjoy about a traditional country song. I made it a point to my producer that if we were going to record a few radio numbers, we had to give something back to the fans who signed on for the traditional stuff. This is my ode to the traditional folks.
PC: You’ve recently spent time in writing rooms with hit songwriters Kent Blazy, Jerry Salley and Bill Whyte, among others. As a young artist and songwriter, what can you take away from collaborating with writers of that caliber so consistently?
AM: I’ve learned that songwriting isn’t rocket science, but you have to be pinpoint accurate. It’s like a college education for me. Those guys have written hits: they know what a hit song needs to sound like, say and do. Every time I go to Nashville to write, I learn something I didn’t know before. Writing is a two-way street. Sometimes you write with somebody like those guys you mentioned where you really click. They are truly invested in me, and that’s why I love writing with them.
PC: Along with the release of your forthcoming EP, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
AM: We’ve got a lot of shows coming up! I think I’m going to pass myself coming and going places [laughs]. I’m really looking forward to these shows. My favorite thing is performing, because I love getting out in front of people. I’m always excited about new music, but getting to play shows is number one for me.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
AM: I appreciate each and every one of my fans. They’re the reason I do this. I try to read as many of their comments on social media as I can and get back to as many as I can. Their input and their ability to tell me what they like and what they don’t is what shapes a career. I appreciate everybody who follows me and shows me how wrong or how right I am [laughs].
*Feature image by Dior Elia*
*Alex’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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