They say variety is the spice of life, and for Jason Charles Miller, variety is definitely something his life does not lack. Singer, songwriter, touring musician, studio owner, voice actor, show host. The man does it all.
Videos by American Songwriter
Formerly the frontman for the band Godhead, Miller has since launched a solo career that straddles the line between rock and country and by straddles, I mean he has each leg firmly planted knee deep on either side of the line. Built on a bluesy, driving guitar, “Better Late Than Never” is the first taste of Miller’s upcoming album From the Wreckage – Part One due out in February of 2021. Reminiscent of former Guns N Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin’s solo effort with the Ju Ju Hounds, everything about this song is dirty and big. With a foundation of fuzzy guitars and big chorus, this song was made to be played as loud as your speakers will go.
“I wrote that with Jonathan Tyler, who is a great artist in his own right. I had this title in my brain for the longest time. I love that phrase because a lot of times I apply that to my own life. When I told Jonathan the title, we just started jamming, and what I realized the song turned into afterwards is really about getting ghosted.
“It’s basically about a person who was in a relationship and thought everything was fine, then their partner leaves one day and they just want to know why. It isn’t about wanting to be with the partner again. It’s just wanting to know the reason why. I think that’s something we’ve all gone through, whether it was a relationship or just a person that you think you’ve got something going with and then they disappear. I think it’s something everyone can relate to.”
While universal appeal is typically what most songwriters strive for, for Miller that type of relatability is not generally his norm.
“I don’t normally write songs with that kind of universal appeal. I like to dive deep into different things. Like on my last album, I had this song called ‘Get Thee Behind Me’ which was about Jesus’ walk in the desert but from the devil’s perspective. It’s not this pro-devil song, but it was just like, what’s the devil thinking? It’s kind of odd in a way that I have this song that has this general view when often times I go extremely specific in different subjects.”
While the lyrical approach might not be his usual fare, the sound is exactly the bullseye he was shooting for. In all the years he’s been releasing music as a solo act, Miller sees “Better Late Than Never” as the most indicative of what he sounds like.
“I would say it very much is representative of me and might be the closest thing I’ve always envisioned what I want my sound to be. I think it’s my best representation of who I think I am as an artist. Whether that’s actually true or not, who knows, but if I needed to just play one song for people, that would be the song.”
Just one piece of a much bigger project, From The Wreckage – Part One as a whole is a collection of songs that by Miller’s account reach back as far as six or seven years.
“The inspiration behind that album title is that a lot of these are songs I’ve always loved and wanted to release, but when under the thumb of a record label your artistic vision is often determined by the mood of what you’re A&R rep might be thinking that day. I’ve got the great advantage of owning my own recording studio, so I’ve written and recorded so many songs that are just sitting in the vault that I’ve always felt passionate about, but they either didn’t fit a collection creatively or the record label just didn’t think it was right. Now I have the chance to put these out.”
That studio, Command Central Studios is no small-time, basement project either. One of the premier studios in Los Angeles, CCS has worked with artists from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry to former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. Companies that have entrusted work with CCS include from Electronic Arts, HBO, TBS and Marvel. Perhaps that’s another reason why From The Wreckage – Part One features a list of guest appearances from musical heavyweights like Kenny Aronoff, Katie Cole (Smashing Pumpkins) and Duane Betts (Allman Betts band).
“Recording is really fun because I basically grab different people as they come through town. I’ve lived in LA for almost 20 years now, but I also visit Nashville a lot, so I have a lot of friends that are amazing musicians. Adam Shoenfeld is an amazing guitar player, and when he was on tour playing Angels Stadium with Tim McGraw, I told him I was going to come kidnap him and bring him to the studio to play guitar on a couple songs. Cowboy Eddie Long is a good friend of mine as well and someone I always try to get to play on my stuff. He started his career playing pedal steel with Hank Williams Jr. and now he’s been with Jamey Johnson for a dozen years at least. Him too, I arranged to pick him up at his hotel to bring him over and threw him on as many tracks as I could.”
That incredible studio, along with Miller’s other myriad of talents, has led to a number of other opportunities rarely associated with a full-time musician. An in-demand voice actor for video games, tv shows, commercials and anime, Miller’s IMDB page lists over 120 acting credits and continues to grow.
“Back when I was singing with my old band Godhead, our publisher hooked us up with this advertising agency, so we wrote a song for a Pop Tarts commercial, and I ended up singing on the commercial. It was very simple, but it allowed me to join the Screen Actors Guild. I acted in community and school theatre when I was a kid so about seventeen years ago, I researched voice acting. I took a lot of classes, was fortunate to get an agent and now that is another portion of my life and my work.
“What’s really cool is I may get hired as a voice actor and a lot of these producers and directors only know me as a voice actor, but when they discover that I’m a singer that has often led to other opportunities. Like I sang the theme song to the last two expansions of Final Fantasy XIV. I sang in two episodes of DC Super Hero Girls on the Cartoon Network. All of these people initially hired me just as a voice actor but when they discovered that I’m a musician, they brought me in to do music. I don’t try to push myself on anybody. I just sort of do my thing and let people know what I do, and strange opportunities will present themselves.”
If you thought his calendar was already full, think again as Miller also hosts two weekly shows on Twitch. He has Miller Music Mondays where he brings on another songwriter each week to perform a virtual songwriter round. On Tuesdays, he appears on the Codename game channel where every week he co-writes a song rooted in Dungeons & Dragons with everyone who tunes in.
“Now this is where my nerdiness comes out,” he says with a chuckle. “I do this really specific show for Codename games where I write a song every week with everyone who is participating and watching. Codename puts out a game called Idle Champions and Idle Champions licenses characters from Dungeons & Dragons to be in their game. So every week, for two hours my co-host Dylan Wilks and I write a song about a different Dungeons & Dragons character with the audience. Every week we pick a different style. It might be a country song, might be a rock song, it might be punk. It’s just me and an acoustic guitar and sometimes we’ll bring on different special guests, like the authors who create the different characters. It’s fascinating and fun, and it keeps my songwriting skills fresh.”
Getting back to the music that bears his name and his name only, Miller’s whole point to “Better Late Than Never” and From The Wreckage – Part One is simply for people to love it. Sales, streaming numbers, video views, it’s not the numbers that matter. For Miller, success comes in the form of a smile or maybe a “hell yeah.”
“If people who are already fans of mine enjoy it, then it’s a success. Likewise, if it opens up anyone else to me, then it’s a success. As artists, we want the world to love us. There’s something inherent in us where we have to perform, and we have to be accepted or we wouldn’t do it. We’re sharing it with the world because there’s something inside us calling us to do that. As long as people like it, I consider it a success. There is no quantifiable number that I need to see or that will make me feel any sense of success or failure. If people dig it, that’s good enough for me.”