- Words Gem Stokes
- Photography and Creative Direction Gina Gizella Manning from G I Z E L L A
- With thanks to Digital Photo Printing & Studio - Los Angeles
“I just wanna feel something / I just wanna feel” laments Bea Miller on her smash hit “Feel Something”. Feel something, she does, deeply and intuitively throughout her new EP “elated!”.
Bea Miller has been the name on everyone’s lips since she began her music career at age 13. Miller resides in the firmly rooted place of the hearts of fans that have witnessed her personal growth into the pop royalty that we all know and love today. The artist’s connection to her fans is special and mutually dependent, taking on the role of matriarch ‘feeding her children’ with each sparkling new release.
Now 21, with a solid 8 years of music under her belt, Miller is nourishing us with a new side. ‘elated!’ is intimate, and audacious… and we love her all the more for it.
As Bea puts it, the ‘natural progression from old Bea Miller to new Bea Miller’ is crystal clear in “elated!”. The project is more slowed-down, stripped-back, and bare-faced than her previous discography.
The EP opens with the pensive “hallelujah”, where bluesy piano, sharp percussion and layers of harmony, furnish understandably egregious lyrics: ‘am I the only one that hears a baby cry and fantasises ways that I could shut them up?’. The listener laughs, whilst being inducted into Miller’s deeper message of questioning religion in this track.
From feelings hidden to those uncovered, the EP’s second head-bopping track takes shape in “FEEL SOMETHING DIFFERENT”. Remixing the Tik Tok favourite “feel something” with an Aminé feature is an ingenious take that spotlights both Aminé’s signature hip-hop style and Miller’s enchanting vocals.
Never one for tedium, though, Bea takes a stylistic 180 in the poignant ballad which completes the EP: “self crucify”. ‘You can call me what you wanna / ‘Cause I’ve probably called me worse’ is a lyrical stand-out in this, a track detailing relatable feelings of self-sabotage, rounding off the EP nicely with a rousing, emotive chorus of voices that uplifts Miller’s voice and leaves the listener in awe. After conversing with Bea over Zoom, I found she is relatable in not just music, but in nature, too.
She emerges on my screen, bleary-eyed, after sleeping in and making coffee, for an interview that morphs into a therapy session about our lives, self-truths, connections with her wonderful fans, and growing old.
You may be tired of hearing this now, but we’re elated for ‘elated’! Congrats on the EP release.
I can’t say that’s the first time I’ve heard it, but I appreciate it! All my fans are like ‘we’re elated for ‘elated!’’. If you’d said it in the first two days it came out, I’d say ‘that’s pretty original’.
How do you feel now it’s out in the world? Do you still feel a connection?
I feel immensely stressed before I release music, and I question it up to the day of release sometimes. And that’s ridiculous because the day before a release I don’t have the ability to pull a song from streaming platforms. Especially with this EP, because I feel like I was a lot more honest in my lyrics with this one, to the point where I shared some things that I haven’t even shared with my own friends and family. But you know what, once it’s actually out, it’s like… I feel free. I feel relieved. There’s nothing I can do any more – it’s out of my hands. I already wrote the songs, and rewrote the songs, redid all the little things in the production, mixed 1,000 times, got it mastered, sent it in… I’ve already done my job. It’s up to everybody else to hear it now.
I saw on your Twitter that ‘elated!’ feels like your most personal work so far. Why take this direction for the EP?
Honestly, I felt claustrophobic singing my own music before then. I hadn’t written a lot of the songs on my first album, because I was so young at the time. My label did not believe that I was capable of doing that, and you know, they may have been right, but I would have liked to try. On my second album, I had never written anything before, so it was almost practice. I was very honest and truthful, but I definitely kept a level of secrecy – where I was telling my own stories, but not giving specific enough details for anybody else to pick up on what I was talking about. I went through a lot of songwriters and producers on the first album that I wrote and I was constantly meeting new people, so it was hard for me to open up every single day […] This EP I originally set out to be my third album but it didn’t end up going that way, but when I set out to write it, I honed in on the people that I wanted to create with, who I felt very comfortable with, who were my friends. I felt like I could tell them anything, and they supported that. They were never trying to stifle my ideas and tell me ‘that’s not pop enough’, or ‘that’s not versatile enough to work in a large-scale pop song’. They never tried to shoot down my ideas in that way, and they were always very supportive of what I wanted to communicate. That really changed a lot of things for me; I was less afraid, and I’d got better at writing songs, I had many more years of practice by the time we put this EP out, and I was ready to not feel suffocated by the music I’d written in the past. I felt like it was time to say something that made me feel like I was actually speaking from the deepest depths of myself – to everyone.
It feels like you’ve evolved since the ‘aurora’ era. Is there anything else, other than the writing, that’s changed for you?
I do, actually. I do feel different as a person. I do feel that as my music got more truthful, I was also in the process of becoming more comfortable being completely honest as a person in my own life. I’ve always been very much myself; once you get to know me it is very obvious if I’m upset, or if I’m happy, or whatever else I’m experiencing, whether or not I try to hide it. It’s very obvious because I’m such an emotional person, and I’m not a good liar. When I was a little bit younger, I felt… not necessarily afraid to be myself with everyone I met all the time, just worried that it would hurt their feelings, or make them uncomfortable, or come across wrong. I was more worried about how I affected other people than about being embarrassed, or ashamed, or any of those things for myself, depending on how people reacted to me. Recently – in the last year or two – I’ve shed that fear. I’m not a bad person, and I think that most of the time my intentions are good intentions, and I do recognise that sometimes, speaking very truthfully and being very yourself can come across the wrong way to other people and sometimes it does make them uncomfortable. But I also make it clear that I’m gonna do me, and if you have an issue – if I’m making you feel any type of way about that – talk to me about it. But I’ve becoming less fearful of hurting other people, or making other people uncomfortable, based on me just being myself. That doesn’t extend towards if I was genuinely being a dick, but just being goofy and saying whatever comes to mind, and not being afraid as much to hurt other people’s feelings if it’s just my honest truth. That’s really helped me as a person, and I haven’t really lost any people because of it. I thought maybe that some of my friends would get freaked out, but I think it’s just brought us closer, which is interesting.
What got you to that point of living your truth? Do you have any advice for those going through a similar struggle in being true to themselves?
When I really recognised that I needed to make a change and not be afraid to make that change, was actually around the time that I wrote my song “Wisdom Teeth”. I was pointing out to the other songwriters and producer in the room that I felt weird about getting my teeth removed, and really doing anything that comes with age, because it makes me feel dumber every time I recognise I reach a milestone that means I’m getting older. I do feel like in some ways we are smarter as kids by accident because we have been less influenced by upholding the norms of society and abiding by the societal unspoken rules of what it means to be a respectful functioning adult. When I was really thinking about that I was like ‘this is bullshit!’ Yes, I need to work, so I can pay my bills and take care of myself, and those things always need to happen, but I don’t think we always have to walk into rooms like ‘I need to be a professional adult’. I realise that when we’re younger, we are more ourselves because we’re less affected by the reality of being perceived by others. Recognise that you don’t owe it to anybody to not be anything you’re not.
“Wisdom Teeth” is actually my favourite track on the EP because of its insanely good production, and now I know the depth of the lyrics I love it even more. What inspired the production for this project?
In the past, I was definitely fussier about the influences in my production. I would hear certain songs and try to find a way to use that one sound that’s happening and make it my own. I was more into creating the exact sound that I wanted, and less into trusting that if I found producers that understood me, that they would know how to make something that I would really love. When I was making this EP, I wrote a lot of songs with my friend Mike Sabath, who is an incredible producer, and he really taught me a lot about myself in terms of what I like my music to sound like that I didn’t even realise. He just understood me as a person to the point that if I was recording something and in my head I thought ‘ooh know I don’t like that take’, he would stop it in the middle of the take before I even said anything because he would know that I was thinking that I hated it. When we were making music, we just understood each other. I had this one song called “that bitch” which has this very weird production sound throughout the song that he was playing on this keyboard […] I would’ve never thought that I would’ve liked it or asked to create a song for me around this sound. That really opened up and expanded my mind on what my music could be, so I do owe him a lot of credit for that. So, I didn’t intentionally change my production sound to be what it is, but I think once I found it, I kept going with it.
Do you feel connections with people are important for making music, or is professionalism enough in the writing room?
I think it depends on who you are. I believe there are definitely artists that function better writing with artists who are really famous and successful and know how to write a pop song based on the ‘algorithm’ of how you’re supposed to write a pop song. But that has never worked for me. I like to be in an environment when I’m writing where I’m surrounded by people who really know me, and who see me, and I see them. It takes away all this awkwardness. We’re making music, and that’s like the least professional job in the entire world, or at least, in my opinion, it should be, and I always used to hate going to the studio with people who made me feel like I was going to my job.
What kind of role do you see your fans playing in your life and in your music?
I have a very special relationship with the fans that I have now, because most of them, I have known for 6/7 years at this point. I definitely have a lot of fans who’ve been with me from the beginning. I recognise them when I see them on Twitter or Instagram, and I genuinely feel connected to them. If something happened to them, I’d be devastated. I’m sure that a lot of artists feel like their fanbase is special, but I really think mine is. Without their continued support, following along with me on my entire journey even when I was making shitty music or when I was depressed, or if I was not being myself, I don’t know that I would still be able to make music. Every time I release a project, I feel like it’s as much their baby as it is mine. I need fans who see me, and I’m very myself with them. My live shows are very crude and very real – I forget my lyrics all the time, I slip and fall down, and tell stories that have nothing to do with the songs sometimes, and [the fans are] just there. It feels like the way you grow up with friends: you grow together, and you change together. My fans make me feel like I’m allowed to make mistakes or try new things.