Jason T. Miller is one of those behind-the-scenes industry players whose hard work is heard by many but recognized by few…regular folk, that is. Music publications, however, know what’s up. Miller, a musician/producer, has been featured in magazines such as Guitar Player, Blues Revue, and Parade and also on Fender Guitars’ official website.

In addition to his work as a television composer, Miller has co-written and produced tracks for Grammy winners Kanye West and Keyshia Cole and is currently writing and collaborating with numerous other artists. The LA-based Miller is a multi-talented artist whose work reaches across genres and mediums.

Miller was kind enough to answer a few questions for LA Music Blog’s readers.

Jason T. Miller

Tell us a little about how you got your start in music.

I got my start in music when I was in fourth grade. My dad is a composer and arranger, and he had just finished scoring a movie. When he was done, he took my brother and I to Toys-R-Us and I saw this battery-operated guitar. I was immediately like “I want that!” I didn’t have any idea until I saw this thing and that’s where it got my interest. I started actually playing guitar when I was 8 and just stuck with it. I basically had a 24-hour-a-day teacher with my dad being around the house, and if I ever had music questions, he was there. That’s the basics of how it started, then it just wound up being what I was doing every day.

Going from there, you started off as a musician but have slowly moved more toward the composition and production side of things. How did that happen?

You know, it kind of just snowballed to be honest with you. When I was growing up and right after I graduated college, I was all about guitar. In college I was playing guitar on a TV show my dad was doing the music for called Becker. It was a CBS show with Ted Danson, and I was doing the weekly guitar work and stuff for that. My dad has just always told me to write and that you can make a great living as a successful songwriter, so I got my start in composing with him. He got a phone call and they wanted “young music” so he thought, “Well, my kid is like 22. What if I brought him in to write music with me?” so we did that show. It lasted about 7 episodes, and it was my first step into actually writing music.

Then my dad set me up with a computer and all the software. I would make little blues tracks and perform all the parts. I started getting into songwriting and started collaborating with singers, and it just kind of evolved from there. Now as far as the production because I wasn’t looking to be an artist and because I was working a little, I had to do all the production myself. I am doing all this myself and mixing, and I always tell people I am not a professional mixer. I work out of my own project studio, and I am in my bedroom. You are kind of forced to work with what you got, and I wound up collaborating with some people and it just kind of snowballed. Then I wound up working with people of different styles and people started to take me more seriously. Before you know it, it was just like, “Wow, this is what I am doing.” Two years out of college and now I am scoring TV shows and writing songs and that’s kind of how it happened.

What are some of your more recent TV-based projects?

Right now my dad and I are scoring a show on Fox called ‘Til Death. That’s with Brad Garret, and I am actually just leaving a mix session right now. This is the show’s fourth season, and we took over season two. A few years ago we did a show called Out of Practice that was with Henry Winkler. I did a show on my own called Quintuplets. It was on Fox. I have also done several reality shows and sports shows and Internet stuff and commercials. I have done work for Red Bull and for clothing companies. The composing that I do is both with and without my dad.

Who are some of the artists that you have been working with on the production side of things?

The biggest ones were Kanye West and Keisha Cole. I have a co-writing and co-production credit on the Kanye West “Graduation” album and then another co-writing and co-production credit on Keisha Cole’s last album, “A Different Me.” I recently produced a band called the Taxi Project out of Santa Cruz that are very cool. They have kind of a Dave Matthews, OAR, cool rock sound and a great lead singer. They came down for a weekend, and we recorded out in Pasadena at Firehouse Recording Studios. On top of that, I am working on a TV show and working with some good writers, shopping my tunes around, and staying active and staying involved.

Being that there are so many changes in the music industry, do you feel like it has affected the type of work you do?

Well, being my age it wasn’t like I was around twenty years ago when it was a completely different industry, so this is kind of what I know. As far as the major labels go and people talking about the major labels ruining music, I just look at it and say it is what it is, but I am going to do everything that I can do to get my stuff out there. I have no control over what is happening with them and just hope for the best. I love my work and luckily some other people have liked some of it as well, but I really don’t have a lot to compare it to. I hear my dad telling stories and I’ve heard him talking with some people before. I hear them say how great it used to be. For me this is what I know. I hear people talking, and I know that the business is messed up and that you deal with a lot of shady people, but there are also a lot of great people so you just have to do your best and watch your back and just try to enjoy it! It is fun!

Being a producer, what do you think more artists should focus on when thinking about their production?

That’s a tough question. I mean it’s different for everyone. For up-and-coming people, everyone is looking to get an album made, but someone who hasn’t been a part of it before can sometimes get sidetracked by the excitement of it all and that causes sacrifice of the quality. It’s fun and it’s great and you’re in a studio and it’s awesome, but it costs money and you don’t want to skimp out on the money. More is necessarily better when it comes to time. When I was doing the Taxi Project, we wanted to get as many songs done as we could, but at the same time, we had a budget set and we had a certain amount of time. You are better off having one less song if you can focus that energy into the ones you do have. Make those songs great as opposed to giving the people you are giving these CDs to an extra song that sounds rushed and the quality is just not there. Also being comfortable with who you are working with and having a lawyer helps as well. You hear all these horror stories of people going with producers and all of a sudden, the producer wants songwriting credit. If you are just starting out, this is all around you so you have to be careful of that. Basically try to work with producers that you have heard some stuff they have done. You want to mesh with them and get along and have a relationship that allows you to be comfortable working with them. Hopefully you have a relationship that will allow you to benefit from each other.

What would be your passion project?

I enjoy working with artists that write. I like collaborating so something where I was working with a big artist and involved in the writing process, being able to throw ideas off of each other until you are happy as a writer and producer and the artist is happy as a writer and artist. Again collaboration is something I always enjoy, so it’s always nice to have somebody to bounce ideas off of and be able to really pull off of each other. I really like working with people who are open to my ideas but at the same time have something to offer me. Those are the types of relationships I really value. It’s not like I am looking to get in with someone who says, “I’m in charge.” I wouldn’t want to work like that. It just makes the project a lot more fun when there is a personal element to the project. Working with the Taxi Project was great. I got to go to the Musician’s Institute briefly with the guitarist. He called me up one day and said, “Hey, I’ve got this band. Do you want to produce us?” So there was already that connection. He had checked out my website and felt like I would be good for the project. We already had a personal relationship, and there were no egos.

What was your main source of inspiration for getting into the industry?

I would have to say my dad simply because growing up in a house with him, he was always writing music and producing music. Again back to me playing guitar, I had no idea. I just saw this toy guitar, and I thought, “I want that.” It started with heavy metal and Metallica and that’s all I did. Then it went to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Brian Setzer and I got into more pop, mainstream music. Hearing other producers as well made me realize, “Wow, that’s really cool and I guess I could do it too.” I thought, “I have the instruments and the equipment and I have a brain that’s capable of being creative.” It was just like let me give this a shot, and I really get into it. Then I started to realize that if I could make a living at this, it would be great. My dad was exposed to some of the best musicians in the world when he was doing sessions and whatnot, so it was very exciting just to see how the best do their jobs. That was definitely a large part of my influence.

What is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

I have Keisha Cole’s album in there, I won’t lie! I actually spend a lot of my time listening to my mixes figuring out what I need to do when I am in my car. When I am at the gym, I am listening to Silverchair, Robin Thicke, Alison Krauss, and Union Station…it’s all over the place. I have a lot of film soundtracks. I am really into the Kings of Leon sound. He has a really good voice, and I really like what they are doing. It’s just really all over the place with my style.

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