The beginning of Bea Miller’s career came with a lot of strings attached. She had to be on her best behavior as a 13-year-old rife with teenage angst, forego typical teenage experiences with friends, and move away from her childhood home in New Jersey to L.A. in favor of a career in the spotlight. Now at 21, Miller looks back on those years without resentment, but with the understanding that her dedication and perseverance was worth it. It allowed her to become the kind of pop star she was searching for when she was younger. One that candidly sings about real-life experiences from the bad to the good without sugar-coating it for the sake of a genre. Miller’s recently released album Elated! delivers all of the above and is her most vulnerable and introspective body of work to date.
Miller’s album touches on topics such as the institution of marriage on “Forever Is A Lie,” impulsive habits on “Making Bad Decisions,” and self-destruction on “Self-Crucify.” The introspective lyrics are paired with playful pop melodies making it the perfect soundtrack for angsty teenagers everywhere. Part of Miller’s allure is her ability to communicate her struggles in a way that speaks to others, making them feel like they’re not alone. This talent is what led to her 2019 single “Feel Something” reaching virality on TikTok earlier this year. She had no idea a global pandemic would leave the world relating to her song.
Along the way, Miller’s music has caught the attention of artists in other genres leading her to collaborate with Jessie Reyez, 6LACK, and, most recently, Aminé—who is the only feature on her new album. We caught up with Miller while she was quarantining in her childhood home. She opened up about growing up in the spotlight, the sarcastic meaning behind Elated!, and why honesty is so important to her music.
What are some of your first memories of music?
My mom was a vinyl DJ back in the day—because of that, she had a very eclectic music taste. I remember when I was a kid my mom had thousands of records and CDs. From a very young age, I was exposed to a lot of music and some of my earliest memories are just sitting in the car with my mom and singing along to songs that were from the 40s, 50s, 60s up until modern day. I’m very grateful for that. I tell her all the time my music sense and my actual music as an artist would not be nearly as expansive or be what it is without that.
When did you know music was your passion and that you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I would always sing in my room as a kid; sing in the car and sing in the shower. I knew that I liked it but I never considered that it was something I could realistically do with my life. When I was younger, I would listen to people that had these insane vocal ranges and I don’t have that. I used to think that was important to [be] a successful singer. Eventually, I pursued music as I’ll just do this for now, make a little bit of money to help my family and I’ll go back to school and my life and get a real job at some point. Even now, I can’t process that this is my job, it just doesn’t seem realistic.
You started off really young in the music industry. What was it like for you growing up and going through regular teenage experiences while also pursuing a career in the spotlight?
I hated it [and] I feel like I can say it now because I don’t hate it anymore. At the time I felt like it was really unfair and scary that I always had to be on my best behavior and be a good influence for people that I didn’t know. I was just a kid myself, trying to figure out what I was doing with my life. I didn’t get to go to school or to see my friends, and I had to move away from them so I could have my career. There were obviously fun moments—things that I accomplished that I was really proud of. And I loved making the music, but I look back and I genuinely was unhappy. I felt like I was losing this part of my life that I would never be able to go back and relive. Now I’m grateful because I feel like I’ve established myself and I feel so lucky to have all the things that I have and I genuinely enjoy what I’m doing.
What was your creative process like for your new album Elated!?
I’ve been writing, singing, and recording for so many years that I’ve reached a point where I’ve found my people. Or at least the people I needed to find to create this particular collection of songs. I felt so much more comfortable with the people I made this record with than I had previously. I would just live my life and go into the studio and I would tell my co-writers and producers stories about my life and we would find ways to write songs about it that would tell my story. We left a bit of room for other people to insert their own stories when they were listening. It was nice. I wasn’t worried about anything that I said because the people around me were so supportive and encouraging.
Your song “Feel Something Different” ft. Aminé, is an updated version of your viral single “Feel Something.” Why did you update it for the album?
We released the original “Feel Something” over a year ago and I thought that was it. I was planning on moving forward and releasing new music that was more accurate to how I feel today. Out of nowhere, TikTok just started blowing up with “Feel Something.” When we were releasing the EP, we were like “Do we need to re-release ‘Feel Something; now that it’s doing well?” And as much as I was grateful to be connecting with people with an old song, I wanted to continue connecting with them with new stuff. [My team] was like, ‘why don’t we make a new version of it, so we don’t feel like it’s recycling the same content?’ which made me feel better about releasing it. I’m a huge fan of Aminé—I think he’s amazingly talented and I didn’t expect to be able to get him on any of my music. I remember coming up with a list with my team of people that would be cool as features and I put Aminé in there thinking, haha, that’s not gonna happen. He loved the song and his producer Pasqué reworked the music and here we are.
What was the meaning behind the title “Elated!”?
I could not pick a title for this EP. I really struggled because I couldn’t condense what all of the music meant to me to a word or a few words. Ultimately, I realized it is a relatively serious body of work but I say it in a playful enough way that it doesn’t feel heavy. A lot of the songs have lyrical messages that are more on the serious side—very glass-half-empty—but I wanted it to be playful because musically those are the sounds I like. That’s how I kind of got the idea of making it a title sarcastic. I thought that is so the opposite of the emotions that I’m conveying throughout all the lyrics that it could be kind of funny. That’s why I added the exclamation point because typically when I talk to people, I don’t use exclamation points unless I’m being sarcastic.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your music and the accompanying visuals?
For the music, I draw a lot of inspiration from my actual life because I really want to be truthful. My goal is to be honest with people and communicate not only the good but the bad and everything in between. When I was younger, I didn’t feel like I got enough of that from young women in music.
Visually, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from quarantine and from my creative director Gina—she’s a genius. It’s really inspiring to be able to work with somebody who is doing your entire project so they’re really invested in it and who also just brings things to the table that you wouldn’t have even thought of your project. Gina and I set out to create pieces that almost have a little bit of insanity ingrained into them. We make a lot of artistic visual pieces that reflect how we’ve all been on this downward spiral during quarantine and this year overall.
Looking towards the future, what’s next for you?
I’ve been so focused on everything that we needed to do for this project, that I haven’t even been able to think about what comes next. Also, I don’t think anyone needs any more negative thoughts or reminders at this point. I could write songs all day about how lonely I feel and how much I miss life and experiencing things with other human beings [but] I don’t want to bring that energy into the world. I can’t write about anything else. I think the music that comes out in the few years after we hopefully resolve this [pandemic], will be amazing because I think artists and creative people will start going out and experiencing things again and it will feel 10 times better to experience those things.