By MIKE CHAIKEN
Bea Miller’s music offers up more emotional heft than you would expect from a 16-year-old singer.
On her hit single, “Young Blood,” Bea—who first came to national attention on “The X-Factor”—sings, “But in dark times when we close our eyes/ It’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare/ When the sun don’t shine we lose our minds/ But I swear, we can get there.”
Throughout her first full-length album, “Not An Apology,” Bea and her songwriters are unafraid to dance in the shadows of experience.
Bea, who was in Connecticut late last year opening for Demi Lovato, is not mining the typical pop subjects of having a good time and how the love of a boy is the best thing that ever happened to her.
Bea, who was calling from the road in Northern California, said it’s important that her music offers her fans some emotional depth and a dose of reality. For Bea, she wants to be someone who her fans can relate to… someone she didn’t have as a music fan.
“When I was younger, I never had young female artists tell me the truth,” said Bea. “I had ‘Hannah Montana.’ Bubble gum pop music, full of positivity.”
That kind of vision of the world, Bea said, is “not necessarily true.”
“I wanted to be that voice,” said Bea, who will be truthful and will tell the listener, “Life kind of sucks sometimes.” But, she said, she wants to tell her fans as well, that as bad as it feels at a given moment, eventually you’re going to get through it.
What she gives her fans is what Bea seeks from the music she herself listens to.
“I listen to very truthful music,” said Bea, citing Damien Rice as one favorite. She likes to hear stories that are hard to talk about and the artist feels the need to let it out.
Bea also likes singers who don’t try to hide their imperfections. She likes singers whose voices sometimes crack and croak. “I think that’s beautiful,” said Bea. “The vocals are honest.”
“I like truth,” said Bea.
Bea’s voice is also not the typical voice you would expect from a young woman her age. There is a maturity to its timbre, a kind of pleasing husky sound… kind of like the rasp of Billie Holiday.
Growing up, Bea said she didn’t realize initially how different her singing voice was from other female artists.
Bea said she did know that her speaking voice was different from other girls. “Every girl has a high pitch,” said Bea. Her voice, Bea said, can sound more like a boy’s.
When she heard what her voice sounded like on a recording, Bea likened it to someone taking a video of themselves and hearing their voice on the tape for the first time. “Your voice sounds differently to you than it does to other people.” When she heard the completed record, Bea said, her reaction was, “Is that really me?”
Asked what she thought of her voice—if she was not Bea Miller but just another fan—she said she would remark on its cool tones, how it was deeper, raspier, and had more depth. She also would recognize that there might not be as much range as the typical female singer. But that’s fine with Bea.
“I think I sound like me,” said Bea of her voice. “It’s really easy in pop music to blend in with everyone.” Bea said her vocal sound remains unique.
Bea first came to the attention of America as a contestant on “The X Factor,” a talent show conceived by Simon Fuller (“American Idol”).
Asked what she learned about the music business from the experience, Bea said, “I think I overtaught myself (on the show).” Other people were picking her music. She was limited on how long she could perform. She spent a lot of time worrying about her hair and make up and what she wore. And somewhere in the midst of that, she had to find a way to be herself.
With the “The X Factor” now a part of her history, Bea said she gets to sing her own music; she decides what she can sing about; she gets to pick out she wears; she gets to figure out how she performs her show; and she can shape her own image.
Bea’s new album “Not An Apology” soared to the top of the charts nearly immediately after its release at the end of July (hitting number 7 on Billboard). “We definitely were not expecting it,” said Bea, who has been building her audience with opening stints for Demi Lovato and One Direction.
Bea attributes the success of the record to her hardcore fans. She had been hyping up the new album on social media and the fans were “excited,” said Bea.
With her career at its beginning, Bea was asked where she saw herself in five years professionally.
“I’ve never been one to plan out the future and see where it goes,” said Bea. She said her primary goal is to reach the people who “need to hear what I say.” She wants to be someone who fans can expect will them the truth and who will be there for them.
For more information, go to BeaMiller.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN