Colby Miller wants the internet to hire him to write, perform, record, produce, and release his next album. He’s using kickstarter to fund his next album and needs donations and preorders to make it just so. You could say that it’s a fair request since he has given away everything he’s ever recorded away for free: 2 EPs and a full-length LP last year, and various covers and demos this year. Or you could do what the business world does, and grill him for a while before giving him the job. Since it’s spring, I opted to grill. Because he is a gentleman and smart job seeker, Colby wore his interview-best. Ladies and gentlemen of the hiring board: I give you Colby Miller.
You have been incredibly DIY in your music so far. Can you describe all that you did on your first record Prometheus? Recording, mastering, promotion, release, etc? How did you fund your album? How did you learn how to do all that you did?
All of the tracks on Prometheus were either recorded in my garage or in my bedroom over the course of about 3 weeks. To record I just used two Shure microphones, one for vocals and one for the instruments, and a small interface that plugged into my computer. I had two friends who played violins, and they would come in whenever they could and record for a few hours, usually really late at night. The mixing took me the longest because I was doing it with headphones. For the mastering I just found a local guy who charged me practically nothing for the work. He did an okay job, but I would have liked to go through a nicer service. As soon as I finished the album I sent out over 100 emails to different people trying to get them to review it or mention it. But only a couple of them actually even downloaded the album! So they never even gave me a chance. The worst part is a lot of them added me to their mailing list so now I get all of these emails with updates about their website and new artists they are featuring. It’s a little frustrating. I’ve never liked the idea of going into a studio because, unless you have full control of what’s going on, I think studios are very limiting to creativity. So I’m not at that point yet. If I ever get rich enough to lock out beautiful studios with a personal engineer then I might do it. I’m getting tired of doing the engineer work. That gets really boring fast. When I first started recording it was on a Tascam four track, about four or five years ago, and I was recording on used tapes. It was pretty bad.
You’ve given all your music away for free. Why?
I don’t think anyone should have to pay for my music right now, so I’ve been happily giving it away to anyone who will take it. I care more about the music getting listened to than me getting a big paycheck. So until anyone really wants to pay for my music, I think it should be freely available. Eventually I’m going to have to charge for my music though and probably sell some merchandise, but this is a little while off. My fanbase is too tiny.
After I told my friends, and they told me I was crazy, I went to the library and checked out all of the books I could on Greek mythology.
Your first album was much more ambitious than most debut pop/rock albums. I’m thinking particularly of your lyrical scope, album-long coherence, instrumentation and composition. How long did it take you from inception to release? Did it feel ambitious at the time? What are you thoughts about the scope of the record now?
I started telling my friends my idea for Prometheus about a month before I started actually writing it, but my idea was a lot broader then. My plan was to record five albums based on Greek mythology from beginning to end. It was supposed to be huge and each album was going to have a different sound. After I told my friends, and they told me I was crazy, I went to the library and checked out all of the books I could on Greek mythology. A couple weeks later, of which I was researching and mapping out the gigantic project, I got lost in the scope of it all. That’s when I started researching Prometheus by himself, who, to me, was amazing. He’s the savior of mankind to them but he’s also very human. When I actually started the writing process I decided just to write about him. I haven’t decided if I’ll go back and try to tackle my original idea, but I really want to. There are a lot of stories I didn’t get to tell that I really wanted to, including some about Prometheus.
What’s your favorite Prometheus story that you didn’t get to on your album?
When Prometheus is punished by Zeus and chained to a rock. It’s a crazy story. Not only is he trapped against this rock but every day an eagle comes down and eats his liver. Then at night his liver would regenerate only to be eaten again the next day. I lightly touched on this story but I didn’t get to go as in depth as I wanted to. Maybe another time.
What did you like about that story?
It’s intense and has a lot of emotional potential. My biggest problem was perspective. I couldn’t decide whose perspective to write it from.
Tell us about your new album and how it’s the same and different from your prior work.
It’s not as conceptual as my previous work. This is more personal and intimate. With Prometheus I was writing through stories and I gained inspiration through that. With the new album I’m finding my inspiration in more personal things like life, death, and religion. It’s light on the concepts, but overall a really heavy album.
What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?
I think my greatest strength is my greatest weakness. I have some very ambitious ideas, and it’s tough not to be swallowed in them.
It has been said that you have your whole life to write your first album, and six months to write your second. But you seem to have songs bubbling up and out of you continually. Within a few weeks of the release of Prometheus and Epithemus you were already posting more free songs on the internet, and then you started a free ongoing mixtape that laid the groundwork for your new album. Prometheus has only been out for four months. How many songs have you written? Can you describe your song-writing process? To what do you attribute your prolific nature?
For the new album I’ve already written somewhere around 10 tracks, which is a good number for me. I usually write the lyrics and the music at the same time and sometimes I don’t even have the song finished before I record it. So it’s all very spontaneous to me. I can’t sit down and make myself write a song, it just comes to me when it wants to.
If you had unlimited financial and time resources, what would you do musically?
I would probably do the same thing, but I would put on huge shows. I like the idea of putting on a show rather than just playing guitar and singing for the audience. I think pop stars have it exactly right when it comes to that stuff. I’m an artist, but I’m also here to entertain.
Someone in the audience who was apparently feeling the Christmas spirit decided to get on stage and dance while we’re playing these kind of slow acoustic songs. So behind us is this lady, awkwardly moving around, just completely throwing us off. I would call it interpretive dance.
How is it getting shows in LA? Have you played much in your home town of San Bernardino? Where have you gotten the best reception? Any good live-music playing stories? Do you feel a part of any music scene?
Getting shows in LA is tough because they want people with a large draw, something I don’t really have. As far as music in San Bernardino goes, I would say it’s pretty much dead. LA is good though, the people are nice and I’ve always had someone come up to me afterwards and talk to me which I really appreciate. The best live-music story I have would either be the time I put on a Christmas themed show that was a complete failure or the time I literally played a show to no one. Sometimes people come to shows for just one artist and leave right after.
San Bernardino has been economically depressed for a couple decades. Has living there influenced your song-writing? If so, how?
Besides the economic condition, has anything else about living in the Inland Empire influenced your music that you’re aware of?
Sometimes it’s a gritty place, but it’s nice too. I’ve grown up in a fast paced city environment, there is an urgency to everything we do, so I think that has influenced the way I work.
What are you salary requirements for this position?
I wouldn’t turn down a million dollars.
Why should we hire you over this Colby Miller?
Ah, that guy. Whenever I’m bored and it’s late at night I usually end up surfing his website, just to check up on him. He seems nice enough. I think it’s a race between him and I to success. Whoever wins keeps the name.
Where do you see yourself one year from now? Five years?
One year from now will be interesting. Five years, even more interesting. I’m a strange person, so it could go either way. I’m not the type of person who thinks about those things too hard.
What do you think your biggest success as a musician has been thus far? Your biggest mistake?
My biggest mistake is definitely the Christmas show, and my biggest success is Prometheus. I’m very proud of that record.
Okay, tell us the Christmas show story please.
It was awful. I had all of these original Christmas songs that my friend and I had written just an hour before the show. It was me and my back up singer Amy, who also sung on Prometheus. We had matching outfits and everything and we thought it was going to be great. Only we were rehearsing the stuff up to five minutes before getting on stage. So, we get on stage and begin the first song, which goes okay so I’m thinking, “this show should go pretty well”. Well, I start playing the second song and about halfway through both of us realize we don’t know our own song. So we stop playing and start over. It got so bad that at one point someone in the audience shouted out, “next song”. Then, to make matters worse, someone in the audience who was apparently feeling the Christmas spirit decided to get on stage and dance while we’re playing these kind of slow acoustic songs. So behind us is this lady, awkwardly moving around, just completely throwing us off. I would call it interpretive dance. We finally got through the three or four songs and left the stage. I was so embarrassed. I promised myself never to go in to a show so unprepared ever again.
I have some great ideas but I can’t accomplish them on my own.
What were you hoping I would ask, but didn’t?
I was hoping you would have asked about my love life, but it’s okay.
Please tell us about your love life.
I don’t have a love life. My social interaction recently has been limited to missionaries. They come over on p-days and stuff to eat and hang out. The missionaries have become my best friends.
To wrap up, the a third take on the old justify your existence question: Why should anyone listen to your music?
No one has to listen to my music, but I’m glad when people do. There is a lot of noise out there, including me, to the point that we have unlimited options. I can only hope that out of all that noise my music can push through and connect to someone.
If you would like to hire Colby, visit his kickstarter page and make a donation! Everything from $5 on up will yield a thank you gift, and any amount helps. If you want to hear everything he has released so far for free, check out his bandcamp page.