“I see colors when I listen to music,” says Bea Miller. “I’ve always been very affected by color. It’s a way to communicate a more complex idea in a simple way that a wide range of people can understand.”
Miller’s own palette as a singer and songwriter has expanded considerably since she wowed the world as a 13-year-old finalist on The X Factor. After signing to Hollywood Records in 2013 and releasing her debut album, Not An Apology, (debuted #7 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on iTunes Pop chart) in 2015, hit singles and accolades from Rolling Stone to The New York Times soon followed. Miller showcased her edgy, anthemic pop with hits such as the spine-tingling anthem “Young Blood” and the muscular, empowering, gold-selling ”Fire N Gold.” Tours with Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato and an opening spot on Selena Gomez’s 2016 Revival tour showed audiences a live presence that matched the urgency and indomitability of Miller’s voice.
Now 18, Miller wants to give the fans that have grown with her more – in color, bright and bold. This year she’ll unveil not a single album, but an anthology divided into three parts, each delivering three new songs: chapter one: blue, chapter two: red and chapter three: yellow. She’ll unveil them, respectively, in February, May and August.
To complete the story arc, a full-length album compiling the chapters, with three additional new songs, will follow this November. “The final phase will be the completion of the cycle,” Miller says.
“I wanted to find a way to constantly be in communication with the people who listen to my music,” says Miller. “As an artist, if you want to stay relevant in other people’s lives, you should always be bringing them along on your journey.”
Miller chose primary colors “because they create all the others. It’s kind of like saying that you go through all these things in life, to more fully understand yourself and other people, but you can create anything you want to out of any situation you’re in. You may go through hardships, but they’re part of a bigger picture.”
It felt right, then, to start with the color synonymous with sadness. “I went through an experience while writing these songs, where I had to realize that someone in my life was not good for me, that we had to move away from each other and figure things out for ourselves.” While inspired by a specific relationship, Miller stresses, “I made the songs broad enough that people can associate them with any relationship, whether it be with a friend or family member or someone they’re with.”
To craft and record the songs on chapter one: blue, Miller had to push herself creatively and emotionally. The deceptively funky “song like you,” with its crackling hip-hop groove and cool, contagious refrain, was conceived during a subway ride to Brooklyn.
“I went through a few weeks where I was in New York,” says the Jersey girl, who was working with Ido Zmishlany, a frequent collaborator of Shawn Mendes. “One of those days, I experienced a specific moment where I was like, ‘I am in a bad situation, and the person that I’m with is not right for me right now, and I don’t know what to do.’ I was sitting on the train, and I have a book where I write all my songs. I wrote down some of the things that seemed good about us and our situation, followed by the reality that they were never good at all. It was like a beautiful wave that becomes a devastating hurricane — a lullaby that can’t be heard over a baby continuing to cry.”
The eerily atmospheric, anthemic “burning bridges” teamed Miller with “one of my favorite producers,” Warren “Oak” Felder, “and one of my favorite co-writers and close friend, Steph Jones.” Still, Miller was unsettled when she entered the room to begin the session: “After I made this realization that led to ‘song like you,’ I felt betrayed not only by another person, but by myself – like I used to be on top of the world, and everything came crashing down.”
‘burning bridges” is, as a result, “definitely an angry song. But sometimes I think it’s good to be angry, because it helps you to release that negativity be able to see things from a clearer perspective.
The stark, piano-driven “i can’t breathe” marks a particular breakthrough. “It wasn’t really only about this relationship that I had been having problems with,” Miller notes. “I was feeling a series of negative emotions, about a bunch of things that had happened in my life. I really couldn’t get a grip on where I was in the world and why things happen to certain people. It’s a little scary to write about that; it’s definitely easier to write something with a more upbeat sound. But I felt it was important to get it down – for myself, and because a lot of people experience this. They feel like they’re suffocating under all the pressures around them.”
The risk paid off: “It was a pivotal moment in my career. I wrote a song I was really proud of, that I felt could matter to a lot of people. It changed a lot of things for me as a songwriter, and as a person. I think it touches people because it is such a relatable emotion. I’m especially excited for people to hear that one.”
A new video will accompany the release of every song on chapter one: blue, and its successors. “Because I wanted to make this a very cohesive story, I’m adding visuals to create a larger picture, and bring it to life,” says Miller. “I think it will be helpful to go as far I can, to show people what I was going through writing the songs. Essentially, each video will begin where the last one ended, so that everything follows through.”
The upcoming chapter two: red will pick up with songs that suggest “trying to take action,” says Miller. “You’re trying to become a better person and make things better for yourself – though that can be difficult, so you’re still struggling.” chapter three: yellow, she adds, “will represent having finally made the decision to move on, and where you end up after that. It’s not that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel; you’ll face other problems later, but you’ve moved through this problem.” And finally the as-yet-to be titled sophomore album (which features collaborations with a number of notable songwriters and producers including Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Sir Nolan, Jesse Shatkin and Pop & Oak, to Ilsey and Nick Jonas to name a few) to be released in November 2017 will consist of the nine previously released songs and include three new songs to complete the cycle.
For Miller, the chapters project reinforces a relationship with fans that’s “very two-directional. I’ll ask them for help, and they’ll ask me. I don’t have all the answers – they give me more help than I give them, I think. But we’re all going through life together, trying to figure things out. It’s a constant learning experience for all of us.”