Before she reached the age of ten, Bea Miller started gaining major attention for her gravelly-beyond-her-years but gorgeously powerful voice. Now 15, and with a few years of playing guitar and self-taught songwriting under her belt, Bea is set to release a debut EP and album full of sharp-edged pop songs revealing both her moody intensity and fiery rock-and-roll spirit.
A four-track EP, Young Blood finds Bea joining forces with producers like busbee (P!nk, Kelly Clarkson), Jarrad Rogers (Icona Pop, Demi Lovato), and Mike Del Rio (Kylie Minogue, Selena Gomez) to craft a batch of songs that channel Bea’s untamable energy into melody-charged pop/rock. With two of Young Blood’s tracks co-written by Bea, the EP proves her uncanny ease in using ultra-catchy pop songs as a conduit for her punk-inspired sensibilities. And while Young Blood is built on an edgy blend of deep beats and jagged guitars, that left-of-center sound never overpowers Bea’s stunning vocals or the defiant message at the core of her songs.
“The overall idea behind my music is that kids can rule the world, that they should be free to do whatever they want,” says Bea, who counts Nirvana and The Pretty Reckless among the bands who most inspire her. “It’s about giving kids the power to speak out and create the future they want for themselves, which is something I really believe in.”
Born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn and New Jersey, Bea never had trouble finding the power of her own voice. Growing up with her two moms and twin kid sisters, she began singing as a baby and never really stopped. At age eight, a classmate’s parent took note of Bea’s talent while working with her on a school play. That lead to an introduction to a well-known music producer who offered Bea her first record deal, which she turned down. During that same time Bea’s talent was brought to the attention of various NYC talent agents leading to the audition for a role in Homeland director’s feature film Tell Tale—a part she ended up landing.
As more and more movie roles came her way (including a part in Toy Story 3), Bea began tapping into her vocal prowess and made her singing debut by belting out “America the Beautiful” after a Venus vs Serena match at the 2008 U.S. Open. Although her first taste of singing for a crowd of thousands sparked a serious desire to devote her life to making music, Bea rejected the record deal offered to her soon after the performance, and instead took time to develop her voice and record demos independently.
Then, when Bea was 13, a family friend sent an audition notice for the second season of The X Factor. “I figured it would just be fun to try out, like an adventure or a story to tell, but then I ended up getting a lot further than I expected,” says Bea. Soon after finishing out the season as a top-ten finalist, Bea signed a deal with Syco Music/Hollywood Records and started working on her debut. In the meantime, she deepened her following by posting covers of tracks like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and in early 2014 released “Rich Kids” (a scrappy and snarling but instantly infectious track co-written by Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden).
One of the two songs that Bea co-wrote for Young Blood, the EP’s title track is an all-out anthem and perfect embodiment of her rebel-hearted spirit. With her voice starting out hushed and haunting, the heavy-hitting “Young Blood” ultimately shows the true force of Bea’s vocals by unfolding into a full-throated ode to misfit kids everywhere. That ferocity is matched on “Enemy Fire” (a handclap-heavy stomper that’s all gritty guitar and woozy harmonies), as well as on “Fire N Gold” (a dreamy, gut-punching slow-burner propelled by Bea’s soaring and soulful vocal work). Even on Young Blood’s closest thing to a starry-eyed love song—“Dracula,” another number she co-wrote—Bea keeps it raw by snaking darkly playful lyrics through the track’s throbbing beats and fuzzed-out groove.
Noting that one of her missions is to “keep rock music alive,” Bea first discovered rock & roll thanks to her mom, a one-time DJ who compiled mixtapes loaded with songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to play for Bea on long car rides. “My mom opened up my musical taste when I was really little without me even realizing it,” Bea recalls. “Then once I got to be 11 or 12 I started listening to rock and alternative on my own, and pretty soon after that I started asking for a guitar.” After getting an acoustic for her thirteenth birthday, Bea mastered a few chords and quickly began writing her own songs, a practice she describes as intensely emotion-driven. “Usually when I pick up my guitar to write it’s because there’s something I want to get off my mind,” she says, naming her parents’ divorce as one experience that she worked through in her songwriting. “To me it’s like bringing my journal to life, and singing about the things that most people would probably keep hidden and secret.”
As she moves forward with her music, Bea aims to keep on instilling her songs with that level of honesty, something she considers key to creating music that’s vital. “I’m a teenage girl and I’ve definitely had those moments of feeling like there’s no one who understands me,” she says. “So I want to make it clear to people listening to my songs that there’s someone who knows what they’re going through and feels the same way they do.” With her full-length debut due out later this year, Bea notes that taking time to explore her voice in her early years was essential to carrying out her vision. “My plan was never to make music just to show off what notes I could hit or anything like that,” she says. “It’s always been to make music that people could sing along to and connect with. It’s so important for me to make people feel that they’re not as alone as they think.”