Jake Miller has a legion of supporters – hundreds of thousands on social media, and millions of views on YouTube – but he doesn’t have casual fans. The people who devote themselves to the 22-year-old singer and rapper tend to be preteens, teens and college-age women – although as Miller points out, he gets men, too. (“Maybe because they’re trying to pull some of the chicks in the crowd,” he said.)
But those fans are not passive. They don’t just listen to a Miller song, or watch a video, then move on.
No, Miller’s fans are devoted. Devoted to the man, to his rapper swag (notice the New Era cap), to his singer-songwriter charm (check the 5 o’clock shadow on his narrow cheekbones), and most of all, to what his music – his art – does for them. When Miller takes the stage Saturday at Darien Lake Theme Park for a free in-park concert, it’s likely that many in his crowd – if they were asked, and if they were unfailingly candid – would tell you that Miller’s music saved them. Saved them from self-doubt, self-harm, and at times, suicide.
How did Miller create such an intensely loyal fan base? He talked about it in an interview after his recent appearance at the PXY Summer Jam radio concert in Rochester.
• Business smarts: Miller started posting music videos to YouTube as a teen. He racked up millions of views and built a following strong enough to land an offer from a record label at 18. He turned it down, thinking (correctly, it turned out) that if he spent a couple of years building his career solo, he could attract bigger, better offers from multiple labels. That happened, and he signed with Warner Bros. in November 2013.
• Fan connections: Though it’s getting tougher as his audiences get bigger – 12,000 fans came to see Miller and the other artists playing the Rochester show at Frontier Field – Miller has long tried to spend time with fans at shows. This is where he hears their stories of self-doubt, destructiveness and musical inspiration. Those conversations have shaped some of his deeper music, songs like “I’m Alright,” which reminds listeners that stormy days are followed by sunshine. “Kids would come up to me, crying, telling me how my music stopped them from cutting their wrists,” Miller said. “That just makes my day. If I can do that for someone, for just one person, that’s amazing.”
• He’s honest: Want to know Miller’s life? Check him out on Instagram (782,000 followers) and Twitter (594,000) and you’ll know exactly what he’s doing, whether renting a boat at home in Florida with his girlfriend or working on new music that’s more reflective of his life as a young adult.
He’s also candid about little things: Miller said that he’s insecure about his skin. “I used to have really bad acne,” he said. “From having bad acne, whenever I get one or two pimples, I get really embarrassed to go out on stage during the daytime.” And he just recently gave up biting his nails, a lifelong habit that was causing him embarrassment when signing autographs. “I just realized how unattractive it was,” he said. “I would hide while signing autographs. I started getting manicures, which means even though they were really bad, it would make them look better, and I wouldn’t want to touch them because they were getting better. So that was a little feminine, but it helped me.”
What: Jake Miller
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Darien Lake Theme Park
Tickets: Free with theme park admission