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Bea Miller has grown into one of pop's most sultry and intense artists since her stint on Season 2 of The X Factor US back in 2012. Now 18, the New Jersey native continues to find herself through powerful songwriting and tender melodies that tell a gripping story of her journey being a youth. As part of Fuse's Teen Takeover Week, we chatted with the singer about her trio of EPs that will lead to another album (Chapter One: Blue was released on Feb. 24 and Chapter Two: Red will arrive on June 2), why she chooses to be so open with fans and more.
FUSE: I think Chapter One: Blue is your most vulnerable and honest work you've done so
Bea Miller: I started writing this album about a year ago. I still didn’t end up finishing all the songs because I wanted them to be current and since I’d be releasing them through a course of three separate EPs over the next few months. I feel like no one really listens to full albums anymore and it’s really hard to find music that you actually need because nobody is willing to commit long enough to figure it out. So I was thinking how I could connect with them. So I figured this was the best way to do it. When I was writing originally before we planned out to release them, I was really inspired in the first few months. I woke up one morning and I realized that I’d been repressing my reality for a long time and not accepting that something really important in my life was not good for me anymore. That was why my writing beforehand hadn’t really been connecting with me. I figured that out and woke up that day like, “Oh my gosh! This is the beginning my new life and the beginning of a bunch of awesome new things to write about.” I was sitting on the train that day, because I was right in New York City on my way to the studio, and began writing in my notebook about good things that became bad and bad things that were masked as good. So that not only started Blue, but all the music that’s going to be released.
How do you find courage to be so raw with your music?
So with my first album, I was only 14 or 15 when I was recording it, and that time I wasn’t an experienced writer. I was afraid of what people would think of me and I was going through some rough times so I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t write most of my songs on that record and my fans would come up to me and tell me how meaningful they were and how much I helped them. I felt kind of like a liar. It wasn’t anything I didn’t relate to, but it wasn’t my story. That really inspired me to say, “Okay, from now on I’m not releasing music I haven’t written.” I want to be the person who directly helps them and really be there for them genuinely.
Tell me the story behind creating "Burning Bridges." It's definitely the most intense out of the three songs.
I wrote it a few weeks after I wrote “Song Like You,” which was the initial “what do I do now?” song about someone in my life that just wasn’t working anymore. I worked on it with a producer named Oak and a co-writer named Steph Jones. Steph is one of my closest friends and she knew everything that was going on in my life at that point. I was venting to them that I was angry and felt so abandoned and pissed off. Because they knew the backstory, it was easy to capture that in the song.
How did you choose the colors for this project?
I see music in color and I grouped the songs together based on the colors that I feel when I listen to them. I think it’s really cool and it happens to not only people who see music in color, but everyone who associate emotions with color. Blue is the initial stages of something isn’t working out. You feel lonely and abandoned, but you don’t accept it. Then Chapter Red can mean a lot of things. It’s anger, frustration but also empowerment. You’re kind of preparing yourself for what’s next and choose to act on your problems. Chapter Three, which is yellow, is a happier color. It’s the end of one experience where you’re like, “I’ve accepted this, I’ve tackled this and moved on from it.” Now I’m better prepared to face anything that will come.
Are the EPs turning into an album?
Yes, so I’m releasing three songs every three months. The full set of three is going to be the record plus an additional three songs.
There's been such an influx of female artists recently. Do you feel any pressure to compete?
No never, I’m a fan of those young artists creating music. I’m excited and I hope to meet a lot of them, and also get their opinion because I respect them. But right now I’m just thinking about myself and what I need to do.
know we’re both Zara Larsson fans!
I’d love to meet her! Hopefully soon. I’m really into Khalid right now too. It seems like everyone is slowly discovering him. He just released his album and already becoming really widespread among all the people I know. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Beatles music, but they’ve obviously been around forever.
time we spoke you were touring with Selena Gomez. What are some of the lessons she’s learned while being on
I learned a lot about myself. Being around the same people everyday actually teaches you a lot, which is surprising. But I’ve listened to Selena’s music and watched her on Wizards of Waverly Place, and she’s somebody who has done this for so long and still so successful. Being around her definitely taught me a lot, just traveling and singing in front of new people every night. It showed me that if she can do it, I can do it. That’s it!
“I’ve accepted this, I’ve tackled this and moved on from it. Now I’m better prepared to face anything that will come.”
We've seen you grow up in this industry since The X Factor. Doesn't that get difficult sometimes?
I think the hardest thing was the fact that I have been so open. I look at other artists today who also started really young and how difficult it was to always have people looking at them. When you are a teenager, and even as you go through life, you make a lot of mistakes. It’s hard when there are other people looking in on that and have them realize, “Oh, you’re a kid. How dare you make this mistake when people are looking up to you?” You’re not allowed to mess up. If I do something wrong, they could take that the wrong way. At the same time, the people who do understand that I’m a person make it special.
You have such a great and open relationship with your fans on Twitter.
When I was younger I was always looking for an artist who would keep me updated and tell me the truth. But in pop music, a lot of the young female artists from 2008-2009 were pretty much happy-go-lucky. It was all about parties and having fun. That was great when I felt that way, but there was nothing when I felt lonely. I was committed to becoming that artist I was looking for when I was younger. I think that’s really special, because I’m 18 and around the same age as a lot of my fans. That exemplifies our connection.
But don't you ever fear that you share too much?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I don’t really plan it out. Sometimes I’m really open and other times I’m private and feel only the people involved should know about it. When I’m upset about something, I need time to write about or think about it before I share with other people. But a lot of times I don’t even think about it that much, so I’ll tweet or say it. Sometimes it backfires but that’s okay. It’s a part of being human. It’s more relatable when you make that kind of mistake.
I admired when you recently called out The Chainsmokers for saying misogynistic things about women. Being a feminist, how do you tackle that in this current climate?
I think everybody should empower everybody. Obviously this is impossible unless we’re all in. But for the most part, if you see somebody trying to take anyone else down—no matter if they’re a woman or man—you should say something if you believe that it was wrong. But right now as women, we progressed for a while and now we’re going back to where we’re trying to get respected and get the same equality as men. People can be ignorant and disrespectful with what they’re saying towards women. So what I can do on a daily basis is help spread equality and the message that everybody should be treated the same, paid the same, looked at the same and respected the same.
has improved so well. Have you ever thought about doing it for other artists?
I’ve actually have been wanting to do that recently, but I’d have to find the time because right now I’m just trying to promote myself. Sometimes when you write—and this actually happened with Ed Sheeran because I think he wrote “Shape of You” to try to get Rihanna to sing it originally…that happens a lot and I’m hoping that some of my songs will be able to go to somebody else and I’ll see their interpretation of what I’ve written. So I’ve definitely thought about that and would love to write for other artists at some point. I love storytelling and I think it’s really amazing that different people have different perspectives of the same situation.
I really like your brain heart tattoo. Which one of your tattoos tell the best story?
I love the brain heart, that one is kind of just about being a human being and it’s something that’s universal. But I recently got two trees on my other arm…I got maple trees because I’m from a town called Maplewood. One has leaves and the other does not. That symbolizes just as much as there are seasons in the world and life, there are seasons within yourselves. Sometimes you feel like you’re really struggling and don’t amount to much. Then the next season comes and you grow all your leaves back and the cycle continues. Every time you’re up, you eventually have to come down. That’s just how life works.
Head back to 2014 with #TBT this interview, where a 15-year-old Bea Miller describes her "surreal" friendship with Demi Lovato: