I am Julian Cash Miller, just call me JC.
Or JC III or JC3.
My father and grandfather were JCs before me. One I knew and one I didn’t. Their legacy is important to me. They are both still close.
This collection of music is documenting a soul searching journey, tracking my family tree backwards. It starts in the west where I was raised and ends in the south, tracing family branches and passing from the edge of the continent on the west coast through New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana Mississippi, Florida and ultimately to Virginia. I grew up without any physical connection to the south and my father’s family there, and yet my guitar and keyboard playing, and songwriting has a definite innate southern flavor.
JC Miller Interview with Indie Music Discovery
Where are you from and how do you describe your style of music?
I was born in Detroit, but I grew up in California in the Bay Area. I would describe my music as Americana music from the end of the road. The road being Route 66 — which ends at the edge of the continent in Santa Monica where I’ve been making music for 20 years. Americana, but more specifically Southern Rock. There’s a lot of different influences from country to rock and everything in between, but the style emerges from my family’s Southern roots. The Southern style of my playing and writing is what made me look beyond my own environment to try to trace the origins. I have always been under the spell of Leon Russel, Levon Helm and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many others. I love all styles of music, but I’ve really tried to build an American narrative told through guitar.
How did you get here? As in, what inspired or motivated you to take on this journey through music and the music biz?
It chose me, I didn’t choose it. I worked in the music business as a composer-for-hire for film and television for decades. And now this is the music where I get to decide when the music is done (instead of being told when it’s done by a client) so it’s a highly personal labor of love. In the music-for-hire world, guitar wasn’t the voice of choice a lot of the time. I did the whole programmed keyboards and MIDI and synthesizers and virtual production thing… So for this journey I wanted to go all organic and keep it simple: guitar, piano, bass, organ. All wood and strings with barely any synthesizers to speak of. When I’m left to my own instincts, what turns out to be my natural inclination is to make music that is inflected with a Southern style and so this project has organically become a travel log where I’ve searched for lost ancestry reconciled through music. My grandmother Livinia Poythress was a piano and violin teacher from Bogalusa, Louisiana. This is my most likely guess to where the music comes from. It’s interesting to channel creativity from unknown sources and let the song take you where it will.
How does your latest project compare/contrast with your previous release(s)? Were you setting out to accomplish anything specific, follow a specific theme, or explore different styles of creation?
The latest project is this five-album odyssey that I’ve been writing for years. It starts in the West, where I am from, and ventures into the South, a place I haven’t spent a lot of time in, but have always felt a connection to. The Notebooks from the West Trilogy includes Notebooks from the West, Baja Bohemian and Strawberry Canyon. The central theme of this Trilogy is what I see all around me from where I live, in Southern California. The two-volume, Southern-centric set that I’m recording right now will include Delta Waves and Southern Buckthorn. These really feel like they complete the musical journey from the West to the South. I try to kind of go where the music wants to take me and interfere as little as possible with creativity when it’s flowing. It was really something to see that the music could fit neatly into geographic categories. The early records felt like I was exploring and finding a voice — literally, since I hadn’t done much singing — and kind of testing the limits and it was really great when it started to fit into these slots. I feel like the early stuff was a testing ground to see what was possible and it was cool to write into the various themes.
Name the biggest challenge you faced as a creative during these unprecedented times? How did you adapt? How have you kept the creative fires burning during all this?
Strangely, it was the lockdown that really allowed all of this to happen. It was definitely lonely and isolating at times, but it really forces you to focus without distraction. I was looking for a block of time to execute this project and bring it to fruition. I’m not really that disciplined about practicing or writing, but when I knew I would have a chunk of time it was fun to leave demos unedited until they were already completed. Then I started organizing them by region, theme, topic, or whatever it was. So in an unexpected way, the vacuum that was created is the thing that finally made me do this.
What was the last song you listened to?
“Still Learning How to Crawl” by Daniel Lanois.
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? 8-tracks? Cassettes? CDs? MP3s? Streaming platforms?
As long as the music is good, I’m not too particular about the delivery system!
Where is the best place to connect with you and follow your journey?
Check out my website, jcmillermusic.com and follow me on Spotify & Twitter (@JC_Miller_Music).
I really appreciate Your time. Anything else before we sign off?
I just feel really fortunate to be part of such a strong Indie music community where artists support each other instead of tearing each other down. Making music is like feeding people or planting trees— it sustains energy rather than depleting it, it’s part of the culture and civilizing. As Amy Winehouse said, “Music is the only thing that will give and give and not take.”
Special thanks to Executive Producer Gaby Doré and Music Producer Marty Rifkin
Also big thanks to my ancestors I never met and Ava Doré, Mario de Lopez, Pablo Aguilar, Lynn Pickwell, Eduardo “The Tank” Tancredi, Gabe Witcher, Henry Boyd, Sam Boyd, Ryan Corey, Alfredo Gonzales, John Hawkins, Heidi Ortiz, John Heiden, Andy Hackman, Justin Jampol, Christophe Loiron, Simon Andrews, Melanie Andrews, Jim and Marianne Fox, Marvin Dueñas & Walter Giordani