Among one of this year’s most defining trends in music, the country genre has embraced a new aesthetic that blends pop, rock and hip-hop with its sound and style. Thanks to streaming platforms contributing to the evolution of the musical landscape, this cross-pollination has opened doors for artists looking to be part of a fresh new sound, including the likes of country newcomer, Hunter Miller.
With his debut single, “Dance From the Heart” out now, the Nashville singer and songwriter is looking to bring a whole new perspective to the country music arena similarly to artists such as, Sam Hunt, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini, with a pop sound complementing the genre’s roots.
“Before I started working on ‘Dance From the Heart,’ all I knew was that I wanted to create something that was purely a fun, feel good song,” Miller tells The Hudsucker. “For me, a feel good song always starts with a beat, so that’s what I recorded first.”
Crafted with a distinct sound and a rush of dynamic energy, Miller’s debut single is a romantic, infectious mid-tempo tune about living in the moment and not being afraid to be yourself. If the beats and lyrics aren’t reason enough to love the country jam, the 27-year-old is also incredibly versatile as Miller humbly admits he produced the entire single himself — from the lyrics, to the sound with the keyboard and guitar.
“Once I had the right up-tempo beat I wanted, I started plucking out some chords on the acoustic guitar that had what I thought sounded like a mix between country and pop,” Miller said. “The production came really naturally after I came up with the rhythmic acoustic guitar part because I could really hear the direction I wanted to go with the song just by putting [that] and the beat together.”
The experience of producing his own music is one Miller is most grateful for too, revealing there was a lot he learned about throughout the process.
“There is going to be a lot of trial and error in music production — regardless of how talented you are,” he said. “Not every idea I had for the song worked well, so finding the patience to keep working at it until it sounded like I wanted to was one of the major takeaways from the process.”
Miller says in addition to the value he holds for what it takes to make music he is most passionate about, he realizes nothing in the realm of art will ever be 100 percent perfect in everyone’s eyes.
“In knowing that I wanted to release the song on iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services, there was a part of me that kept thinking it had to be absolutely flawless in every aspect,” he said. “However, my wife, Hope Gentry Miller, helped me understand that the only thing I can control is whether or not I’m happy with the song — I can’t worry about what other people think, which is essentially the message of my song within itself.”
While Miller is a natural in the musical process, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t always this way. From the age of 4, the Tennessee native admits he was all about basketball, and even went on to play senior point guard for Stetson University. But it was an injury to his left hand during junior year that changed his life.
“[It] prompted me to start teaching myself how to play the keyboard,” he said. “I thought that playing the keyboard might help me regain some dexterity. As it turned out, I picked up the keyboard pretty quickly, and it [became] a really fun creative outlet for me.”
Soon after, Miller grew enamored with the joy of making music and went on to teach himself how to play songs simply by watching YouTube tutorial videos. Once he got the first one down, he kept teaching himself other tracks while learning a little more about the process each time.
“Once I gained a foundational knowledge of the keyboard, I started to make up keyboard parts of my own,” he admits. “It was the realization that I could actually make music of my own — and not just listen to it — that led me to discover my passion for singing, songwriting and producing.”
Miller reveals that shortly after teaching himself keyboard, he learned to play guitar, which initially stemmed from the motivation of exploring his creativity as deeply as he could.
“I felt like I could expand my creative capabilities if I could learn to play more instruments,” he said. “What I’ve found in teaching myself how to play the guitar is that the songs I’ve written have been noticeably different than the ones I’ve written primarily on piano or keyboard — I probably would’ve never come up with ‘Dance From the Heart’ had I not been able to play the guitar.”
With his debut single proving how passionate he is about music and the direction he wants to head into with his sound, Miller reveals it’s thanks to being in a “great place” with his life that truly inspires him.
“Being married for just over two years now and having a daughter on the way this February, there is a lot of stuff happening in my life that I have going on to be extremely grateful for and it definitely pours into the music I’ve been writing,” he said. “I want to write songs that can make someone’s day a little brighter no matter what they are going through in their lives.”
Miller adds that he has a “long list” of go-to songs that always lift his spirits no matter the situation, and wants to give a similar feeling to someone else with his own musical impression of life. Not to mention, living in Nashville has helped him to mold a unique persona and direction as an artist.
“You can’t live in a city like Nashville without being influenced by music,” he laughs. “Especially considering my uncle is a country singer, I definitely feel like growing up in the Music City has influenced my sound.”
Along the journey to getting where he is today, Miller discloses he’s learned a lot about himself during the production of his single and forthcoming music, including how important it is to be vulnerable.
“I’m not someone who has put my music out there in front of people much at this point, so it was kind of daunting to think about releasing a song that was entirely something I created,” he said. “All I did growing up was play basketball; I never really let people see my creative side, [but] I know now that I have the ability to overcome the fear of failure in terms of my music, which has been a really freeing feeling for me.”
Keeping himself busy over the past year and a half making music and forging a sound all his own, Miller says inspiration for creating tunes often first emerges in the beats, more so than the lyrics.
“I know that my uncle, Mark [of the country band, Sawyer Brown], is someone who won’t even start working on a song until he has a lyrical idea,” he reveals. “I think I work in an opposite fashion in that a guitar part that I made up or piano piece I’ve written might make me feel a certain way and I try to find the words to illustrate those emotions.”
With fans and listeners getting to hear more from Miller in the months ahead, he admits to going in a different direction than a traditional full record.
“I have hundreds of songs that I’ve written over the past few years that have just been sitting on my computer and my goal is to let a lot of these songs see the light of day,” he said. “If everything goes as planned, I want to release a new single every month and hopefully throw in a music video or two.”
One of the things fans and listeners will learn immediately about Miller upon social media posts is how he genuinely loves music and works hard to put out something meaningful.
“One of the most fulfilling parts about making music is that it’s a constant process,” he said. “Being able to go back and listen to songs I wrote four years ago and seeing the progress I’ve made in every aspect is really rewarding.”
Miller adds that it’s also incredibly satisfying to think about the future and realize through the chapters of his life how far he’s come and grown.
“I just love that you can never stop learning, which is actually one of the things about basketball that I always enjoyed too,” he said. “Much like you can always get better at dribbling or shooting, there’s always new songwriting tips to learn and new production techniques to improve on.”
Miller also imparts that one of the greatest aspects to singing and songwriting his own music comes down to the process in between.
“I am one of those people that not only love getting to the destination, but I also love the journey of making music,” Miller said, adding how he enjoys the hard work into getting a guitar sound right or a high note, even if takes a thousand tries. “Because in the end, it feels really fulfilling to share something you’ve worked really hard on with people that might enjoy it.”