When Alex Miller appeared on American Idol in 2021, fans of pure country music cheered the performance of the 6’6” Kentucky teenager whose style conjured echoes of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, people who set the standard long before Miller’s parents were born. Even though he didn’t take the brass ring on the show, Miller’s national TV spots pretty much guaranteed him a career as one of the few young torchbearers of the traditional country art form.
Miller’s new EP, simply titled Country, dropped last week. A five-song collection of tunes featuring musicians who have worked with Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton, Johnny Cash and hundreds of others, it was produced by legendary Grammy, IBMA and Dove award winner Jerry Salley (Chris Stapleton, CeCe Winans, Travis Tritt).
“Jerry pushes me musically farther than I could ever have gone on my own,” Miller said during a short break between concert dates in Missouri and Wisconsin. “The great thing about Jerry, he doesn’t just want good, he wants great, so we get along real well. He wrote for some of the biggest people in country music, so writing with him has been the best writing experience I could have.”
The EP opens with “Girl, I Know a Guy,” a song about a man letting a certain young lady know he’s available. It was written by longtime Nashville tunesmith Danny Orton (Tim McGraw, Reba) and former Little Texas member Tim Rushlow, who is now touring as one of The Frontmen of Country with Restless Heart’s Larry Stewart and Lonestar’s Richie McDonald.
“I wanted to do that song for the ladies,” Miller said. “When they pitched it to me I thought, ‘Man, that’s a good song.’ It reached number one on the Cashbox charts, so I’m pretty proud about that.”
“We recorded the songs at Chris Latham’s (Guy Clark, Brad Paisley) Gorilla’s Nest studio out in Ashland City,” he said. “Jerry said I was too country to record in Nashville, and maybe he was right. It reminds me a lot of Kentucky out in Ashland City, it feels like home and that’s what I like about it. But you gotta drive slow ‘cause they’ll pull you over and give you a ticket out there.”
With hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify alone, Miller co-wrote most of the EP with Salley, and intended for it to represent all the styles of the country music he loves. “You’ve got some western swing, some Charlie Daniels-type Southern rock, some contemporary country with ‘Girl, I Know a Guy,’ and just some good, country music,” he said. “I grew up listening to Merle Haggard, Bob Wills and George Jones. But I listened to all kinds of different things. I listened to Sinatra and I still listen to Sinatra. I also listened to AC/DC and Kiss. Stylistically I’m a little different style than that,” he laughed, “but we’re still good at what we do.”
Miller has become a road warrior, performing all over the country. “I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “This year I got to open for Chris Janson, Josh Turner, Hank Williams Jr., Brooks and Dunn, can’t remember who all. I play other instruments as well as guitar, so it was cool to see Chris Janson’s show because he plays several instruments.”
“We’ve done about 45 dates this year,” he said, “and next year it’s 60 so far. It’s really picking up and that’s reassuring, but you just gotta work it. Because if you take a day off somebody gets ahead of you in line.”
Follow Miller at alexmillercountry.com.