Tyler Joe Miller in a promo photo.

Humbled by hit song ‘Pillow Talkin,’ Surrey musician aims to build on humanitarian work

‘People are still trying to figure out who the heck I am,’ Tyler Joe Miller says

Cloverdale’s Tyler Joe Miller is hoping to build on the success of “Pillow Talkin’,” in more ways than one.

The Surrey-raised musician has a country-radio hit on his hands, and he’s as surprised as anyone by its chart-topping, history-making success.

With the charming “Pillow Talkin’,” Miller has become the first Canadian independent country artist with a number-one debut single, in the modern era of calculating such stats.

“I’m extremely surprised by the success of the song,” Miller said. “I’ve been on the phone with radio stations all day, just thanking people for playing the song and for their support, and it’s just a really funny thing. I say to people, ‘Well, the song has become famous but I haven’t.’ I’m still just the guy who sings ‘Pillow Talkin’, which I kind of like. It’s humbling.… We’ve been riding this one for a little while and right now we’re ready to move on to the next thing.”

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For Miller, next up is a single called “I Would Be Over Me Too,” due out June 5.

Since its release in December, the talk of the Canadian country scene has been “Pillow Talkin’,” a ditty written by the Nashville-based trio of Kelly Archer, Blake Chaffin and Brett Tyler.

“Kelly and I were writing another song (“I Would Be Over Me Too”) in Nashville,” Miller recalled, “and after we finished writing that one, she said ‘Hey, I like your voice and your style, what you’re doing, and I think I have another one for you.’ So they pitched me ‘Pillow Talkin’ and it went from there.”

So far, Miller’s in-concert career as a solo artist has consisted of just a couple of performances, dating back to the Canadian Country Music Association awards (CCMAs) in Calgary last fall.

“We held back from doing live shows until I had something recorded and ready to go,” Miller noted.

“I haven’t done a whole lot of shows under my name, and people are still trying to figure out who the heck I am,” he added with a laugh.

Miller, 29, went to school at Frank Hurt Secondary in Newton. While at church, he discovered a love of playing music.

“I used to really love acting,” he said, “but then somehow a guitar got into my hands, I started listening to Zeppelin and more country music, and it just sort of happened.”

He began taking music seriously in his early 20s – “when I realized I could sing.”

Later, he became a “utility player” for other country artists, in concert. Along the way he attracted the attention of MDM Recordings.

“I’ve been watching Tyler Joe perform around the Vancouver area for a quite a few months, quietly taking stock in the performances and fan reaction,” MDM’s Mitch Merrett says in a bio posted to mdmrecordings.net. “He is one of just a few artists I have seen that can silence a noisy room in a matter of moments. His voice and songwriting abilities are so well developed as a new artist we are more than excited to get Tyler Joe to the next level and share the depth of this young talent.”

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Known as TJ to friends and family, he’s Tyler Joe Miller as a pro musician.

A carpenter and contractor by trade, Miller found his calling in the country-music business just a few years ago, while doing humanitarian work in Guatemala. He runs a non-profit organization called The Climb Outreach Society, a key part of his desire to fuse his love of music with a passion for philanthropy.

“I wasn’t expecting to be doing music as a full-time thing, as my own thing, and I try to explain how I got into country music,” Miller said. “Right now we’re just getting our hands dirty in Guatemala, where we’re planted. One night there, I had my guitar and was playing some tunes, and a guy on our team came out from his room in the morning and said, ‘Hey, was that you playing music last night?’ He liked country music and liked what he heard.”

At the time, Miller wasn’t playing with other artists yet – not professionally.

“He said, ‘Why aren’t you?’ And then he said something that made sense, about playing music and building a platform where people not only hear what you sing but also what you have to say, to influence even more people to help others around the world. I said well, I can’t say no to that. It sounded pretty darn cool to merge two of my biggest passions together, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.

“I’ve told the label that it’s music for Guatemala, not Guatemala for music,” Miller continued. “I don’t want to use Guatemala to gain a platform, I want to gain a platform to help Guatemala, and I’m very serious about that. We’ve sponsored a couple villages down there and helped them become really self-sustainable, and I don’t care about people seeing that because as long as they’re helped, that’s all I care about. I don’t know a better word other than, we don’t need to whore it out in that way, but that’s how I got into playing country music and getting to this point.”

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As for the success of “Pillow Talkin’,” Miller is still trying to figure it all out.

“A lot of people don’t really understand radio charts, just the average person, what it means – and I’m one of those people still,” he said with a laugh. “Like, I get sent numbers every week and people in the industry are like, ‘Oh my God, we’re climbing, we’re climbing,’ but you know, what does that mean? It’s pretty darn cool to understand the weight of it, especially when I’m told we’re making history with it, something nobody else has done with a debut single in Canada. But it’s all still pretty new, just a couple of weeks with this, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell’s going on. I’m just riding this wave and see where it takes me.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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