Surrey’s Tyler Joe Miller is among eight semifinalists in a SiriusXM Canada-backed contest to find “Canada’s next big country music star.”
The third annual Top of the Country competition, done in partnership with the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA), looks a little different than in previous years, due to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, and will extend across two years.
The contest semifinalists will be featured during Country Music Week 2020, a virtual experience this fall. Later, three finalists will be chosen from a nationwide public vote, and a winner will be crowned at Country Music Week 2021, following a live show featuring the artists and a headliner.
The contest winner will receive a $25,000 grand prize, a SOCAN songwriting trip and more. More details are posted to siriusxm.ca/topcountry.
Miller is in the running along with Don Amero (Winnipeg, MB), Raquel Cole (Vernon, BC), Carolina East (South River, NL), Nate Hall (Toronto, ON), Kalsey Kulyk (Hudson Bay, SK), Brittany Kennell (Beaconsfield, QC) and Kelly Prescott (Almonte, ON).
Last year’s Top of the Country competition winner was Quebec-based musician Matt Lang.
“I am so proud to be part of Canada’s tight-knit country music community,” Lang said in a press release about the competition. “Last year’s Top of the Country competition allowed me to connect with so many amazing peers, mentors and fans, all while performing at some of the country’s biggest events. The next group of semifinalists are in for a real treat.”
Miller had a hit this year with “Pillow Talkin’,” and another of his songs, “I Would Be Over Me Too,” has also been played on the radio over the past couple of months.
Presenters of the 2020 Canadian Country Music Association Awards recently nominated Miller for the Rising Star Award, along with Tenille Arts, Matt Lang, Emily Reid and Sons Of Daughters. The full list of CCMA nominees is posted to ccma.org/2020-nominees.
Miller, now a Cloverdale-area resident, 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 told the Now-Leader last spring, “but then somehow a guitar got into my hands, I started listening to Zeppelin and more country music, and it just sort of happened.”
Known as T.J. among friends and family, Miller 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.
Since its release in December, the talk of the Canadian country scene had 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.”