Before diving into the songs on Silver Linings, fans get the feeling of release from the album’s artwork, which features the singer standing on a mountain and watching balloon-tethered silhouettes float into a peacefully sunset-lit sky. Standing on the cover alone also signifies his status as an independent artist, something he’s savored in just about every way possible.
Making a pact with himself to learn how to make his own beats upon leaving the label, Miller spent countless hours on YouTube to teach himself how to play piano and produce. “I’m learning to do things I’ve never done before, because I’m trying to make a point to be the kind of musician where I don’t have to rely on anyone,” he says. “That’s what I dedicated to 2017 to, not having to rely on anybody.”
While he was signed, Miller dealt with several frustrations. Almost immediately, he was told to stop rapping, which had become a signature feature of his music. while his projects were limited to seven tracks, something he saw as “unacceptable” but couldn’t contest. He also found the pre-scheduled studio time that the label laid out for him to be particularly stressful: "You pay for x amount of hours and kind of walk in feeling rushed, like you have to get stuff done -- it almost feels like you’re doing homework."
With a studio right in the center of his bedroom now ("I’ve created a setting that’s way cooler than any studio I’ve ever been in,” he asserts), Miller’s recording experience is just about as independent and loose as it can be. But while the stories he tells on Silver Linings are entirely personal, his goal with his 2:00am in LA follow-up was to make upbeat, fun songs by incorporating more explosive production.
While there’s always been a poppy vibe to Miller’s music, Silver Linings features the most exploration of his catalog yet, combining pop with heavier electronic beats, especially on tracks like bouncy album opener “Think About Us” and uplifting closer “Be Alright.” For the sounds of this album, Miller cites Bruno Mars as inspiration -- “I’m very interested in [his] bass lines” -- as well as the dream-like sounds of indie pop group LANY.
But there’s also a little bit of vulnerability amid the fun of the 14 tracks on the album. The tender piano-tinged ballad “Permanent” reveals that Miller still feels the pain of his breakup from time to time, and an interlude titled “Headlights” featuring a voicemail from his dad tells that even pop stars need pep talks every now and then ("You know that everything is going to work itself out, okay? It always does," his dad says in the message.)
Even if he didn’t have a cheerleader for a dad, Miller’s confidence is as clear in the songs on Silver Linings as it is when you ask him how he’s feeling about where is career is headed. His strong support system plays a role in that, but mostly, Miller attributes it to the freedom and control he now has over his own music.
“The biggest plus [of being independent] has just been getting my sanity back as an artist, being able to do whatever I want to do,” he says. “I can confidently say this album is a lot different than 2:00am in LA, and this is my best yet. I think that just comes naturally when I’m living how I’m living these days, with no one holding me back. I’m starting to feel more and more like a true musician.”
Listen to Silver Linings in full here.