In Webster Village Apartment 212, Jim Miles powered up his Macbook, plugged in his keyboard and searched for the perfect sounds to create a new song. Most of his music production is done in his bedroom on keyboard and laptop, occasionally adding guitar and bass. Miles, senior computer science major, released an album called, “Fit to Burst” in May. He decided to continue to release an album on the first of each month every month after. He will put out the eighth and last album in this series on Dec. 1, entitled, “Piano.”
“I kind of always missed the days back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when bands would churn out an album or two every year, and I kind of miss that productivity,” Miles said.
Miles has been playing piano as long as he can remember. He said “Piano” will be a collection of songs with just piano and vocals.
Miles’ album-a-month series started when he found he had a lot of written material and half-recorded songs, but had never finished any of them. He decided to purge out all the old material he had left and see how many months he could go. Eight was the final number.
He said he tries to make each album sound like its own story.
“I try to make an album … feel as one piece rather than a collection of songs,” Miles said. “I have released a couple of albums that feel like a collection of songs, but I kind of tend to either do it all in one sort of style or genre. I like to do concept albums a lot, too. So I’ll try and do an album that tells the same story or is linked by the same ideas.”
Miles said he doesn’t like to stick to one genre for his music. He’s jumped around in style, but said mostly 1970s progressive rock influences him. He said his mood determines what kind of music he makes.
Devin Rojas, Webster alumni, does album artwork for Miles’ music. He said Miles cannot be pinned to one style.
“It’s very varied and diverse, and I think that’s what’s powerful and awesome about it,” Rojas said. “He’s heavily influenced by prog (progressive) rock. But if you listen to all of his music starting when he started to now, it’s changed and grown so much, and it’s hard to really classify it as anything.”
Miles said music has always been a passion of his. He started writing in junior high, but didn’t start recording his own work until his freshman year of high school. He said he wasn’t very good back then, but has improved over the years since he released his first song in his junior year of high school. When he first started making music, Miles said he originally was “trying to rip off Radiohead” because they are his favorite band. Now, instead of emulating his favorite artists, Miles has started to make more original music.
“I think it got to a certain point where I started making the music I wanted to hear, but hadn’t heard yet,” Miles said. “So if I thought, ‘Oh, I really like electronic, ambient stuff that uses a lot of samples, but I want to hear it in the style of minimalism’ … so I’ll go write something like that. Or if I want to hear something that takes space rock with more traditional ‘70s progressive elements, then I’ll do something like that. So, recently that’s been how I decide to make the music I make.”
Miles doesn’t charge for any of his digital music. He said it’s unfair to charge for something that he doesn’t have to pay to create. Richard Ziegler, senior video production major, met Miles their freshman year at a Wild America concert. Ziegler said Miles’ apathy for making money reflects his personality.
“He never wants to make money off his music. He’s very into just sharing it with people who enjoy it, and that’s enough for him,” Ziegler said. “That reflects on his own personal set of virtues outside of music. He’s a very gracious person.”
On Dec. 1, “Piano” will be the last album of the album-a-month series. Miles said it’s a good time to end the series because he’s ready to spend more time and effort on his future work.
“There’s this whole trying to balance the quality versus quantity thing, and I’ve been losing a bit of the quality while trying to release all these albums at once,” Miles said. “So I’m going to try and focus my efforts and make something really incredible and take as much time as I want on this.”
Miles has released seven albums in his name — the number will be eight after the release of “Piano” — and two EPs. He has released seven albums as his solo project, Baghdad. He’s also made two albums and one EP as Gandhi and the Triggerfish, a band he and some friends from high school started in his junior year of high school.
Miles said he sees himself always making music on the side.
“I’ll keep making it and trying to get my name out there,” Miles said. “And if it gets to the point I could make a living making music then that’s great, but in the meantime I’ll keep making it, give it to the people who will listen – I’m happy with that.”