Traditional Country on American Idol? Meet Alex Miller

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Alex Miller is a 17-year-old singer/songwriter who is currently competing on season 19 of American Idol. The lifelong Garrard county native hails from the community of Lancaster, Kentucky, where he works part-time on his grandfather’s cattle farm.
In a pre-taped video before his audition, Alex explained “I’ve grown up around Garrard County and the farming community. My first word was ‘tractor.’ It’s always been special to me. I’ve learned a lot through farming, how to work hard and do things on your own.”

Alex’s interest in music was sparked by his grandfather’s love of traditional country music and an interest in trains. “My granddad would always listen to Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and a lot of the older country artists,” Alex said “When I was a kid, I used to have a train table with these little wooden trains. Got me to wondering what kind of songs they sing about trains so I asked my granddad. He bought me a Hank Williams CD that had a song about a train on it. I listened to all the songs on the album and thought, ‘This guy is good!’

The song was Pan American and soon Alex found himself listening to other songs about his hobby such as Josh Turner’s “Long black train.” It wasn’t long before his love for songs about trains, developed into a love for the music and artists that sung it.
“I’ve read books and researched to learn about the music, the roots, their thoughts, and try to inspire myself,” Alex said, “The older artists are the guys I really look up to as far as music, and how to play in a band, how to organize a group, and make music the way it ought to be played.”

Alex had his first public performance just before the age of four when he performed ‘Me and God’ by Josh Turner at the Garrard County Fair. He was too young to remember much from that performance, but Alex clearly remembers performing at the Tobacco Festival in downtown Lancaster when he was seven. In an interview with the Garrard Central Record, Alex recalled the experience saying, “I got up there looking like George Strait or whatever. I’d been taking guitar lessons for about six months, so I wasn’t no Eddie Van Halen or nothing, but I got up there and did ‘My Bucket’s Got a Hole in it.  It was intimidating with that many people, but at that age I didn’t even realize how nice that gig was… to perform in front of so many.” Although he didn’t know it at the time, that performance in Downtown Lancaster would mark the beginning of his journey and the start of many new opportunities.  

Seven-year-old Alex was also experiencing changes in his personal life. His parents were going through a divorce and Alex explained “music was a way for me to cope with that and release a lot of that energy. It helped me through those times and I don’t know what I’d do without it.” Despite the separation, Alex’s family has been instrumental in supporting his music.

Throughout much of his early career, Alex was known as “Little Hank Williams” because of his small size and affinity for covering the legendary singer’s songs. Today at six foot five, you’d be hard-pressed to call Alex little, but you can still clearly hear the influence of those older artists in his vocal delivery.

Over the years his musical tastes have expanded and he describes his sound as  “bluegrass outlaw with a spiritual influence”. Alex’s grandfather is proud that Alex has stuck to his spiritual roots and said, “He loves to sing for the Lord. He’s never satisfied if he does a show unless he gets to close with a gospel.” As a kid, Alex often found himself singing in front of churchgoers and he is a regular feature on WLJC’s Hour of Harvest television show. He is also featured regularly on the Kentucky Music hall of fame’s Ol’ Home Place Gospel Hour.

Alex has made it clear that he’s committed to perfecting his craft and has built an impressive resume in the process. He has represented the Garrard County 4-H for the last 10 years at the Kentucky State Fair and in 2015 he finished in the top 12 at the Pigeon Forge “Path to fame contest.” Alex performed twice at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington and at just 10 years old, Alex was Renfro Valley’s youngest recurring act in their 75-plus year history. He’s performed at numerous festivals and Jamborees and recently finished second in the Kentucky FFA talent contest with his original song, “Always more Fish out in the sea.”

Today, Alex has almost 1000 performances under his belt and he hopes to gain some exposure by putting together an album in the near future. He describes singing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as his ultimate long-term goal, but it was a conversation about his short-term goals that led him to American Idol.

Last Fall, Alex and his mom Brandi were filming a video for his social media accounts and they got into a discussion about this future what part music played in his life.
Brandi explained, “It was a serious discussion about music versus paying the bills,”
“I was just thinking, ‘Lord, he just needs a sign on how he needs to go on his path in life.” That sign would come later that evening while Brandi was online and saw America Idol was holding open-call auditions. “I signed him up and told him he was trying out,” she said. Alex felt it was a long shot but saw it as a chance to increase his exposure.
“I wanted to do ‘American Idol’ because I didn’t really have too many options as a musician right now,” Alex explained, “COVID has cut back on gigs and places I can play. I thought it was a way to get my name out there.

In September of 2000 Alex auditioned for Idol producers via Zoom from the middle of his living room. Choosing a song he was familiar with, Alex sang Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” The audition went well and Alex was scheduled for a second audition in front of a different set of producers. This time Alex performed his original song, “I’m Over You, So Get Over Me.” and the performance earned him a third round of Zoom auditions. By the end of his third audition, Alex was sure idol producers were going to tell him to stay in Lancaster and was shocked when they invited him to California to audition in front of the celebrity judges.

The next month, Alex and his mother flew to San Diego where Alex performed the song he wrote for his ex “I’m Over You, So Get Over Me.” When asked during an interview with WHAS 11 how his ex-girlfriend feels about the song, he said, “She took it really well, thank goodness,”

After his audition, Judge Lionel Richie told Alex “I am thrilled, Your personality is just infectious!”  Judge Luke Bryan asked “What happens if you were to ever play the Grand Ole Opry?”  Oh, I don’t know,” Miller responded. “I’d die and go to heaven.”
“I think I can make a call or something,” Bryan said.

With a little prompting from Judge Katy Perry, Alex received the experience of a lifetime and performed a duet with Luke Bryan of Merle Haggard’s Big City. After the duet, instead of giving Alex his golden ticket, the judges walked him to a private area where contestants can video chat with family members. Katy Perry announced they had some news as Luke Bryan held out a golden ticket and Alex learned he was on his way to Hollywood.

So how far will Alex go on American Idol?
The show has launched the careers of some of the world’s biggest country stars. For a young artist like Alex looking to introduce himself to potential fans, American Idol may be the perfect place. Do you think Alex has what it takes to win American Idol?
Let us know in the comments below.

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