Interview with Jimmy Miller Part 1 of 3
Born in Bangor, Maine and raised in Sanford, Florida, Orlando bassist/singer Jimmy Miller began playing music at the age of 6. He started on drums and learned to play several instruments, including guitar, bass, keyboards, trumpet, flute, & tuba. Jimmy decided to focus his his attention mostly on bass guitar because, as Jimmy states, “Just too many guitarists & drummers, and not enough bass players.” That strategy worked, and Jimmy soon became a fixture on the Florida music scene, performing and writing music in several popular area bands.
Jimmy main gig for the past 15 years has been with 50’s-60’s band Rocky & The Rollers. In addition to their own shows, Rocky and the Rollers also do shows backing up the legendary artists of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and they are the house band for ex-Sha Na Na frontman Bowzer’s Rock And Roll Party and Ultimate Doo-Wop Party shows. In addition to Rocky And The Rollers, Jimmy also owns and operates a music writing/recording business, writes sheet music arrangements for several artists, and writes comedy bits for radio, many of which have been featured on the Howard Stern Radio Show.
History & Education
When did you start playing bass?
1973 officially, when I was 13. I started on drums when I was 6, then branched out and learned to play several different instruments, but I was always fascinated by bass because it was the best of both worlds between the drums and the other instruments. I stuck with it because an older bass playing friend told me there weren’t enough really good bass players to go around and I could always find a gig. Sure enough, he was right.
Were your family members musical?
My mom could sing and would probably have been a good piano player had she kept up with it. The rest of my family is completely non-musical, though my older brother played around with guitar when he was a kid.
Who was your first significant bass teacher? At what point in your development did you study with this person?
Ron Gilotti, a fantastic jazz bassist from Orlando. I studied with him a couple years when I was in high school.
Is there one teacher in particular you credit with your professional success?
I credit Ron a lot, because he’s the one who introduced me to advanced walking bass, soloing over changes, transcribing classic jazz solos, etc. I also credit Dave LaRue from the Steve Morse Band and Dixie Dregs with getting my reading chops back into shape, knocking me out of the complacency I had from years of playing rock and pop music, and giving me more confidence in pursuing music at a time in my life when any sane person would have given up 😉
When did you know that you wanted to make a career in music?
From age 3.
Did you go to college for music?
I didn’t. I would have liked to, but I was always a bit of a realist about playing music for a living, and kind of felt going to college for music wasn’t going to be any guarantee that I’d make a living at playing music. I worked with a lot of guys who had gone to top music schools and they were making the same lousy pay as I was.
What was life like for you after school of when you first began freelancing? Did you immediately get a full-time playing gig?
Oh no! It took me a couple years after school to work into being able to play somewhat full-time, and though I did have good spells where it was all I did, it wasn’t until the mid-90’s that I actually started making enough to where I didn’t have to keep relying on a straight job.
What positions have you held prior to your current position?
I’ve played in a number of bands of all kinds…rock bands where we wrote our own stuff, top 40 bands, country bands, light jazz bands, blues bands…I didn’t discriminate. I just wanted to play.
What advice would you offer to bassists about managing their practice time? What kind of hours did you practice in general?
I’d say just do what Jeff Berlin says to do. Spend your time working on music, reading it, writing it, playing it, transcribing it, learning chord theory, etc. I never go by a set schedule of anything, quite honestly, but I work on whatever I think needs the most work at the time, and it’s usually my reading.
How did you divide up and manage your practice sessions in general?
I was always the worst at setting up my own agenda so I just did what my teachers told me to do. I figured they knew better than me. It generally worked out to a few minutes a day working on theory, a few on reading, some transcribing here and there, and a whole lot of learning licks off of records and writing songs and bass lines when I was done with their assignments.
Did you keep a practice log or any other such written record of your practice? Did you make a practice schedule?
No, I just practiced. I figured my increased abilities were enough of a record of my practices that I never bothered to keep data on it. Plus I think there is too much of an emphasis on things like beats per minute and speed for speed’s sake, and keeping stats on that is the antithesis of making music as far as I’m concerned. Speed comes from learning the music slowly, deliberately, and out of time. And then when you put that together you can work gradually up to playing it at a fast tempo. I’m not against speed at all…but doing speed drills and keeping stats on metronome settings and all that isn’t going to make you write better songs or bass lines.
What is your current practice routine like?
I spend a few minutes warming up with some loose playing, then I mostly work on my reading, or I might work on tunes I have to learn for an upcoming show. It’s all very loose these days and nothing is on a schedule or anything…just whatever seems most important for me to work on at any given time.