Northampton resident Joe Miles grew up in Milton Keynes, and lived in Olney for a number of years. The youngest grandson of British jazz legend, Terry Lightfoot, he spent his childhood ‘growing up’ in the wings of theatres and music festivals. Miles has self-released five EPs, and toured with the likes of Shane Filan. After a break he’s back with new single ‘Change Your Mind’. New Boots went in search of answers.
How did you first get the musical bug and begin to play, and then later write?
I’ve been surrounded by music my entire life, growing up watching my Granddad [Terry Lightfoot] & Mum [Melinda Lightfoot] play theatres all across the UK when I was a child. It’s the only thing I’d say I’m naturally best at amongst all the things I do in my life. I love playing guitar, and singing. It’s a release for me. I just like to entertain people, and always have. I’d say from the first time I heard the intro to John Mayer’s ‘Gravity’ I thought ‘I want to play that’. The first songs I heard that inspired me to play guitar and sing how I do were: ‘Gravity’, ‘Waiting On the World to Change’ and ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’, all by John Mayer.
I’ve always been singing in the car, whether that be to a Wham song on cassette in my Mums old VW Golf when I was little, to even now. I’m self-taught at guitar, starting at the age of 13, when I borrowed a 3/4 size classical guitar from my brothers’ friend. I didn’t realise doing it for a living was what I wanted to do until I was three months into my mechanics course at college, were I quickly learned mechanics wasn’t really for me. A month later, in January 2013, I performed at my first open mic, at Ken’s Diner. It was only in the March of that year my Grandad passed away. I was due to perform at a memorial concert for him and I wanted to be able to sing a song that I could really connect to lyrically. Not knowing how to write, I looked up the songwriters of some of my favourite tunes. I contacted Amy Wadge to write a song for me about him. Since then I’ve been co-writing with some incredibly talented writers, as well as writing songs by myself.
The first time I actually performed in public was as a surprise for my Dad at his 50th Birthday, back in 2010 (sorry Dad!). I learnt ‘Why Georgia’ by John Mayer, and joined my brothers band [at the time] on stage and performed for him.
Who are your main influences?
Musically it’s John Mayer, Allen Stone, Jamie Cullum & Maroon 5. But as far as production, I’d say Kwabs, The 1975, Tom Misch & Sam Smith.
You started out very young and had five EPs out by your 21st birthday. Then came this break from public view of almost three years. What have you been up to since we last saw you?
I have done a lot of thinking as to who I want to be and how I’d like to be perceived by music lovers. I got my heart broken [haven’t we all], which finally gave me something I could write a lot about, and also finding love, which gave me the spark I needed to start again.
Tell us everything about this new single, ‘Change Your Mind’.
I feel it’s a combination of everyone I’ve listened to over the last 3-5 years. Sam Smith/Kwabs/The 1975 in particular are very present in this song, I’d say. They are artists I love listening to. I’m usually drawn to the vocals/performance in a song rather than the guitar work, despite being a guitarist, which is very clear in this new song. It’s definitely different from what I’ve released before, but most importantly it’s very ‘me’ in how I have developed as an artist and I am really happy with that now.
‘Change Your Mind’ – everyone’s been there. Its about asking yourself and that other person ‘what was the point in putting in all that effort, for you to just change how you feel without any explanation’. It was at a time where I had so many questions left unanswered. I was so confused and so hurt. I didn’t know someone could turn their back in such a way, never to see or hear from them again after spending so much time with them. It’s about telling myself ‘I can’t change your mind. So I’ll stop trying’. The song is a release for me, and a statement. I don’t need those answers anymore.
Will there be live shows soon?
Hopefully, yes! I have some festivals pencilled in already, just awaiting confirmation. I’d love to perform in Northampton again too. In terms of line-up, things have changed a lot. Typically my music was very organic and performed by a live band. This new song, and the ones following it, may benefit from the introduction of track elements too. Time will tell!
Are you part of the wider scene locally? Any acts you want to give a shout out to?
I wouldn’t say so, not of late anyway. I know a lot of the local artists and at one point or another have performed with them at various open mics and gigs in the county. I’ve grown up loving Cousin Avi and a shout out always goes to Hannah Faulkner for getting me started in the open mic scene back in 2013. I’ve had brilliant support from Lal Muttock, our local BBC Introducing presenter, and the work he does in championing local talent is fantastic.
Tell us the main pro and con of being so intrinsically well connected in the music industry.
I’d say the main ‘pro’ is being able to get valid opinions from people who have been there, seen it, done it, and having options to be able to try well known avenues. The last two years especially have been full of really useful conversations and advice and you only get into these by networking.
The con is assuming they will help you personally. Only a handful will/have. I’m sure loads of artists have also been promised things that have never been delivered. Never has it been more important to either be able to do everything by yourself or have a very small, close knit team, who all share the same goals and passion.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
It was Hollywood’s Bleeding by Post Malone. Since its release, I listen to it weekly for sure. I love it!
What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have in 2020 after this release?
I want to be able to tour for a living. I enjoy songwriting and recording, but nothing comes close to performing live on big stages. I live for it! Watch this space. More music dropping throughout the year and I’ve never been so excited!
‘Change Your Mind’ is out now via the usual digital platforms