Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

MYX TV's Press Play: Alex Carbonel & Jake Miller


Now in its second season, Myx TV’s Press Play has introduced a wide range of independent Asian American musical talent to the general market. One such crossover  artist is the up and coming Jake Miller, who raps about everything from being awesome to tender moments with his fans.

Tell us how you manage to balance touring, being an artist, and being a college student.

Well actually I haven’t started touring yet. That’s gonna start in January. I’m going to seventeen different cities in January, February, and March. And I’m gonna take even less classes than I am now so that I can manage it better. During the week I’ll be in school and during the weekend I’ll be touring. It’s gonna be busy.

Yeah, I think you posted on twitter that you had a math test.

Yeah, I’m feeling real good now that test is over.

Can you tell me about your songwriting process? I know you write your own lyrics, and you’re a guitarist and a drummer.

I’ve always loved playing the guitar and drums. I haven’t been able to use them in any of my songs or anything, it’s kind of just a side hobby. But yeah, writing is definitely different for every song. I’m always inspired by something different. Usually, I start with finding a beat or working with my producers to make a cool beat. And once we have that then I figure out what kind of message and what kind of vibe would fit on the instrumental. Definitely the beat comes first and then I think of what to write about.

I think it’s interesting that your music draws on badassery and mean muggin’ and yet there’s this values-oriented, good guy overtone. Can you tell us where that mindset comes from?

I’ve always loved every type of genre of music. And I’m not a hip hop head, but at the same time I don’t listen to pop. I just try to make music that everybody can listen to, you know, like teenagers, adults, little kids, everybody. I actually have people come to me, and I’ll be out in public and a mom will come up to me and say that she’s a huge fan of mine. She listens to my music with her kids in the car. And I think that’s really cool to be able to reach such a huge audience.

Is that what “A Million Lives” is about?

Yeah, each verse is about a letter that someone had written me about how my music has gotten them through a certain situation, whether it’s even cancer or overcoming bullying in school or mourning a loss of someone in the family -- and it’s just a really inspirational detail. I mean, I don’t really put out anything anymore that doesn’t have depth or meaning behind it.

Being a winner on MyxTV's Press Play means you've got the attention of the Asian American population. In fact you're one of the few non-Asian winners in this season's Press Play. What do you think you've done in your work to reach the Asian American audience? 

I try hard to write songs that everyone can listen to and enjoy. Whether you are Asian American, African American, or not even American at all, we are all human.  I hope that everyone can find something in my music to relate to their own lives. As I point out in my song “Like Me”, everyone is different and those differences should be embraced and celebrated. 


Switching genres, Hyphen also interviewed Alex Carbonel, the Press Play chanteuse from Fremont, CA. In addition to being a YouTube star, she’s a serious basketball player and has a black belt.

So  three years ago, you performed in front of Manny Pacquiao. What was that all about?

Well a good friend of mine is friends with Pacquiao and she’s like “I want you to meet Manny and sit down with him in L.A." So they picked me up from the airport, and I went to his gym Wild Card, and talked to him. And my friend said, “Oh, since you have your guitar, you can play for him. She sings too, Manny. [And] she’s a basketball player."

But you know of course I told him I’d beat him in a one on one game  -- he swears he’d beat me in three’s alone, but we agreed we’d have to play each other to figure that one out. He invited me back to his house along with my friends, and we ate dinner, hung out, and then I played the guitar and sang for a little bit. So, it was definitely one of the most surreal experiences in my life. It was very very cool, and I’m very blessed to have that opportunity. He’s as humble as they portray him on TV.

Maybe you can play again for him to cheer him up for him for his loss earlier.

Man, don’t talk about that. [laughter]

I saw your music video “War.” Whose idea was it to use jelly for fake blood?

[Laughter] His name is Jordan Anonuevo. Keep him on your radar. He’s going to be a great filmmaker. He pretty much choreographed and wrote that whole video. He did a great job, and I’m very very lucky to have had him do all that for me.

Can you tell us more about that music video?

I told Jordan, “Look, I want something that people are forced to watch because it’s so interesting in the first couple of minutes.” I wanted it to be a story. And so we were brainstorming  we came up with the idea -- why don’t we do it kind of like a Mr. and Mrs. Smith thing. He came up with everything: all the different scenes and the choreography. Jordan is a black belt, and I’m actually a black belt. And a lot of that fighting is really me fighting; it’s not too choreographed. I definitely get hit and kicked to the ground, but it was worth it because it looks great on camera.

How do I get to be the next guy in your music video?

[Laughter] Well, we actually have an audition. I’m just kidding. No, it’s something that I look for -- I want someone that people can identify with. So we really just try and get universal people, so one day it can be a white guy. The next day it can be an Asian guy. The next day it could be a black guy. So it’s totally random, and it’s pretty much who’s open and available.

Is being Asian American a big part of your identity? Does it influence your songwriting?

I grew up in Fremont, which is very diverse. I mean, I’ll be honest with you, I really didn’t get the whole idea of different races and that until I was in middle school. To me, it was just like, oh you should play basketball; you should play this sport, you should play that sport.

And so, growing up –- my mom is Irish. My dad’s Filipino. It didn’t really hit me that much, but now that I’m growing up, and really getting in touch with my heritage. I learned a lot more about being Filipino, especially when it comes to Filipinos in the media like Manny Pacquiao, and all these other great individuals who have Filipino heritage. And I definitely identify with the Asian American community.

Does it influence my songwriting? Not as much, because I try to make my songwriting universal for everybody and I don’t want to put a tag on one thing. Like, Asian American rappers, you know they have a hard time breaking the Asian American stereotype, but in reality a lot of their work is pretty darn awesome. And I think if you can break through that stereotype, you’ve already done wonders for yourself. So it has influenced me in understanding where I’m from, but I guess you could say it influenced me to try and break the stereotypes. Like, she’s an Asian American YouTube star, you know. I just want to be Alex Carbonel, musician, so that all types of people can identify with me.

You can buy Alex Carbonel's EP 'Cuddle Season' on iTunes here.

See more of Myx TV’s Press Play here.


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