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"I didn't have time to be afraid"

A conversation with Colorado musician Hazel Miller on taking risks and following your dreams

After her U-Haul truck broke down on her way to Los Angeles from Kentucky, Hazel Miller made a life for herself and her sons in Denver. Since finding home on the Front Range, this soul and R&B singer has become a major fixture in Colorado’s music scene, performing with artists like James Taylor, Julian Lennon, Lou Rawls and Buddy Guy. We caught up with Miller to talk about her career and the risk involved in following your dreams.

Q: How did you get your start in music? When did you learn that you had this talent?

Hazel Miller: There was a neighborhood band with a few guys who lived just a couple streets over, and I played music with them. I was a junior in high school, and they were all seniors. I knew singing was what I wanted to do for a living, but I just didn't know if I could do it. I worked a range of jobs from being a janitor at the mall, to filing mortgages in a bank vault in Kentucky before following my passions.

Q: When did you decide to make a career out of music?

HM: When my oldest son was just a little, bitty guy. My husband and I had split up, and I realized that the job I had wasn't enough to keep us going. I got a job with a band working weekend nights with them, and working five days at my day job. I did that for a few years and realized I was missing a lot of great time with my son. I found another band that was booking shows all the time, and I've been singing ever since.

Q: Choosing to be a musician can seem like a risky decision to some. Were you ever afraid of not succeeding? How do you overcome those fears?

HM: I didn't have time to be afraid; I had three mouths to feed. It never really crossed my mind that I wouldn't succeed. To succeed, I had to learn how to book myself and market myself. When the band I was working with stalled out, I put together my own band and starting booking our shows. You just have to arm yourself with the information you have, pick up the phone, and make your laptop your agent. For me, it's the same as getting up and going to any other job. I get up, get on the phone and start sending emails.

Q: What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever offered you?

HM: Get a lawyer. A lady who I used to work with to book my band sued me and tried to take everything. I found a great lawyer who I trusted, and he truly saved me. If you're planning on working in the music industry, find yourself a good lawyer to protect you.

Q: What advice do you offer other aspiring musicians?

HM: Study. Learn to read music. Learn to promote and book yourself. There are great options at UC-Denver for learning music business. It's one of the best programs in the country, and they will teach you how to find your niche market, write contracts and close booking deals.  ■

Hazel Miller and her band are currently at work on a new album. You can catch them live at the Anythink Backyard Concert Series on Friday, Aug. 10, at 6:30 pm.  

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