Alex Miller takes his Kentucky bluegrass to American Idol

This year’s American Idol contestant field has strong representation from the bluegrass genre. For the show’s 19th season, there are four such young performers vying to become the next American Idol. One is 17 year old Alex Miller from Lancaster, KY.

“I started singing in church when I was 3 years old,” the friendly, outgoing youth shared. “My mama said that I came out of the womb singing.”

As a child, Miller was infatuated with trains and enjoyed playing with his Thomas the Train table set. His love for music soon expanded when his granddad, GB Miller, a country and bluegrass fan, introduced him to Hank Williams singing Pan American. Young Miller was instantly hooked.

Anxious to become an active participant in the music scene, the musical entrepreneur sought to take guitar lessons when he was six years old.

“I took lessons from Mike Carpenter in Rockcastle County, KY. He said that he usually didn’t take kids until they were nine. Kids often don’t stick with it (lessons). I told him I wasn’t the quitting type. He took me on and I took lessons for two years. That was a God thing. It was meant to be.”

Miller continued playing on his own. He recalled his first public performance. “I played the Tobacco Festival on the square in Lancaster County when I was seven years old. I wore a white hat and wanted a pair of white boots. I ended up wearing a pair of women’s boots because that was the only ones that color I could find to fit. My grandma still has them.”

 He got his first big break when he was just nine years old. 

“I played once a month for two years at Renfro Valley. I played on a tribute show on Friday night and on the Barn Dance on Saturday night.”

The young singer credited that experience for molding him into a true entertainer. “I learned how to play out, interact, and communicate with the audience.”

He played venues like Burgin Barn, a variety show in Mercer County, KY. “I played a lot of shows like the Lincoln Jamboree and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. All that is on my mind is music.”

Involved in his school’s Future Farmers of America program, Miller serves as chapter vice-president and sentinel for the Bluegrass Region.

“I met and played some with the Bluegrass FFA group from Erwin, TN. I was in a Zoom meeting with KY/NC FFAers last week. I invited Presley Barker (another bluegrass American Idol contestant) to join us. He’s such a nice guy.”

The high school senior hopes to pursue music as a career. His mom, Brandi Hall, saw on Facebook where American Idol was holding open auditions.

“I signed up. I sang for one producer, then a second producer, and then for the head honcho.”

Miller was selected to audition for the celebrity judges and flew to San Diego, CA.

“The judges were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are genuine people. They gave me nothing but compliments.”

His nationally televised American Idol appearance debuted March 14 with the sound of Miller’s voice singing Free Born Man as he drives a truck and tractor. The scene then shifts to him playing guitar to his granddad’s cattle in a Lancaster County pasture. He tells the world as banjo music softly plays, “Music means everything to me.”

Once Miller performed an original number for his audition, celebrity judge, Katy Perry, nudged her fellow panelist, “Don’t you want to sing a song with him?”
With no hesitation, Luke Bryan then joined Miller to sing an impromptu version of Merle Haggard’s Big City.

“I’m taking this boy home with me,” Bryan heartily proclaimed.

“A lot of people think that was staged. It was all unrehearsed. It worked out well,” the American Idol contestant expressed after receiving a golden ticket to advance to the competition in Hollywood.

Miller is hoping this experience will develop into a career in music. 

“I’m a little bit everything. I love Gospel, outlaw, and bluegrass music. One of my favorite artists is Keith Whitley. He’s one of the best there ever was.

“I love bluegrass people. I met Rhonda Vincent last year at the Lincoln County Jamboree. She is such a nice lady. She even reached out to me after my American Idol appearance and I want to thank her.”

Miller is set to perform at the Lincoln Jamboree on April 3. For bookings, go to Alex Miller Music on Facebook, Instagram,, or his booking agent, Triangle Talent.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.