Kitten has claws
Bethany Miller is holding on to beauty and ferocity with her solo act, Boy Tiger
Bethany Miller talks with her hands, and as the 25-year-old musician gestures for emphasis, it’s hard to miss dark black ink lettering on her forearms. Spelled out on the delicate white underside in a calligraphy font are “Mother” on one arm and “Father” on the other. The idea for the prominent tattoo design came to her in a dream when she was 22, and she explains, “These are my roots. I always wanted to have them with me.”
Miller says that most people don’t know how to react when they see her tattoos while she gently strums her guitar on stage as Boy Tiger, her moniker as a solo songstress.
With a bubbly personality—underlined by the red-and-white-flowered dress she wears with four-inch platform black shiny Mary Janes—Miller repeatedly uses the word “beauty” and maintains a graceful poise as she talked recently about her influences and some of the challenges life has thrown her way.
Born and raised in the Paradise hills, Miller affectionately admits she had a “total hokey family” growing up. Her father, mother, brother and she would often pile in the family car and sing the traditional church hymns and popular tunes from the 1940s that were her dad’s favorites. Her eyes brighten as she starts to sing a chorus: “Oh, ain’t gotta bag of money…” as if everyone should know that quirky line. Those songs, rich with character and liveliness, solidified the family, and the memories Miller has of being a 6-year-old girl singing in the choir and the car are the roots and the inspiration for Boy Tiger (the name, which Miller believes “holds ferocity,” comes from a subtitled Kung Fu movie).
Miller began writing songs five years ago and has taught herself how to play the drums and acoustic guitar. She found a drum set on consignment at Herreid Music and originally started banging away just to “let out steam.”
Explaining that her music is her outlet, her escape, Miller refuses to compare her sound to any other artist. She relies on the sound of her singing voice to speak for her.
“There’s a soul in there. … I mean you have the guitar, therefore it’s acoustic,” Miller describes as she struggles to answer the question at hand. “I’m a very dynamic singer. I have a lot of polarity.”
More soulful and extroverted than your average acoustic performer, Boy Tiger augments acoustic ballads with soaring, caterwauling blasts of poetry.
“There’s songwriting and there’s performing. I want the songs for myself, and I write the songs for everybody,” Miller explains. “I want to connect on a personal level.”
In “Mom,” Miller shares a very painful time in her life when at the age of 14 she found herself grieving over the loss of her mother, who lost a fight with cancer. Now able to reflect on the experience, Miller uses the tragedy to make connection and share her decision to try to be strong in a difficult situation—"In the midst of my pain, I can see it all so clearly now/ In the midst of all hell breaking loose, I can feel my chest explode.” Miller says she’s drawn on the “sink or swim” mentality to get through her sadness to eventually see the beauty in her life.
“It will affect you for the rest of your life,” Miller said. “I am amazed at how I turned out from the situation.”
Miller is a full-time Butte College student, working toward a degree in business with a minor in technical theater, and she cleans houses to support herself while caring for her ailing father.
She’s also dabbled in acting, playing the popcorn girl in The Rocky Horror Show at the Chico Cabaret. Miller wants to use her artistic abilities in set design as well.
Performing regularly at such Chico venues as Has Beans, Fulcrum Records and Moxie’s Cafà, Miller’s not starry-eyed about making it big as a singer on the pop charts.
“I don’t know if I’m going to live off what I do, but I want to keep it real to myself. I’m not a fake person."