Shalom “J.Storm” Miller’s name is on several platinum and multi-platinum records hanging on the wall of his Nashville home. Most recognizable are Beyoncé’s Dangerously in Love, and Gwen Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. After a long music career that has spanned two decades, Shalom is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in music business with Berklee Online, not because he’s hoping to garner more platinum records with his name on them, but for his own development.
“I’m not really thirsty or hurting for any type of long accolades at this point,” he says. “It’s really for me. I’m just really stacking the deck for myself personally. I wanna see how far I can go, what I can achieve.”
Shalom’s interest in music began at age four when he started playing drums at his church. He accompanied the choir and performed with big names in gospel such as John P. Kee and the Winans. His parents were also gospel singers, and his father produced the music his mother, Christine L. Easterling, released. Growing up around music production inspired him to try it himself.
“I just grew up around it, looking at eight-track machines and compressors and things like that,” says Shalom. “When my dad would go upstairs to go to sleep, I’d come downstairs and mess with all the settings. And then my mom would travel around to different studios. So I just took [those skills] with me and started writing songs in high school.”
In the early 2000s, Shalom and his friend Matthew Irby, who goes by Major, began writing music together and called themselves Tha Beat Mizers. They attended a program called the Youth Entertainment Academy in Plainfield, New Jersey, where they learned the ins and outs of recording. Shalom admits that they would go to great lengths to make music during off hours.
“We started going there every day,” says Shalom. “It got so bad that we used to cut school and find ways to keep the studio door open, and sometimes we’d go so far as unlatching the sliding windows so that we could crawl in. We got dedicated real quick.”
Shalom’s big break came from Rashad Muhammad, whom he considers a mentor. Rashad is the owner of 4th Quarter Studios in East Orange, New Jersey, and has been the main recording, sound, and mixing engineer for Kool & The Gang for the past 30 years. Rashad gave Shalom some professional work to do, engineering and mixing a track for the 2003 movie soundtrack The Fighting Temptations.
While Shalom was working on the track, a representative from SoulDiggaz Entertainment entered the studio. SoulDiggaz is a production team that worked with Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott, and other well known R&B artists. As any good mentor would do, Rashad encouraged Shalom to play his beats in the background to grab the producer’s attention.
“I just hit the play button and every so often you could see him [the producer] be like woah,” he says. “He was like, ‘Hey, is that you?’ So that conversation led to me giving him a CD.”
A few months later, SoulDiggaz called up Shalom and Major, inviting them to come to the studio to work on drum loops that ended up on Beyoncé’s first solo album, Dangerously in Love. At the time, Shalom didn’t realize that songs like “Crazy in Love” would catapult Beyoncé into a solo career that eclipsed Destiny’s Child.
“Destiny’s Child was everything at the time,” says Shalom. “It was kind of like, Okay, I hope her solo album does well! It’s not going to do as well as Destiny’s Child. But who would have known.”
After Dangerously in Love, Shalom and Major signed to SoulDiggaz where they got to write for a rapper who they always dreamed of working with: Missy Elliott.
“At the time, it was all about Timbaland and Missy,” says Shalom. “That’s who we wanted to be, that’s who we wanted to sound like. That was it. Every day after school, we’d be like, ‘One day we’re going to work with Missy.’ We couldn’t believe that it actually came to fruition.”
In addition to Missy Elliott, Shalom and Major worked with Gwen Stefani, TLC, Pink, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, Lyfe Jennings, Ashley Simpson, and Jay Sean, while signed to SoulDiggaz. In 2006, Shalom and Major decided to part ways professionally, but they still remain close. Currently Major is the music director of his church in New Jersey, and remains active in music production in LA.
“Major and I are still very much friends,” says Shalom. “We talk on a regular basis. His son and my son are pretty much the same age. I call his son my nephew, so we’re very much friends if not closer. We consider each other family.”
From SoulDiggaz, Shalom went over to Bad Boy Records in New York, where he worked with artists such as Day26, Cheri Dennis, Yung Joc, B5, and basically all the artists on MTV’s Making the Band series. He also started making connections at Jive Records, which represented artists like Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears.
Listen to Berklee course author and instructor Prince Charles Alexander talk about his time at Bad Boy Records on the ‘Music is My Life’ podcast.
“I was on cloud nine,” he says. “I just got off the Missy situation. I got a great deal with Jive. I can go to Bad Boy and get work whenever I want. Not only that, but I’m negotiating a record label deal with Universal for myself.”
Everything was looking bright until the 2008 financial crisis hit and his projects started to feel the squeeze.
“Slowly but surely I was getting phone call after phone call, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to slow up on this, pause on that,’” he says. “And then the Bad Boy situation was the final straw: Day26 broke up. I was going to New York every day, going to the studio, writing songs for them. That was kind of the last thing I was holding onto. Then that fell through and I said, ‘I gotta do something different. The New York scene is kind of collapsing in on itself.’”
He tried LA, Atlanta, and decided to give Nashville a shot with some encouragement from a friend. Shalom says the conversation went something like:
“‘What? Honky-tonk Town? What am I going to do in Nashville? I do pop, R&B, and hip-hop.’ He said, ‘No, man you don’t understand. It’s all here for you.’”
What his friend meant is all the major labels are in Nashville. After a tour of music row, Shalom was set on relocating from New Jersey. Upon arriving in Nashville, he attended the SAE Institute of Technology, and married his girlfriend, who had made the move with him. Soon after, they had a son and Shalom was working in the licensing department of BMI.
“I got a family now and I gotta keep the checks rolling in and it was good money,” he says about BMI. “It was really good money for the connections. I got to work with Robert De Niro. I got to work with Pharrell and T.I. and Tiny. I learned so much about the financial industry and how it worked. I got to see Pharrell’s royalties for ‘Happy’ and I’m like, ‘okay let me get back to my music.’”
Stream Shalom’s music on Spotify and Apple Music.
In 2017, Shalom started Power Move Management Group, where he works with up-and-coming songwriters and producers. Right now he’s representing White Noise, Narelle Kheng, and RRILEY, who just released a new single. For a while he worked with country singer Willie Jones.
“I’m super proud of him,” says Shalom about Jones. “I actually brought him to Nashville and I put on his first show here. He just did Jimmy Fallon and he’s been written up in Rolling Stone. He’s blowing up and doing his thing.”
Alongside his business, Shalom is enjoying being a part of the Berklee network and preparing to move into the next phase in his career.
“I always wanted to get my degree and at this point I really just want to stack the deck,” he says. “I got the awards, I got the Grammys, I got cool things. I know what it was like to make good money and lose it. So at this point right now, it’s really just adding value to myself.”