Rocker Steve Miller takes his latest act to USC

Musician Steve Miller speaks to a group of student musicians at USC.
Musician Steve Miller speaks to a group of student musicians at USC.
Courtesy of David Woo/Dallas Morning News

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Some people call him the space cowboy, some call him the gangster of love, and this semester, students at USC are calling him professor. This fall, rocker Steve Miller is teaching music at the university.

Miller says one of the most important lessons he wants to share is teaching next-generation musicians to be self-dependent. That's why his first assignment was to have students start their own publishing company in less than 24 hours.

"And then every project you do when you're in school, I want you to copyright it and you will own it," recounted Miller of his assignment. "And then when the people come to sign you, you can say, 'You know what? I already own my own publishing company and I was thinking about hiring you.'"

Photo gallery slideshow of Steve Miller at USC

Miller also wants the students to learn that music is more than just looking good and using hi-tech gadgets. He says it's the songs that mean everything.

After watching several groups of USC music students perform, Miller gave his assessment. "You know we saw kids who were full of themselves and thought they really knew what they were doing, and we saw kids who were stone cold scared to death," said Miller, referring to the students in his class. "And you know it might be the kid who is stone cold scared to death who writes the song that touches your heart."

In addition to his new job at USC, Miller and his band have a new album out called "Bingo!". It's Miller's take on old rhythm and blues songs, including "Tramp," a song recorded by Lowell Fulson in 1967.

(Audio: KPCC's Alex Cohen speaks with musician Steve Miller)