Listen to Cade Bittner Merry Christmas on iTunes
With $50 dollars in his bank account, 19-year-old Cade Bittner left Minneapolis in 1999 to attend college in New York City.
“Who did I think I was?” Edina-based songwriter and recording artist Bittner says.
The audacity comes from a guy with such a vivacious spirit, he inspires everyone around him to wildly pursue their dreams. Born and raised in Minnesota, there were two things he always wanted—a family and a singing career.
While finding his voice as a singer and songwriter in NYC and Los Angeles, he was a personal assistant to friend and Tony award–winning actress Marissa Jaret Winokur, and later to pop icon and Broadway star, Debbie Gibson. While touring and singing Gibson’s demos, they became friends. She later wrote Velvet Santa, a song about someone missing home, for Bittner’s album Merry Christmas in 2013.
“Cade was my personal assistant for many years. People may not know what a crazy job it is to try to stay a step ahead of the person they are assisting, and Cade did it with grace and style,” Gibson says. “But, I always knew there was more to Cade and that he was an artist in his own right. I was thrilled to learn he was taking center stage and I knew I wanted to be a part of supporting that!”
At the time, Bittner discovered the industry wasn’t ready for gay entertainers. Agents told him to “butch it up” or he wouldn’t get work. “One of my biggest challenges was being a gay male. It’s who I am, it’s a part of me, it doesn’t define me and that’s the end of that,” he says.
Staying true to himself, Bittner launched his own singing career. “I’m always a dreamer. Tell me something I can’t do, and I’ll figure out a way to do it. You have to go after what you want,” he says.
While visiting family in Minnesota, he couldn’t shake the tugging at his heart from his dream of getting married and having children. After 10 years in television, film and music, he yearned for home and anonymity.
Then, a backstage conversation with friend, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein gave him the nod he needed—follow your heart. It was time to go home.
Once back in Minnesota, Bittner launched a Kickstarter campaign, funding his debut EP Survivor in 2012. “We have such a huge music scene here that I felt like I’d be remiss to not follow this dream to independently record as an artist,” he says. The lyrics to Survivor poured out of him within minutes of his unsuccessful American Idol audition. He wrote You’re Here as he imagined what it would feel like to fall in love. He held release parties in NYC, L.A. and Minneapolis.
In 2013, he released Merry Christmas with the help of Rob Genadek, Jeff Bailey and Tommy Barbarella. The album features a duet with vocal powerhouse Kiley Dean.
“My Jewish friends, my agnostic friends, my Lutheran friends, we all love Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Christmas music brings people together,” Bittner says.
In 2016 and 2017, producer Phil Thompson invited Bittner to be a part of Minnesota’s A-list compilation, A Minnesota Holiday Volumes 7 and 8. The series has raised more than $375,000 for Second Harvest Heartland, Union Gospel Mission and Be The Match.
In 2018, his friend Susan Blaska nominated him for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the Year. He warmheartedly accepted and set his goal at $100,000. He raised nearly $200,000 and his record-breaking win enabled him to fund and name three research grants with specific research portfolios in Acute Myeloid Lymphoma (AML) and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“If one of these research grants makes a little breakthrough and saves one life, even if I can do nothing else in this world, I left it a better place,” Bittner says. “That is the coolest thing in the world.”
With covers from artists like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, Bittner will release his first full-length jazz vocal album in 2019. “If you put a bit of Elton John meets Frank Sinatra—basically throw a sequined jacket on Frank Sinatra, that will be me, like crooner, but the ultimate dinner party mix,” he says with a sparkle in his eye. “I’m doing it for my son, Parker, because I want his generation to know some of these really beautiful songs that I think are transcendent.” He plans to donate all of the proceeds to charity.
Bittner’s neighbors know him by his married name, Cade James Miller. He and husband, Brian, married in 2015. One year later their son, Parker James Miller, was born via surrogate, making Bittner’s family dream come true.
While living in L.A., Bittner saw what it was like for celebrities’ families to be surrounded by security, a lifestyle not suited to him or his family. The Millers live in Edina because they want safe neighborhoods and a public education system known for academic excellence.
“I love Edina. Edina is a grounded community with people who are supportive,” Bittner says. “It’s a lot of young families, hardworking people who value education and the school system. They’re involved in school boards, volunteering and community events. Education is the best thing we can encourage and foster in our children.” He is excited to raise Parker in Edina’s public schools.
When he’s not stepping on Legos while dancing to The Wiggles, Papa, as Parker calls him, is recording in a studio or is consulting in marketing, PR and special events at one of Brian’s companies.
In summer, Bittner hangs with his friend and neighbor, Natalie, socializes at The Edina Country Club and walks to dinner at one of their neighborhood restaurants. In teeth-chattering winter, he hunkers down and snuggles in for movie nights.
Lucky for us, Minnesota is home to a legendary music scene, artists and recording studios.
“I found my way back and I love calling Minnesota home. You can do big things from your backyard. I have this career that has happened organically, all without me deviating from who I am as a person,” Bittner says flashing a smile. “And now we live here, and I cannot believe our home is our home, my husband is my husband and my child is my child.”