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TASHA TAYLOR 2011 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
TAYLORED TO SUCCEED
Phone interview recorded September 27, 2011

Tasha Taylor is brilliantly continuing - but not mimicking - the legacy of her legendary father, soul music icon, Johnnie Taylor. With her debut album, TAYLORMADE she’s asserted herself as one of the young, strong, female voices to be reckoned with. Tasha speaks with Terrence Lathan about the album and some of her other creative interests...


Terrence Lathan: This is Terrence Lathan for SoulMusic.com, and I am here with independent artist Tasha Taylor. Tasha is the daughter of legendary R&B artist Johnnie Taylor, and in June she released her debut album, TAYLORMADE. It’s a brilliant collection of songs, and Tasha had a hand in writing, producing, arranging and playing on each one. Hi Tasha, how are you doing today?

Tasha Taylor: I’m doing really good, how are you?

TL: I’m doing well.

TT: Good.

TL: My first question I wanted to ask is what was it like growing up with a father who is a soul music legend?

TT: It was very cool. We traveled on the road quite a bit as a family, because Dad was a singer and spent most of his time on the road. So it was very interesting. I was surrounded by a lot of musicians and musical people and I was always encouraged to express myself musically if I so chose.

TL: How long have you been playing and singing yourself?

TT: There’s not a time I can remember when I wasn’t. It’s always been a part of the household and what we did as a family.

TL: When did you start playing and singing professionally?

TT: I think probably around fifteen, sixteen I started getting involved in my dad’s show; started touring with him.

TL: And you also recorded a duet with him on his album GOOD LOVE, correct?

TT: Yes, I did. That was my first big break.

TL: Who are some of your other musical influences?

TT: I’m a huge, huge, huge Etta James fan. I love Etta. I’ve spent many hours rewinding the tapes so to speak and trying to emulate some of her vocal runs. I just think she’s got such a quality to her voice. I love B.B. King, I’m a huge B.B. King fan. I love the song “Sweet Sixteen”; it’s one of my favourites. I listen to a lot of vinyl still—I have a record player and I like records. I want to create a movement called the vinyl movement to encourage people to listen to vinyl, because there’s nothing like it. And I really love Aretha, of course. There’s just endless amounts of quality information for any singer no matter what kind of singing you do. And I listen to my dad probably more than anybody else, to be perfectly honest. I listen to a lot of old Johnnie Taylor and I listen to a lot of Ray Charles, too. I like Stevie Ray Vaughan, I like Otis Redding… “These Arms Of Mine” and those classics. I’m a big old soul music-head. I’m really into the old stuff.

TL: So am I. I want to get with you on that movement to start people listening to vinyl again; I love vinyl records.

TT: Yeah, there’s nothing like it.

TL: When I first heard your voice it was reminiscent of Phoebe Snow to me. Are you familiar with her?

TT: Oh yeah, I love Phoebe Snow, and actually somebody has told me that before. That’s a huge compliment. Yeah, she’s a great singer-songwriter female from the sixties, right? The sixties and seventies? She played instruments… was she a guitar player or piano player?

TL: She played guitar.

TT: Yeah; kind of had this earthiness, almost. I don’t want to say folk, but there was definitely that throwback to when things were simple. That makes me want to listen to her right now, actually—she’s a really good storyteller, good songwriter. Thank you, that’s a compliment.

TL: You’re welcome. Listening to your record, TAYLORMADE, what I appreciated about it is though it’s in the tradition of classic soul music or even blues, it doesn’t sound like a soul music revival. It sounds very fresh and very much of today.

TT: Thank you.

TL: And I was curious how you were able to achieve that, or was it even a conscious thing?

TT: I think I thought I was doing some sort of… not throwback, but I think in sitting down with the production of the record it was really important to me that we record this record in the way that was reminiscent of a real grassroots record. That was first and foremost, and I think with just choosing the instrumentation of the Wurli and the Rhodes and Nathan Watts, who’s been Stevie Wonder’s bass player for years and years, was my bass player and musical director on the record and he really brought in most of Stevie’s players. We worked with the engineer that did SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE. So I think it was really about just surrounding myself with people who had the right sensibilities but not really going in with the intention of copying anything, just following the roadmap of how things used to be recorded so that it would have a warmth to it and not just a digital sound to it. So yeah, once you bring the right players to the table who have those sensibilities for that kind of music, you just let people do what they do.

TL: And the record has a very personal feel to it, and I guess that had a great deal to do with the fact that you wrote, produced and arranged and played on it as well.

TT: Yeah, the songs… it took me about three years before I was done writing and said, “Okay, this is the record.” And I’m definitely more of a journal-style writer—writing songs is an outlet for me, so it’s always personal. I have a difficult time writing for other people because I look at things from such a personal point of view. It’s hard to crawl inside somebody else’s head and know what they’re thinking and feeling about what’s going on in their life. But you start there, and one by one the songs felt like they belonged together. It felt like this was a moment in time. And from there it was about getting the right players and making sure that I was working with people who allowed me to be as hands-on as I’ve been from the beginning, because I wrote the songs and then I demoed the songs on Pro Tools, then pulled in bandmates and buddies to finish all the demos… to the point where at one point in time I thought, “Well, maybe this is the record.” There was no other money. I thought, “Okay, this just might be it.” And a lot of the record could have worked that way, but when it was finished I had the opportunity to take it to the next level and get these fantastic musicians involved and the ideas were already there, so it was like, “Please build upon this idea, because it took a lot of time and effort just to put that down. Let’s not discard it, let’s build upon it.” So that kept it really organic for me.

TL: So as an independent artist, what are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced?

TT: The finances. The finances, because you could make the greatest record in the world but if nobody hears it… it’s like the question, if a tree falls in the woods but nobody hears it. My father always told me that it’s called show business for a reason: it’s ninety percent business and ten percent show, and if you don’t know your business you’re going to get left out in the cold. And with things changing so rapidly, so dynamically now in the music business you’ve got to have really an entrepreneurial headspace about what you’re doing, and not wait around for people to make things happen for you but really be proactive and really spend as much time understanding your business and what the next move is and what your vision is and how you’re going to facilitate that financially, and how you’re going to balance eating and where you’re going to live in the meantime. All of that is really challenging, being independent. My record was released as a joint venture on my own label, basically independently financed by a movie producer, Stuart Benjamin, who is the person who produced the movie “Ray”, and he’s also taking “Ray” to Broadway and asked me to play Margie Hendrix, one of the Raelettes on Broadway.

TL: Oh wow, that’s awesome.

TT: Yeah, so the deal was, “You help me finance my record and finish my record and I’ll play Margie Hendrix for you.” It was like, “You help me with my project and I’ll help you with yours,” kind of thing. But yeah, that was the toughest part was when you find something creatively that you’re able to… well, let me go back. If you are able to create something that you really love creatively as a body of work, and that’s in-between everything else that you’ve got to do to have time and space just to be creative, and then you find that it’s valuable, it’s convincing somebody else that it’s valuable, it’s coming up with a business plan for that—if you could impress her how it’s going to make that money back… all those things are challenging, being independent, for sure.

TL: Which leads to my other question about your being an actress.

TT: Yes.

TL: What are some of your other creative interests?

TT: I paint, I was just painting yesterday. It’s something that’s totally off the radar, other than the fact that I did all the artwork for the record. I’m very hands-on in that sense as well—anything creative, visual, is also attractive to me as well. But yeah, I paint abstracts. I like working in acrylics and oil paintings and coming up with a process, it’s an interesting combination. But yeah, I really enjoy painting—that’s my really shifting gears and doing something that’s so… I guess it’s so specific, you’re so zoomed in on where the paintbrush is going. You don’t really have time to think about too many other things. Or maybe it’s that you’re so deep in the zone that your brain can sort out all the stuff that you need to sort out and block everything else out. But it’s very therapeutic. I love to paint, I recommend it. Yeah, I turned out about three new ones yesterday and I thought, “Wow, I need to do this more often.” It definitely feeds the soul.

TL: Well, I was looking on YouTube and I saw that you also have a have a YouTube channel where you communicate a lot [about] how this album was made and a lot of the process that you went through.

TT: Yeah.

TL: How helpful has that been, I guess giving your audience more of an eye into what you’re doing? How helpful has that been in generating an audience to listen to the music?

TT: That’s a great question. I think that’s key, especially in the very beginning when nobody’s listening. That’s always been my strategy, is whatever I’m doing creatively, if I believe it’s got value… and nowadays you can share—you don’t have to be limited to “I’ve got nothing to share creatively until this record is done.” What I really enjoy about technology is the instant gratification of, if I discover something cool about me that day that I want to share, I can just post it. And for me, the journey of “Okay, I’m making a record. Okay, am I still making a record? Okay, I think I’m still making a record. Okay, the record’s done.” Documenting and valuing those moments along the way is sometimes all we have, you know what I mean? Looking back on some of the things on YouTube that I posted during the making of this record not only are valuable for myself, but yeah, I think when people can see your process they feel more invested. Even what’s happening to music right now with musical game shows on TV, which is “American Idol” and “X-Factor” and all these shows, because we watch the show we’ll buy the product.

Because we’ve seen the journey of those last ten, fifteen people, or last eight, so whether they win or not we’ll go see the tour that they book of the top twenty-five finalists, we’ll buy the CD, because we watched the television show, which is merch. So there’s also that sort of ideology behind letting people into your process and then therefore them not just falling in love with the end product but falling in love with your process along the way.

TL: Right.

TT: And rooting for you, and wanting to see you get there.

TL: Well, it’s definitely been a pleasure talking to you today.

TT: You too.

TL: What are some ways that your fans can keep in touch with you?

TT: Definitely visit tashataylor.com, find me there. Everything’s posted there—live shows. We just did Harvelle’s last week; we’re doing the KJLH, Taste of Soul in Los Angeles, which is like a hundred thousand people, all different food vendors, down on Martin Luther King Boulevard on October 17th. If you’re in Los Angeles, check me out there. But you can always hit tashataylor.com. You can get the record, TAYLORMADE, on Amazon or iTunes… and yeah, all my footage will be posted on tashataylor.com, so find me there.

TL: Thank you very much, Tasha.

TT: Thank you, it was a pleasure. That flew by—that’s a good thing. It was a lot of fun, thank you. Good questions.

TL: Thank you.

TT: Thanks for having me.

About the Writer
Terrence Lathan is a music enthusiast based in Houston, Texas and the curator of HueSoul.com.
  
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