Interview: Danielle Taylor

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Danielle Taylor is a singer-songwriter grew up in Southern California and started writing music at the early age of 5. She immediately fell in love with the craft and has been doing shows at a variety of different venues and growing her fan base ever since. We got to chat with the songstress and ask her about her writing process, her new album 1440 and more.

TYF: For ones who haven’t listened to your music, how would you describe it?

Danielle Taylor: I always like to say my music falls under the category of Adult Contemporary Piano Pop – sort of in the world of Sara Bareilles, Adele, Train and maybe even Sia.

TYF: You released two EPs and now, have a full release album. Did your writing process change at any time?

Taylor: I don’t know if my writing process has ever really changed, but it’s constantly evolving. I try to study what I love about different songs and implement those techniques in my own music. When writing my first EP (Don’t Turn On The Light) I primarily focused on lyrics making sense and piano rhythms being a bit more intricate. On my second EP (The Chase) I wanted to write what I was experiencing at the time but also showcase my vocal range a little more.

I was growing as a singer and a close friend of mine suggested I utilize more of my range, so I wrote some crazy high melodies. When I finally got into the studio though, my producer challenged me to belt out some of those high melodies and I crumbled under the pressure. It was a real struggle, a serious growing experience for me. I went back to the drawing board to come up with equally interesting melodies that fit my voice as it was in the moment. It was humbling to say the least. I’m grateful for that experience and for the honesty of my producer though – I strongly believe you can’t get better if you don’t know where you need to improve. That eventually led me to the writing of my new full length album (1440). For this new record I just continued down the same path I’d been on, challenging myself to be better. Same techniques, same thought processes, just a bit more fine tuned.

TYF: I noticed that you wrote a single called “The Giving Tree”. How did that particular track come together and what was the inspiration behind it?

Taylor: I love this song. “The Giving Tree” was born out of an experience I had at Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade. When I first quit my job to be a full time musician I was really worried that I wouldn’t make any money, let alone enough to sustain myself. The droning fear led me to perform every day of the week, anywhere I could. I remembered seeing musicians and other street performers on the Promenade so I decided to try it out for myself. I’d load up a little red wagon with my speakers and keyboard and I’d perform for about 4 hours a day Monday through Thursday. It was really fun but was a definite grind.

I used to hand out 3 song versions of my 1st EP for free to anyone that was interested, most of the time they’d give a $5 – $10 donation in return. It was great. One day a scruffy man walked up to me, complimented my performance and offered me $5. I accepted the money, said thank you and offered him a CD in return but he declined my offer saying that he was homeless and would have no way of actually listening to the music. I was stunned and felt ashamed for taking his money. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and the change in his pocket. Upon hearing his situation, I immediately offered the money back telling him I didn’t feel right taking so much when he had so little. He smiled and said, “No, please take it – I want to give this to you – Please let me feel normal for one second – Your music touched me, please let me give this to you.” It was a powerful moment for me. I said ok, took his donation and thanked him again. Later I was driving home and told my mom what had happened and she thought it was just as amazing and beautiful as I did. I was honestly moved. I came home and just thought about how giving he’d been. About how he had nothing and still gave what little he had. It made me think of that story by Shel Silverstein.

I sat down at my piano and immediately began writing. It took me about five minutes before the song was complete. It might sound cheesy but the grace in that man’s humanity was really inspiring. I felt like he was a reflection of kindness and I wanted to speak to that. I think we overlook the treasures we have in our own lives sometimes and I wanted to shed a little light on that.

TYF: How did creating your new album, 1440, come about?

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Taylor: It’s hard to say honestly. I’m always writing songs – it’s my passion and I love it. After seeing how well my 2nd EP went, I knew I wanted to release a follow up. A full length follow up. I’d been writing songs and thinking it over but around December 2015 I really started looking at the logistics for getting it done. I had about five songs written, three of which would make the record, and I started planning the timeline. I planned on a 10 song album that would be recorded in early May 2016. I talked to my producer about it, talked with the manufacturing gents and came up with a game plan. I even looked at what date I’d release the record – before it’d been recorded. I felt like August would be a good month so I worked backward from there. How much time did the manufacturers need, how much time did the mastering engineers need, how much time did my mixing engineer need and how long would it take to actually rehearse and record the record. After I had those basic blueprints I knew I needed to get crackin’. I started writing up a storm. I had some songs I loved and some songs I ditched – eventually I had my 10 tunes. Then, right before I was supposed to begin the process, an 11th song popped into existence. I loved it just as much as the others so I ended up recording 11 songs instead of the 10 originally planned.

TYF: What was the first and last song that you wrote for the album?

Taylor: The first song I wrote was “RSVP” and the sneaky final track was “Roll Back The Clock.”

TYF: Will you be touring any time soon?

Taylor: I perform year round playing a little over 100 shows a year. I tour up and down the state of California, though I’d love to branch out into other states soon.

TYF: What songs do you currently have on repeat right now?

Taylor: At this exact moment, I’m obsessed with Jon McLaughlin’s song ‘Down in History’… it’s just so beautiful. I’m also really into Doris Day, James Arthur and the Rascal Flatts right now. Haha I’m all over the map I guess. My usual and almost constant go to is a compilation of Disney songs though :)  I’m pretty much 12 on the inside. I don’t know exactly what it is and I know it’s maybe corny, but I just love the magic Disney brings into the world. I love the songs, the general uplifting messages and the memories that go with each song.

TYF: If you could tour with anyone who would it be and what cities would you have to visit on tour?

Taylor: I’d love to tour with Train! Not just because their music is a great blend of commercial pop and a genre all their own (which I greatly admire) but also because they’ve been around and definitely know the best cities with the tastiest food! I love food – anything that makes you want to throw the calorie book out the window is my kind of grub. I’d want to have clam chowder in Boston, deep dish pizza in Chicago, fried chicken in Charleston, poke in Hawaii and some Georgia peach pie. (yum!)

TYF: Lastly, where can music lovers find your music and get in touch with you?

Taylor: My music is pretty much everywhere for music lovers to find (iTunes, Spotify and YouTube). The newest most exciting place you can hear my music though is on Sirius XM! Right now my music is predominantly played on Channel 13 – Velvet, but it will be coming to The Pulse (CH. 15) and The Blend (Ch. 16) soon! All in all though, my favorite way for people to get to know me and my music is my website. But they can also reach me on Facebook as well.

Camille lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You will most likely find her wandering around local bookstores, going to a concert or enjoying the sights of the city by the bay. This Captain America fangirl enjoys attending book events, re-watching her favorite Disney movies and obsessing over the latest entertainment news. You can find her on Twitter @itscamille_ann.