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| 26 October 2021 | 1 Reply

According to a recent press release: “Early listeners and music critics are buzzing about Taylor Rae’s much-anticipated debut album, MAD TWENTIES, and today the wait is over. The 12-track creative treasure is available for digital purchase now and vinyl copies can be ordered from Taylor’s website or this online store. The excitement surrounding the release has led to two world track premieres this week with 100% Rock Magazine hosting “Never Gonna Do” and American Blues Scene spotlighting “Just Be.” Taylor’s current single, “Home on the Road,” is resonating with fans, and its companion video has been airing on CMT’s 12-pack Countdown for several weeks. Last month, her debut music video, “Fixer Upper,” was awarded Best Video at the Austin Spotlight Film Festival. Taylor’s eclectic style was influenced by a diverse roster of artists that includes Grace Potter, Janis Joplin, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Jewel, Simon & Garfunkel and Steely Dan. In pre-pandemic times, Taylor averaged 200 gigs annually, including the second stage at the legendary Stubb’s in Austin, Hotel Café in Hollywood and Santa Cruz’s Moe’s Alley, Kuumbwa Jazz and the Catalyst. She has also played popular Northern California festivals and opened for artists including Brandy Clark, Kristian Bush, Reggae musician Mike Love and The Stone Foxes. Originally from Santa Cruz, California (where she won the region’s NEXTies Musician of the Year award), Taylor currently resides in Austin, Texas. Now 27, she enjoys reading, practicing yoga and spending time with her long-haired dachshund, Winnie.” We were able to get Taylor on the phone to discuss new music, writing, and much more…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out for us today, Taylor.

Taylor: Oh yeah. Thank you so much for having me, my pleasure.

Toddstar: Very excited about this. We are lucky enough to premier “Never Gonna Do” just before the album dropped. We were very excited to be able to also review the album. What can you tell us about Mad Twenties that your fans may or may not grab the first or second listen to Taylor?

Taylor: The album is a concept album. I’ve heard some people think that like Mad Twenties, the title, like the decade, the 1920s, or even the 2020s. It actually refers to age, like when you’re in your twenties. And so the whole, it’s kind of a journey through the turbulent years that I think everyone experiences in one way or another. During those, first few years and the oldest song I wrote when I was 19, almost 20. So it’s been a long time in the making. And I think people are always kind of interested to hear that, cause a lot of artists will write an album in one time, in one year or whatever. But this has been quite the process over the last seven years.

Toddstar: They say that you have your whole lifetime to write your first album. So, you definitely were able to take advantage of that and especially advantage of the last 18 months when there wasn’t a lot going on and kind of do what you wanted to do to this. Looking back over the songs in the way they were constructed, the way the tracklist was put together – you mentioned this started seven years ago – were there any songs that once you start fleshing it out and really kind of putting it together took on a different life just because of the way life took its own twist and turns for you over the last seven years? Or did these songs kind of stay true to their original impression, the way that they flowed from you in the beginning?

Taylor: I think most of them are pretty much the same, in terms of how they have developed over time because I play live so much that just, over time you end up kind of singing things differently. In terms of content and like how I feel about the songs, they have taken on a new life, for sure. Just kind of like joke and say, songwriting can be like telling the future. Sometimes you write a song and you’re like you think it’s relevant to your life. You write it about a personal experience, but then really like two years later another event occurs and you’re like, wow, this song that I wrote a few years ago is so much more relevant right now. I think in that way it does take on a new life and it was cool bringing back some of those songs that I wrote when I was 20 years old and I’m just like man, this could become an anthem in a completely different way for my life now. And I would’ve never known so that’s cool.

Toddstar: Well, it’s funny, you mentioned that because I was actually at a show this weekend, REO Speedwagon, and Kevin Cronin mentioned the same thing about “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” He said when I wrote it, it meant one thing and now that he went back and deconstructed it, it brought on a totally different me for him now at this point in life.

Taylor: I think it’s definitely an experience that all songwriters go through.

Toddstar: Looking back, are there some that didn’t make the album that you wish had or songs that just didn’t mean as much to you when it came time to really put all this down, that were really important to you back when you were putting pen to paper?

Taylor: When we were choosing songs for the album, I sent my producer like 30 songs and I was like, I don’t know what we should do. I didn’t really have too much of an opinion then. But, we obviously didn’t record like a good amount of them. I don’t know if I would change anything. I think the album came out perfect. It took on the life of its own. Even the concept and the order and the flow, it kind of just wrote itself into its own story, without too much effort. I knew I had the title Mad Twenties. I knew I wanted it to be a span over all the years. But in terms of the final project, it kind of just made itself that way. So I don’t know if I would go back and change anything. I am excited to get back in the studio and record some of those other ones that we didn’t record. We’re already talking about doing that. So that’s really fun. But I think, all the songs on there work in context to each other.

Toddstar: I like the way that the album kind of flowed and as I worked through it, even during my review. Some songs, I’d find myself going back through time and time again, just to catch some of the nuances in the songs. Some just to pick up on a lyric or to make sure I was getting my own interpretation of the songs together. How important is it to you that people do those kind of things that they don’t, just to me, I’m not one who just sings along with a song just to sing along with a song. I want to absorb it best I can. How important is it to you that that process takes place where you just one those performances just happy someone’s actually listening.

Taylor: No, I think it’s important to me that people listen through at least the first time, top to bottom. That’s how I find the music. I think that’s how artists want people to listen to their music. Because especially when it’s a full 12 song album that does have a concept to me, it’s very, very important that people do that. Just the way that it’s meant to be listened to. After that obviously, see if you have favorite songs, put them on playlist and that’s all good. I’m so happy, I’m so grateful for everyone listening to it. But yeah, my personal opinion is definitely top to bottom first, listen through, I want you to go on the journey with me the way I wrote it. And that’s the way I like to listen to music. I play a lot of records, so there’s not a lot song skipping that can be done. That’s the experience that I wanted to create.

Toddstar: As we discussed, you had your whole life to write this first one. But if you had to look at the tracklist, can you think of one or two tracks that will always be part of a live show and will always be part of what you do? What couple tracks still resonate with you as strongly now, as they did when you thought the concept through?

Taylor: “Fixer Upper,” for sure. I think that’s still, it’s probably the song I’ve played the most. People really seem to connect with that one. Still my favorite, it’s just one of those ones that I will never get sick of playing. And it will always be a part of my live show in some way or the other. And it’s funny, like compared to “Home On The Road” also, which I would say is the most popular one on the album. And I wrote that a few years ago and I do love that one, I probably will play it at every show, but that one, I can get a little like, oh man, we have to play “Home On The Road” again. Here we go. No, I don’t want to say I’m sick of it. Because I feel like all my songs are my children and I don’t want to talk bad about them. But it definitely has a different feeling to me.

Photo credit: Mad Harmony Photo

Toddstar: As I say, everybody interprets everything differently. That song for me is “Something Familiar.” There’s something in that track that I go back in time and time again and even mentioned, I review that every time I listen to it, there’s a different nuance or sound or note that I pick up every time and just kind of resonates with me. So that songs that one that I go back to and hope that when you start touring I can hear that one live, because there’s something that resonates within me.

Taylor: That’s cool to hear. I love that one too. That piano part in the bridge, is one of my favorite parts on the whole album and yeah, that’s a special song too.

Toddstar: Depending on where you’re at, if you go to iTunes or Amazon or whatever, you’re labeled as different things and even in the press releases. Where do you like to pigeonhole your sound?

Taylor: I think we’ve kind of put my sound under the umbrella of Americana, just because it’s such a big umbrella. Because the album has folk, blues, little bit of jazz in it, rock, some pop elements, and some country elements. Like it’s just such a variation, it’s really hard to put my myself in one genre, but I think, we’re, we’re marketing it as Americana. That’s what, yeah. That’s kind of what we’re doing right now. Which makes sense. I feel like that’s the best way. Cause you can’t call it a country album. Definitely can’t call it a blues album. You know? So I don’t know. It’s been, that’s been the hardest part I think for everyone on the team.

Toddstar: I kept defaulting more to jazz than anything myself and lot of that’s attributed to, like you said, the piano, interludes and pieces, but also your vocals. They smolder at times, which takes on that jazzy feel for me. With this being the Mad Twenties and a good time capsule of the twenties for you looking back, does this make you look forward to or afraid of the thirties?

Taylor: Oh I’m so looking forward to it. I think, the thirties is when you can like settle in to the adult that you’ve become and that you’ve worked on. I feel like at that point you’ve kind of gotten a good taste for how beautiful life can be and how difficult it can be. So I’m excited. I already feel so much better as a 27-year-old than I did, even at 25, like just doing that self-development, that personal work, it’s a lifelong journey of course, but it’s easier each year, I think.

Toddstar: Did you go back and reconstruct any of these once they were done? Did you have any tracks in the can ready to go, but with the extra time on your hands over the last 18 months, did you find yourself going back and deconstructing or rebuilding any of these songs?

Taylor: No. They’re, just kind of always been that way. The arrangements are just exactly the way I’ve been playing them for, seven years. We’re kind of cool. I like to, as much as I can as a songwriter, I like to keep, the initial lyrics, melody, or arrangement that I wrote at the time of the first spark of inspiration, because I feel like that, that’s a really special place. That’s hard to describe and it’s really hard to go back to. It’s kind of like a subconscious realm. And so I think my best work comes from that space and I try my best to yeah, keep it, keep it as close to the roots as possible.

Toddstar: What was the hardest song to complete? Whether it just didn’t seem to flow the way you wanted to, or it was too emotional or too abstract at the time. What song fought you tooth and nail from start to finish?

Photo credit: Jeremy Ryan

Taylor: Well “5:25” took me a really long time to write. I had a lot of different ideas for lyrics on that one. Now thinking about it, the recording process, that was the one song. I mean, these guys in the studio were so incredible and you know, they would do, they’d do the song in one take and we’d be done. But “5:25,” that was the one I had a specific idea for the drum part and saying it out loud. It definitely sounded weird. And everyone was like, Hmm, I don’t know if that’s going to, and then, so we kind of played around with that one in the studio, but I wouldn’t say it was difficult. The writing process was more difficult than the recording process and also “Forgiveness,” those end vocals where I kind of go Robert Plant all over the place. That was like, that’s out of my comfort zone. Nowadays when I was younger in like a Southern rock band, I used to totally like scream and be Janis Joplin, but I haven’t done that in years. And it’s so cool to find that part of my voice again, but it definitely took me by surprise. It was just me and the engineer video doing those vocals. And you know, I was like, I’m going to go get whiskey and some hot water, you know, try and warm it up and also just try and loosen up. Because that was, that was hard.

Toddstar: That’s funny. You mentioned again, going back to my review, I even mentioned where the vocal jumps up that the at you work towards the outro of the track. So, it, it wasn’t, it wasn’t effort lost for sure.

Taylor: That’s awesome. I know it came out really good. I’m stoked on it. But at the time I was like, oh, is this going to sound awful? Like, I don’t know.

Toddstar: With everything going on, obviously you’ve mentioned, you’re looking at going back and recording some of the, the lost tracks. What’s next on the horizon for you? Obviously you’d like to try and get it out in two of this. Is there anything works where you just going to kind of rest on the laurels and we see what happens with the next round of 12 tracks.

Taylor: We’re working on a radio campaign in January. We have two awesome radio promoters that we’re working with and alongside. I’m going to try and either book our own tour, just acoustic kind of small venue tour where the radio will be as well. The most ideal situation would be like getting on the bill as an opening act for like a bigger band or, hooking up with some booking agency who, you know, can take care of logistics for me. So that’s kind of what’s next. There’s a lot of work still to be done in the next six months on Mad Twenties. So I don’t foresee me changing focus to the next song quite yet. This fall, this time of year is pretty saturated, especially for the Americana world. And so they were like, let’s start in January after the holidays when things kind of settle down, people are looking for new music, and since I’m like, just not very well known artist, just kind of coming up, this is debut. Like the album is not going anywhere. Like I don’t need to push it right now. It’ll be just as new in January to most of the world. That’s kind of our strategy right now.

Toddstar: Again, I really appreciate you taking time out for us and we hope everybody wakes up a little bit and goes out and buys the album, downloads the cd, whatever format they can find on, get their hands on Mad Twenties, and sink into these 12 songs and just enjoy them for what they are.

Taylor: Yes. Thank you so much, Todd. I really appreciate it.

Toddstar: And hopefully we’ll see you out on the road after the first of year.

Taylor: Sounds good. See you then.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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