A Spotlight Interview with Taylor Blackwell
With the new full album release Taylor Blackwell wraps several styles of pop rock and a gorgeous Indie acoustic tonality into one massive album that manages to tell stories and touch on personal references and all with a wondrous array of character.
The In Memory of Haroldine album comes through Lush and is full-bodied with such an assortment of addictive pop and indie rock that is broken up with beautiful acoustic singles and all of them can stand on their own two legs but, this album feels like it should be listened to as a whole.
The record gives the feeling of a concept album even though it may not be. The songs seem to tie into each other in different ways and there's a lot of Storytelling going on between the songs.
Some of the most amazing things about this record are not only the way that her vocals adapt to what the song is but the way that she can take each different variation of songwriting and do her thing on it to make it her own.
She clearly puts her stamp on her music, and it does have a lot of that pop-oriented undertone and that sticks throughout most of the record, but you'll be pleasantly surprised at how diverse This record actually is if you listen all the way through.
There are so many surprises around so many corners and you rarely expect them even towards the end of the record when you've had a few by then.
Strip down piano ballads become giant pop rock songs and throughout everything on the course of the record, there is this theatrical theme that sticks.
Upon going through this album, you feel like you're watching scenes in a play similar to reading chapters in a book.
It's not like their show tunes or anything, but there is that element of character being displayed on a lot of these songs.
She has the ability to grab your attention and charm you. And this happens all throughout the release.
There are introductions, and interludes and those kinds of things also add more to that theatrical aspect however, this record has layers to it that can be peeled back especially upon a second or third listen to the album.
Now I know what you're thinking, who has time to listen to a whole album. Guess what...you do. You just don't choose to spend your time doing it, meanwhile you're missing out on some incredible stuff because there are artists like Taylor that are putting so much outstanding fantasy into their music that it's just as good as watching a movie.
Albums like this are pure escapism and it feels amazing.
I have plenty more to say about this release but I'm sure you don't have all day to read this article, so we'll get to the interview.
We definitely wanted to have a sit down with Taylor to talk about where this record actually came from and what may be coming up next for her as well.
Here's what happened.
RAG: Let's kick things off with the In Memory of Haroldine album. This record has a wonderfully theatrical undertone to it! Where did this album come from?
Hi, thank you so much! Must be my theater kid background shining through.
I was writing songs for a second album with my band the tenth. When COVID hit, we took a hiatus. My bandmates gave me their blessing to take the songs I had written towards the album and use them for my own solo project. Songs like Last Time You'll See Me, B.S. Poetry, and I Still Have Your Jacket Pt 1 came from that. (I think I'm forgetting a track or two!) And then a few songs that made it to Haroldine I had written previously and hadn't yet recorded for anything. First Time I Died was a song I wrote for Fin Argus and I, and we had played it for friends at parties just for fun. Then I wrote one or two brand new songs as well (So Sweetly being the most recent of the bunch.)
So it's a hodgepodge of songs, but they were written in more or less the same window of time and definite themes were popping up. There was a throughline in my mind and a story around the songs that took shape in my head.
RAG: When did this all start for you as an artist?
I took piano lessons when I was young, picked up ukulele in middle school, which then lead to guitar. I wrote poems and songs as a teenager, and have always liked to sing. As mentioned, I did do some musical theater in school! I didn't start "seriously" playing music until I formed my band the tenth when I was, I believe 19 or 20. When we decided to take a pause, it was a beautiful opportunity for me to explore my own voice more as a solo artist.
RAG: What inspires you to write a song?
It's adjacent to me to journaling - a way to get to the bottom of how I'm feeling and also express my emotions. When I first started writing songs, it felt more immediate. For example, a boy would say something that annoyed me, and I'd go right home and start writing about it. Now I feel my process is changing. For album #2, I'm writing about things that happened to me months ago. It's helping me process experiences; even ones I felt I already had an understanding of.
Most of my songs are the response to me feeling wronged or upset by a person or situation. My lyrics come from everywhere; a passing comment from a friend, a street sign, something I read in a book that got my wheels spinning.
My drummer recently pointed out to me that I have a lot of songs about lighting candles. I have a line in "Never Could" - "I lit a candle for every lost cat in my neighborhood", and a lyric from a new track about lighting candles for saints in a church. I do think this is representative of how subconsciously my spirituality keeps finding its way into my music.
RAG: This album has some great styles! Can you give us some of your top musical influences?
I'd say the biggest inspirations for this album were Neutral Milk Hotel and Belle and Sebastian. I listen to a lot of 60s/70s folk rock - Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Nick Drake. I'm a big Father John Misty fan. I made an "album inspiration" playlist that has artists like Mazzy Star, Kirsten MacColl, Richard Hell, The Replacements, The Mountain Goats, The Roches, The Shangri-Las, Margo Guryan (RIP!!) and so many others.
RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
I'm an actor, so that keeps me busy! I was painting a lot at the beginning of this year, (the rainy LA weather got me really in that groove.) I try to walk and meditate every day, and read lots of spiritual books! Aside from that, just spending quality time with my loved ones, and trying not to scroll aimlessly through social media. I do love Pinterest though.
RAG: Who's in all your headphones right now?
I keep listening over and over again to the original Broadway cast recording of Pippin, which is very random but I have it on vinyl and I adore it so much. Corner of The Sky is one of my all-time favorite songs.
I always go back to "Breakfast In America" by Supertramp.
There's a band my partner Jacob introduced me to called SAULT. I'm really enjoying listening to them.
RAG: Are you doing any live performances right now?
I am!!! And I'm super excited about it. February is a busy month. I am playing Cinespia's Amelie screening/ Valentine's Ball February 14th at the Los Angeles Theater Downtown. So honored to be part of that. And then on February 24th, I will be hosting my vinyl release party - eee! Big thank you to In The Q Records for helping me get this album on vinyl, it looks beautiful and I'm eager to share it with others. And the night after that, I'm going to be playing keys for my new friend Julianna Joy's band. There are more upcoming shows that will be announced soon on my website TaylorBlackwell.net and Instagram: @themusicalmushroom
RAG: This record feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up-and-coming artists out there?
It was an undertaking, but the perfect one. Especially since this was kind of my COVID project. It kept me sane and working on it made me feel really good.
Advice - perhaps being as communicative as you can with your producer, and other musicians you're working with. My producer Davey Warsop was kind and generous in listening to every backstory to every song. I do feel that made a big difference. I wanted him to know clearly what the story we were telling in each song was. Songs are just little stories and I try to be as specific as I can when writing them.
RAG: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
I'll be playing a bunch of shows - hope to see you in person! I hand out comics I make at my shows, so please come and I'll give you a free one.
I'm working on album #2! I'm nearly done with the writing of it, and I'm hoping to stage it as a musical of sorts. I'm still in the very early stages; experiencing it unfold and take form has been really cool.
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Thanks for listening, and please be kind to yourselves and others!
Tik Tok: @themusicalmushroom