It’s likely that the first time you’ll have heard of Taylor Fowlis, she’d have been making minor waves in the goldfish bowl of Liverpool’s burgeoning soul scene. In the time it’s taken Fowlis to morph into her fresh new persona of TAYÁ, both Jetta and Roxanne L. Jones have stepped forward as Liverpool’s soulful RnB superstars-in-waiting. But Tayá has been far from idle in the meantime, polishing her fresh, Beyoncé-indebted vibes into an act that’s rich with opportunity: since signing with Atlantic Records, Tayá has also inked a deal with BMG to join their songwriting team, and her relentless studio work has brought her in contact with some of the heaviest of heavyweight RnB producers on both sides of the Atlantic: Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna), DJ Khalil (Drake), Al Shux (Jay Z and Alicia Keys) and Sango, with whom she released the track Fingerprints at the end of 2015. Oh, and she’s just supported Shola Ama.
All this at age 17? We had to find out more. Christopher Torpey takes up the reins.
We saw that you played an ILUVLIVE Hotlist 2016 show in London at the start of the year [which has helped launch the careers of Jessie J, Professor Green and Emeli Sandé in previous years]. Did you feel any pressure playing a show like this as a ‘one to watch’?
Yeh, I would say so cos it was my biggest one so far. It was my first London performance, which was daunting. I’ve always gigged really close to home, so being so far away in London is scary. I feel like there are a lot more people doing what I’m doing in London, so I’m compared to a lot more artists – it’s good in a way because it makes me work harder but also adds pressure!
You started singing with Positive Impact, is that right? Looking back now, was that the perfect place for you to start, helping build your confidence alongside similar-aged musicians like MiC Lowry?
Positive Impact yeah, I think it really was the perfect place to start out. I was around really good mates like the MiC Lowry boys and Esco Williams, plus some of my cousins used to go too. It was the perfect place to build my confidence and let me grow.
I read a report about singing in a choir being good for your health, helping improve psychological wellbeing. Would you agree with that? How important is singing to you in your life, as a means of expression?
I didn’t know that! Well I suppose I was always really happy when I went there, alongside doing my little gigs round Liverpool and that. Music is so important to me, anyone who knows me knows I’m not the type of person who pours my heart out and tells everyone how I’m feeling all of the time, so music to me is a way of venting indirectly. Another way of expressing myself I guess, which is important.
As well as singing, songwriting is obviously a big part of who you are. Of the songs you’ve written so far, which one are you most proud of?
I feel like I’ve written hundreds of songs and I’m proud of loads of them, but I’d say the most meaningful to me is a song called Round And Round. I wrote it a while back about my friend who was in a kind of dead-end situation with her boyfriend, given from her best friend’s perspective. I feel like it’s quite spot on, ha ha!
Tell us the story or inspiration behind one of your songs that people might not be aware of.
I have a song called Séance that I finished today actually; on first listen it could sound like a love song about two people with a special connection but it’s actually about someone really special to me losing someone close to them. I wrote it for them as a reminder that that person will always be there with them. I think that’s quite a nice meaning.
How do you find writing and creating music when you have to travel so often to record in studios and meet with songwriters? Does this make the process that bit harder?
I’m kind of used to always being on the move now; I’ve been bouncing between Liverpool and London since I was 12, travelling on the weekends and school holidays. I’d like to have a bit more stability sometimes, but that’s what this industry’s like and that’s the sacrifice you make.
I think, if anything, it makes [creating music] easier – I like having different opinions on situations; it gives you another look to write from, so you never get the same song twice. I think if you only worked with one person all the time, you’d get a more limited sound. As much as you want your music to have a constant feeling to it, you definitely don’t want it to get boring, for you or the listener!
How much has working with someone of the stature of Rodney Jerkins helped push you in what you do? It must have been a great vindication of you as a musician.
Working with Rodney was a mad experience! He’s such a nice fella, but knowing how successful he is and the songs he’s made was a bit intimidating. Seeing his house and his studio makes you realise what you can get out of this if you succeed, so I suppose it makes me only want it more.
Given all the collaborating you’ve done of late, what direction do you see yourself moving in from a musical perspective?
I think all the collabs I’ve done have been amazing, and I love everyone I’ve worked with, but I think who I work with doesn’t define what my music ends up sounding like. Of course you’re always going to have aspects of them in your songs, but I’ve always had my sound and I feel I’ve stuck to it since I was young. Collaborating is about finding a balance between what they’ve got to offer you and what you want out of it, and as I’ve always wanted the same thing I don’t think their influence has changed that too much.
With the amount of crossover in popular music nowadays, do you think we are heading for a time where genres (or at least conventional genres as we know them) won’t exist?
I think there will always be genres no matter what happens – I think pop music of course will always be the most popular, but I don’t think pop is a genre itself. Pop to me is the most accessible version of every genre; for example, if I was to do a poppier song, it would still sound RnB. Still dreamy, and a bit darker but would be done in a way a bigger variety of people found easy to listen to. I also think that, no matter what is being played on the radio or is in the charts, there will always be things like SoundCloud where people will find music they love.