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Meet Danielle Taylor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Taylor.

Danielle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
All my life I’ve wanted to be a musician. When I was a little girl, I’d learn the songs to my favorite Disney movies and try to sing along. My voice was far from perfect, but I didn’t care ~music was in my veins and singing was all I knew. When I turned 7, my Mom encouraged me to learn a classical instrument. She was up on the news about classical music and its ability to prime young minds for different types of learning, so she was all about me taking up an instrument. Excited and eager to try something new, I chose the clarinet. From that point on, singing took the back most seat in my life. I still enjoyed it, but I never studied it or worked to become better. The clarinet was my world. I played in orchestras, school bands, woodwind ensembles, philharmonics … you name it. For the next 11 years, being a great clarinetist was all I cared about.

During my senior year in high school, something changed. I stopped loving what I was doing. I started feeling trapped; stuck in an art form I was good at, but no longer passionate for. I decided to join the school choir, the theater troupe… and just have a little fun. That little bit of fun transformed me. I ended up singing in a small group for our graduation ceremony and I emerged from school eager to learn more about my voice.

I attended college and took every music course I could find, but they were all teaching me the same classical structures I’d grown up with.

That’s when I started looking for a different kind of education. I considered going to the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood as I’d heard the most amazing stories about creatives that had attended. I approached my Mom conflicted about my direction and she guided me in the best way possible. “You know music,” she said. “You don’t need any more classes; you need to get your feet wet — go form a band.” I was terrified by this advice because I didn’t play any contemporary ‘band’ instruments. Nevertheless, the advice was solid gold and I knew it, so I set my sights on being and band person.

The first instrument I tried was the guitar — and it was hard… at least for me. Then I remembered having always loved the piano. I already knew where every note was and I had a basic understanding of music, so I decided that was the path for me. I looked for free pianos online and eventually found a Craigslist family listing their 1910 Cable Company upright. I rented a U-Haul, borrowed the muscle of a few friends and picked up my new piano. From that point on I was obsessed. I dedicated 6 hours a day to learning how to play. My dedication paid off, but the daily practicing created some insurmountable obstacles.

In the spring of 2007, I was evicted due to “excessive noise” from my endless piano playing, so I moved my things into a storage unit. Determined to keep moving forward, I couch surfed and slept in my car until I could get back on my feet. Where I continued my study and practice. I started to write songs learning more about the art of crafted melodies and simultaneous accompaniment. It was all extremely challenging, but I felt up to the task.

In 2008 I stepped onto the music stage, guns blazing. I recorded my first set of demos (which weren’t all that fantastic ~ more of a learning curve than anything else), I started performing live and did my best to hit every ‘hot spot’ in LA. I played at The Rainbow Room, The House of Blues, The Viper Room, The Mint, The Hotel Cafe, The Whiskey A-Go-Go, The Airliner… you name it, I played it. My goal was to perform as often as possible to get as much ‘on stage’ time as possible. I wanted to pay my dues quick (even though it doesn’t work that way), get better and make new connections. I’d always believed in working hard and doing your best and this endeavor was no exception.

Performing all over town eventually led me to Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg of the band, Army of Freshman. Meeting them, chatting with them and ultimately deciding to record my first EP [Don’t Turn On The Light] with them was the beginning of everything for me. They taught me the basics of songwriting and song structure, fine-tuned some of my instrumental composition and pushed me to be better than I’d ever been before. At the close of 2011, I released my EP and started making a little headway. I secured a mentorship with former EVP of Epic Records, Don Grierson who helped to further develop my artistry; identifying areas in both my writing and performance that needed improvement. I also secured my first direct support gig, opening for Jonny Lang in December of 2012. Getting to nibble on the smallest crumbs of stardom thrilled me, scared me, and ignited a flame that could never be extinguished.

From that point on, I served as support to anyone that would let me on the bill. I performed with Wilson Phillips, Marc Cohn, Striking Matches, Leon Russel, Marc Broussard, Howie Day, Lisa Loeb… and many more. Each show made me stronger. I took video, analyzed it and took notes for the next show. I also got to watch the pros be amazing. How they worked a crowd, the energy they brought to the stage, the perfection, the confidence, the professionalism off stage… everything. Each opportunity was a chance for me to learn, get better and have fun.

In 2013, I decided to take a huge leap of faith and quit my full-time job. Up until that point, my 9-5 served as financial support for my musical aspirations as well as my middle-class lifestyle. Thankfully though, the previous advisement of Don Grierson helped me find a path that had begun to pay me for each performance. Having this as a sort of safety net reassured me that my decision to leave a steady paying job would pay off in the long run. I worked harder than I’d ever worked before and I started really making some decent money.

In the spring of 2014, I started my own business and got to work carving out my long-term path. My ‘bread and butter’ performances were usually Thursdays- Sundays so every Monday and Wednesday I would go out to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and busk for about 4-6 hours each day. I made some great friends and got a ton of material for my second EP [The Chase]. After writing a handful of songs, I started looking for someone to produce my new project. With the help of my bass player, I found a gent named Erich Talaba who agreed to work with me. I was thrilled — he’d won a Grammy for his work with Ben Harper and had also worked with one of my favorite artists, Sara Bareilles.

In the Summer of 2014, we got to work… and boy was it work. Erich elevated my game to an entirely different level and there were definitely growing pains. His experience and expectation highlighted my personal weaknesses as a vocalist and that was a really hard pill for me to swallow. Up until then, I honestly thought I was the bees-knees and didn’t know I could be better. Erich pushed me and encouraged me and at the end of the year, we’d completed a project that was leaps and bounds better than anything I’d ever done.

In January 2015 I started shopping around for some representation — anything to help move the record forward. I eventually caught the eye of some reps at SonyRED who took a chance on me. They helped distribute my record, established a VEVO page and plotted out timelines for singles, releases and music videos. I learned about marketing from them as well as business standards, practices and requirements that I’d never heard of until then (metadata, ISRC, SoundExchange, etc).

As time went on, I continued to push my music in any way I could. I worked with college radio promoters, submitted my songs for licensing deals, sent out countless EPK’s … anything to get the word out about myself. After a good 6 months pushing my music every day to everyone, I got a bite. I secured licensing deals with TLC, OWN, E!TV, Oxygen, Showtime, Discovery and Bunim Murray/MTV. I was thrilled ~ it was the first time I felt like I was really making things happen. But nothing lasts forever and you’ve always got to keep moving forward.

In 2016 I wanted to make a full-length record. I went back to Erich with a bunch of new songs and ideas about how to take them to the next level. I’d learned so much since 2014 and I really wanted to build on that. I wanted to take more chances and add to the sonic vibe we’d previously created. My voice was stronger than ever and I really wanted to showcase that. With Erich’s help, we created my first full-length album, 1440.

The album was released in August of 2016 and by November that year, I’d been approached by SiriusXM Radio to have my songs played across their stations. It was absolutely surreal and I am indescribably grateful they took a chance on me. Since then, I’ve signed with two music libraries, have performed at NAMM for the NAMM Foundation, have just visited SiriusXM’s headquarters in New York and am just begging to work on a new record.

Running your own business, no matter what it is, is a daily commitment and the music business is certainly no exception. Depending on what report you’re reading, the music industry is ranked between the 3rd and 5th hardest to break into. So you’re going to have to work your toosh off. If success happens when opportunity meets preparation, then it’s imperative that you know your stuff. I’m still learning every day and it’s been quite a journey, but the future is looking bright and I’m excited for what’s next!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road, but what journey really is? When I graduated high school, I was a headstrong teen who thought she knew everything. I moved out of my parent’s house the day after my graduation and I stumbled around trying to find my way. For the first 2 months or so, I didn’t have a home. I stayed with different friends, dispersing my handful of possessions in various garages across the San Fernando Valley.

I eventually found a place and tried my hand at ‘the real world.’ I had a job, a car, money for food ~ all the basics… but something was missing. I wanted more. So I moved around looking for whatever it was I didn’t have. I was a very impulse driven person so I rarely made plans for anything. And more than once, that’s meant that I moved out of a secure situation/home, into the unknown and generally… into my car.

I’ve slept in mall parking lots, showered in the sinks of public restrooms, slept in a storage unit… it was rough for a little while. But even the scariest roller coaster can be enjoyable with the right mindset. I never felt ‘down and out’ even when I was. I kept working hard, keeping my sights set on the future and I didn’t let anything weigh me down.

I don’t think anyone’s life is without a struggle, so attitude really is everything. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” If life is what we make it, I want to make mine great ~ full of happiness and sunshine. I think wanting that and working towards that means that you take the potholes or speed bumps you come across with a grain of salt. They don’t deter you, they just reinforce the idea that you can overcome anything.

Please tell us about Danielle Taylor.
I’m pretty much a one-woman show right now. My business is ‘Danielle Taylor.’ The songwriter, the performer, the band coordinator, the band employer, the booking agent, the tour manager, the publicist… everything.

Since music creation and curation is my world, I try to stand out by being my best. Not to say other musicians aren’t doing there best, I just mean… I try to really analyze myself, my professionalism, my creativity, my singing, etc. I want everything I do to be the best it can be at any given time. I figure if I keep trying to be better than my best, someday I might be considered great.

My music is a direct reflection of that. I observe the standards in my genre, but I don’t want to conform to them. I want to fit in enough to be accepted, but stand out amongst the crowd. Following the trend never makes history and I want to be one in a million.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Ooh, I don’t know ~ I feel like there are so many great memories it’s hard to choose. I guess right now what comes to mind, is making forts with my sisters. I’m the eldest of 3 girls and we definitely got creative with our fort making and imaginary sets. We’d sneak candy into the fort, bring barbies, make maps, tell stories… it was great.

Our adventures were always centered around a strong heroine that faced great adversity but through kindness and perseverance, always came out on top. I think having a strong mother really put the moxie in our young trio of girls.

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