Doreen Taylor is an award winning singer and actress who has received critical acclaim as one of the best songwriting talents in the industry whose songs contain captivating melodies and expressive lyrics. In 2013 she released her debut album, Magic, and toured nationally to support the project. Her newest endeavor is writing and recording a song entitled "Colors of the USA" for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in honor of the National Parks Centennial. Doreen graciously took time from her schedule to call and chat about the song, music and what's ahead for 2014.
Tell us about how you came to pursue music as a profession.
I have always loved music and it has always been a huge part of my life. I never had the faith to think I could make it a profession though. I was under the misconception that musicians were starving artists. I had done musicals and plays in high school, but the parts never really showcased what I could do vocally. Those experiences focused more on acting than singing. One day out of nowhere in high school a good friend turned to me in biology class and just said 'you are going to go to school for music.' She was the type of person who always said random things and my reply to her was something like 'how can that be?' I had plans to go into medical school, as my brother was a doctor, but I always had this pull to music; even when I tried to fight it, something would pull me back.
I played violin since the fourth grade, but started studying voice very late, I was almost seventeen. I actually started voice lessons on a whim. When she heard me sing, my teacher was amazed because I had an almost four octave range. She asked me to humor her and audition for undergraduate music schools. I auditioned for the three top schools and got into all three of them. I took a leap of faith, decided to attend Hartt School of Music and never looked back. I cannot imagine having taken a different path. I don't believe I would have been truly happy. I always say I did not pick this as a career, it picked me.
You graduated with a degree in Opera, have performed on and off Broadway and have had many varied experiences. Do all of these experiences contribute to your sound?
Yes, I graduated with a Masters degree in Opera Performance. I always tried to ignore my past because when people hear the word opera they have a misconception as to how you are going to sound.
Now though, I am embracing my past because everything that I learned and the experiences that I have had contribute to who I am as an artist and how I write and perform. For example, when I did the Magic Tour it was really more like a Broadway show. We brought in actors and tried to tell the story of my journey through music in the show. The show had a heavy southern rock sound, but done in a Broadway style. I think that made it a cool experience for both me and the audience.
So how would you describe your sound?
As an independent artist by choice, I am very against labeling music. I believe music is an art and art should never be defined or dumbed down to make it marketable. Music is supposed to touch people. I want to make the music I like; something I would want to listen to if I turned on the radio or bought an album. When I recorded Magic I was not thinking about what the masses wanted. I was thinking about making a record that I would be proud of and my peers would be proud of. I wanted it to be something I could put my stamp on and be able to say I made the best record I could that was honest and real and wasn't made for any other reason than to make good music.
I guess if you had to pigeonhole me....I would presume that Magic was country pop. However, the way I have grown over the past year, I have toughened up my sound a little. It has taken a lot of work to change my technique so I do not sound so classical anymore. I have more of an edgier, Southern Rock style to my vocals. It was difficult to find what my heart and my voice wanted to be, but I finally found it and it clicked. I really found my home.
Who would you say are your writing and performing influences?
I have always gravitated to songwriters, like Bon Jovi. He just really has a sound that appeals to me. Even though he is from New Jersey you can hear country influence. I also love Phil Collins, Journey, and very old school songwriters. I like to take those influences, spin a country flavor on it and marry it into my sound.
I always said that if I was ever to be a mainstream artist, I wanted to do it in a different way. I wanted to stand out and have someone be able to say 'oh that’s Doreen Taylor' and know it's me singing right away. I think it stands the test of time in the industry to have a very identifiable sound.
Do you write all of your own material?
I do, I write it all myself. I used to do a cover show in Atlantic City, and all around the country, which is how I bridged the gap to what I do now. It was a one women show where I would sing all genres from Top 40 to Rock to Country. I would dance, sing and interact on stage; it was exhausting. I thought that if I could do that, I could do anything.
Honestly, the things I had written were so personal, it scared me to bare my soul and share it with people. Then I thought about having grand kids someday and knew that I wanted to pass this down and be able to show someone what I did. That's why I did my album. I never went in thinking it would be successful. I wanted to get my songs out of my head in case I ever got amnesia (laughing). When we went into the studio to record Magic, we all looked at each other and knew we had something different. From there it took on a life of its own. It really hasn't sunk in yet and I don't know if it ever will. Sometimes it's like I blink my eyes and wonder how I got here.
Talk about the song "Colors of the USA" and how you became involved with NPCA.
Well, it has been a work in progress for a little over a year. I connected with the NPCA in late January of last year. I was doing an unrelated interview and it had come up how I was a huge supporter of the preservation of land. After the interview I got involved with NPCA, which is the nation's largest non-partisan parks advocacy organization. We discussed what we could do for their centennial and the idea for the song came to me. We are going to debut the song live at the Salute To The Parks Gala on April 9th at the Newseum, a gorgeous building in Washington DC. I am very excited and cannot wait to perform the song. We will have a big east coast release party for the song on April 22nd in Philadelphia.
What are your plans for the rest of year?
Well, the song for the parks is going be what I am focusing on for the next few months. We have been documenting the process of how the song came about and will document the performance for a possible DVD/CD. We will shoot a video for the song in Texas or LA shortly and I am going back in the studio to record my sophomore album. There are a lot of exciting things coming up!