A Word With Taylor Mathews: Honest Conversation With An Honest Artist
From America's Got Talent to an entire hotel tour-run, Taylor Mathews (iTunes) has been killing it. At 23 years old, this independent singer/songwriter has hit Top 40 of the iTunes album chart (selling over 10,000 singles), and his music video for Head Over Feeling was featured on Vevo’s home page, generating 100,000 views in one day.. This rising artist has wow'ed us in so many ways and his career is just beginning. We had the pleasure of spending some time with Taylor and getting to know the man behind the talent.
Have you been traveling a lot?
Yeah, it makes me happy, so I try to stay on the road as much as possible. Coming up, I'm spending six months in LA and six months in Nashville. This is my first time building my community in New York. I’ve played shows here and stayed for maybe one or two days. I’ve spent some time here, but not really focused here. This is the time to do it!
Of course. But Nashville and LA are killing it right now with music.
Yeah this is true, but I’m so mystified by the challenge of New York. It’s so dismembered out here in terms of the community of song writing and music out here versus LA and Nashville. It’s definitely here, it’s just not as communal like in LA and Nashville – easy access; you kind of have to dig for that. But it’s usually pretty golden whenever you can find it.
I feel like you fit in with LA.
I feel like I’m more of a Nashville guy. I love LA and I write a lot while I’m there, but I’m from the south and I just feel the vibe out there. I like Ben Rector, he’s from Nashville and is just so good at everything – branding, music.. He’s just really authentic. Authenticity and story telling are so important, it makes up a lot of country music. I kind of take that approach but with pop music. It’s singer-songwriter base with a pop sense. I’m a performing artist first and foremost, and I like to tell stories when I’m on stage. I wouldn’t say that I’m really pop. I have that influence especially in terms of the hook – I want people to be able to sing along with it but I want it to feel like its more of a story. If I can perform it with just my acoustic guitar, then I’m set.
Do you start your songwriting with a guitar and then build on top of that?
For the most part. I do like to have at least part of the keys as well. I just wrote a song in LA and it's one of the most vulnerable songs that I have ever written and the first song that I am going to perform live on piano. There is going to be a moment between me and the audience.. It's kind of scary how vulnerable it is… You let people see a side that is kind of ugly.
Do you think music – or art in general—is all about that? All about vulnerability?
I would say so, yes. It’s definitely what people like to see. A lot of people want to see the “uglier” side of you to feel more comfortable, because they don’t want you to be better than they are and ultimately we aren’t. We’re trying to level the playing field - the more you can humble yourself the more people can feel comfortable and feel like it’s home.
Why did you choose music? What drew you to music?
My dad. He played in bars and clubs when he was growing up. He gave it up for the family and my mom felt bad like, 20 years later and bought him a Stratocaster for Christmas. I saw him playing the strat and I just took it. I think that was the last time I really played the electric guitar for maybe 15 years. I just started up with it again.
How does that feel?
I don’t know yet. I love John Mayer and the blues, but I’m not that type of guitar player. But I would like to look like I am! It’s fun. I usually like the acoustic guitar and my dad was the one who started me on that. I would always try to start neighborhood bands with him when I was younger.
Your album is expected to release in the spring?
Yes! Well, half of it. I’m going to do two EPs - one in the spring and one in the fall/winter.
So what is happening right now, that’s inspiring your lyrics or melodies? Or maybe give us three words that would encompass the whole project – at least the first part of it.
Conversational… Definitely conversational.
What do you mean by conversational?
Think Jack Johnson… very laid back. I feel like this record kind of gives some peace. Where you can just listen and sit back. There’s a feeling of a one-on-one conversation. Like when I’m performing, we’re all just having a single moment together.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Always redefining myself. Always being okay whenever you step into the room and people ask you who you are. Everyday you feel like you’re slightly different. It’s always coming back to the table and sitting and down and saying "okay, this part of me changed." Recognizing that things move and shift that there’s a sort of new being that’s present. Being okay with sharing that – and saying this is who I am, today. And I’m a pretty strong person, really sure of myself. But it’s a humbling experience to have to question yourself sometimes. Especially when you’re writing with someone else and you aren’t necessarily connecting. And you start to think “okay, do I change for them to make this work?” So it's just interesting in writing sessions when you have to find the line between being stubborn and being authentic and of course, just being open to new things.
So besides musical influences, where do you get inspiration?
Books, running, and riding bikes. I feel like there’s nothing like exploring on a bike versus on foot or on a train; when you have that breeze flowing. I also get inspiration from just laying in a hammock or watching Netflix.
What, in your opinion, is your greatest achievement so far?
Creating a family through music. I can care less about all the notoriety; I’d rather the community.
If I was sifting through your iTunes library, what would surprise me?
I don’t know! Hilary Duff is on there but I don’t think that’s too surprising.. Keyshia Cole … Hanson’s on there..
Who do you listen to, in general? Some artists that you’re passionate about?
Coldplay for sure. Their live records. John Mayer’s live records too.
Tell us about your hotel party tour
Oh, it was super fun! We decided to do that because I wanted the fans to have a great experience. And having it in the hotel was kind of like the VIP experience. You just go into the lobby and you’re like "man this whole place is my venue tonight." So we just rented out these ballrooms and it sounds really great. Whenever we did some promo we would go out to the local high schools or colleges and pass out free tickets on top of the tickets that we would sell. So it's like a two way street, where we get money from ticket sales and then on the other side we’re getting people that are coming for free that actually spend money on merch and so we get that and exposure to people that we normally wouldn’t hit.
Did you stay in the hotels that you played at?
TM: Actually no, because whenever we tour people are always expecting like some fun, crazy story and I never have any. So we actually went couch surfing the entire time and we saved thousands of dollars and it gave us a cool experience from meeting random people across the country. We stayed with some guy in Canada who’s a professional chef for Celine Dion and then he moved on to being the head chef for those trains in Europe, the really fancy stuff. We stayed with him in Montreal and he cooked us lobster and every night we had this beautiful meal! It opened up a lot of experiences. For the future I definitely want this to be more of a tradition, like a VIP type of experience. I want to do one of those at least once a year.
Want more from Taylor? Hear previews of his upcoming music below: