Watching ‘American Idol’ religiously during my adolescence and well into college made me believe I could hear the “it” factor Simon Cowell often spoke of. I knew Chris Daughtry would go far beyond the ‘Idol’ stage from the second they showed him in a promo. Today, I still like to think my skills in that regard are sharp because when I heard Taylor Kelly I thought, she’s got IT.
See, pop music is tricky. So many artists rely on the music that encases their vocals because well, their vocals aren’t strong enough to carry the song. That’s why artists like Adele, Mariah, and Celine are far more than pop music icons. They’re artists, and I know one day everyone will say the same about Taylor Kelly because her soulful R&B-pop sounds are next level.
Now gear up because talked about this talented singer’s trumpeter background, how she wound up in Philly, and what’s to come from her as the rest of 2020 unfolds…
Kendra: Where did you get your start in music because a voice like that can’t just come out of nowhere. Were you in choir at all growing up or perhaps just band with your trumpet skills?
Taylor Kelly: As cliché as it sounds, music has always been a driving force in my life, and I began integrating it in my life beginning in 4th grade when I picked up the trumpet, and in 5th grade when I joined my first choir. I was very heavily involved in choir, show choir, jazz band, symphonic band and the school musicals all through middle and high school. Being in jazz band exposed me to vocal jazz music which allowed me to start to find my sound as a vocalist. Also, playing trumpet has certainly helped me as a vocalist in terms of technique and musicality, and I owe a lot of my vocal abilities to my first voice teacher that I studied with from 6th to 8th grade. He really got me singing
Kendra: Did your interest in picking up the trumpet come from your love of jazz?
Taylor Kelly: Playing the trumpet was largely influenced (if not solely influenced) by my dad who played trumpet up through college. It was one of his bigger passions. He stopped playing after college and I think he wanted someone in the family to carry on this lost passion of his. He helped me to understand and love the instrument. My love of jazz actually came out of playing in the jazz band in middle and high school since we didn’t listen to too much jazz at home. My dad basically listened to dad-rock and my mom listens to anything that’ll make her cry (she loves singer-songwriters and power ballads).
Kendra: Last summer you dropped ‘Up Up and Away’ and now you’ve got your latest single “The Fire.” Was that a song that wasn’t ready for the record or something new you’ve been working on?
Taylor Kelly: “Up Up and Away” was released in August of 2019 but all of the songs were written following a break-up two years prior (August of 2017). We took our time with making the record and by the time we had released it, I had already had a whole other album of songs ready to record.
“The Fire” was not meant to be the first single I released in 2020, as I had a handful of songs that I had written a lot earlier and was planning on releasing one of those. I wrote “The Fire” in late October of last year after losing my guitarist very suddenly and we recorded it a few weeks later. This song became more important to me than everything I had written before it and I needed it to be heard.
Kendra: You’re originally from New York state but are now living in Philly. Did you head there for the music scene?
Taylor Kelly: Philly took me by surprise. I was living in Boston at the time when I visited Philly for the first time. I was feeling very stagnant and uninspired having been in Boston for two years past finishing my degree at Berklee and I was ready for something new but didn’t know what. My last roommate in Boston was dating someone that was living in Philly so she talked me in to driving to Philly and having me audition for ‘The Voice’ that was having auditions there, and of course, to visit her partner.
The audition was pretty miserable, but it took me about two minutes of being in the city to know that’s where I wanted to be. It was love at first sight. That was February of 2016. I packed my bags and moved to Philly in August of that year after landing a music teaching job and a place to live. I just got really lucky since the music scene here is so incredibly rich and so supportive of one another. I haven’t turned back and I thank the universe every day for bringing Philly into my life.
Kendra: Time for a quick game we like to call “Cover, Duet, Tour With.” So when it comes to Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and Moonchild…you guessed it, which one would you want to simply cover, do a duet with in the studio, and last but not least hit the road with?
Taylor Kelly: Wow. This is like Marry-F*ck-Kill (can I say that?) but much more fun and difficult. Well, I can proudly say that I had the privilege of opening up for Moonchild a little over a year after coming to Philly at World Café Life and that was truly life-changing. It fueled me to keep going and take this as far as I can go. So, I have covered songs by all three artists, but doing a duet with Stevie Wonder would be a dream I couldn’t ever imagine coming true. He would kick my ass though. Touring with Erykah Badu would be INSANE. I guess that leaves covering a Moonchild song (which is quite a challenge.) THIS IS HARD! CAN’T WE JUST DO A STEVIE/ERYKAH/MOONCHILD/TAYLOR KELLY TOUR?
Kendra: We can do whatever you want! And thank you for being one of the most enthused about Cover, Duet, Tour! Now, back to “The Fire.” Is this the lead single from a new album to come?
Taylor Kelly: I will say that “The Fire” is the first of a few singles that I plan to release this year. I think I need to take a break from the album thing for a little bit. I’m still recuperating financially (and emotionally) from that as well as the release tour and I’m just trying to take it easy, and remember to enjoy being an artist and being able to create and put out music at my own leisure.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are but if you can, you can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned.
Taylor Kelly: This world is in a very strange place. It’s hard to say when my next show will be, but I do plan to release some new content in the next few months so keep your eyes and ears peeled. As much as this has been a devastating couple of weeks with no real end in sight, I do feel that this is a blessing in disguise. We are forced to take action in terms of our faulty healthcare system as well as the lack of paid leave we have in this country and the way that people are treated in general. It’s more important than ever that artists are creating art and spreading love and joy and hope to those in need. Music can get us out of really dark places, and for that, we have to keep going.