When I met up with Stewart Taylor he was just about to release his new single Mess Your Hair Up.
Catchy, sexy, and fun, the song reminds me of summer jams I would wait for hours to record off of the radio. It’s the perfect blend of today’s pop sounds while drawing inspiration from some of the music industry’s most influential artists. Taylor’s voice is sweet, seductively smooth, and just plain enjoyable to listen to. I can’t help but bopping my head along to the beat, it’s a refreshing change from a lot of artists on the radio today, who all sound like they’ve recorded covers of the same song. It’s fantastic.
I met the Connecticut native through a friend on a rare night out in West Hollywood. We talked about our musical styles and the songs we were getting ready to release. What struck me most about Stewart was not only how effortless the conversation was, but also how genuinely interested he was in what I was saying. As amazing as West Hollywood is, everyone has an angle, and their interest seems to stretch only as far as they think you can take them. Honest kindness is a are commodity.
Taylor arrives looking every inch the artist. He’s got this effortlessly-sexy, totally California-cool vibe about him – but not in the typical WeHo douche bag sort of way. It’s genuine. He’s genuine. As he sits, I jump right into it.
“So,” I ask, taking a sip from my drink. “Where did the inspiration for Mess Your Hair Up hit?”
“I was walking around Beverly Hills,” he starts.
“My then-boyfriend sent me a picture of himself after a haircut. He looked unbelievably sexy and I just wanted to jump into bed with him right there and then and you know, mess his hair up.
The chorus came to me almost immediately right there and then. I brought the hook into the studio with my co-writers John Silos and Ben Samama a week later, and the rest of the song was written and recorded within a few hours.”
“Okay,” I nod. “Where’s the weirdest place inspiration has struck?”
He takes a moment to think of his answer. “Inspiration can strike me anywhere, anytime, any place. It usually happens when I’m in the shower, about to fall asleep, or literally walking down the street while I’m talking to someone. I immediately start writing down my ideas and singing gibberish into my phone recorder, much like I used to do when I was seven years old. Sometimes you may absolutely not be in the mood to write or be musical, but when Jesus calls with a great idea, you better pick up the damn phone!”
Laughing, I ask him if he got his start in the church choir.
“I got my start in music performing in theater camp when I was seven years old,” He says. “Around that same time, I had started writing my own songs and recording them on a cassette recorder. Remember cassettes?!
“I do,” I nod (I’m older than I look).
“I started coming up with my own songs when I was about four years old,” he continues. “But I didn’t start writing them down and recording them until a few years later. My first song was called “Tell Me” and I can still remember the chorus to this day. No one in my family forced me to be onstage or to start writing. It was always something that I just had to do. Once I started writing and recording, it just became a normal part of my everyday life until now.”
“I know you started performing in Boston and New York,” I say, not knowing anything about life as an east-coast artist. “Is it very different from Los Angeles?”
“The scenes are definitely different from Boston to New York to L.A. I performed a lot in Boston, but the music scene was very limited beyond the college music circuit and small pubs around the city. Once I finished Berklee College of Music, I moved to New York where the music scene was very rootsy, grimy, and rock ‘n roll. There were endless places to perform all over the Lower East Side, East and West Village, and around Manhattan. That’s a city where you truly need to hustle if you want to make your mark and keep the dream alive. It was one of my greatest training grounds as a person and as an artist, but there were simply more opportunities and collaborators in the Pop music scene in LA. Hollywood is such a different beast and a total 180 change from life in New York. It’s more laid back, but the scene is definitely diverse and heavily populated with creatives. I’ve collaborated with so many different songwriters, producers, directors, choreographers, and photographers here than I ever did in Boston or New York.”
“Which do you prefer?”
“I will always be a New York boy at heart,” He says proudly. “I grew up in a small town right outside of the city and most of my family still lives in New York. For what I’m doing as an artist and as a songwriter, I definitely have to stay in the L.A. scene for now. I’ve come to really love it out here on the West Coast.”
I agree. “As an artist,” I continue, “I’m always interested in the way other people craft their songs. Take me through your process.”
“I usually walk into the studio with several different song concepts and melodic ideas to choose from,” He says, leaning in as if telling me a secret. “I keep a notebook and my notes on my phone open everywhere I go in case inspiration strikes. I often work with different co-writers and producers in the studio to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. Once I find a concept in my notebook that we can all get behind developing, we start songwriting together and building the track. Sometimes I write by myself and bring producers in later, but I love the collaborative process of writing and working with other people. We write, re-write, re-record, and re-produce until we have a cohesive song that we’re proud of. Some songs I pitch to other artists, and some I absolutely have to keep for myself, like Mess Your Hair Up!”
As an independent artist, how long did it take you to save up for the video – which, from what I’ve seen looks amazing by the way.”
To be perfectly honest, it’s taken me almost a year to fully pay off the music video for my new single. Back in the old-school model of the music industry, labels plucked up unknown artists with potential and spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars developing them before they even sold a single record. Nowadays, independent artists have to do what labels simply aren’t doing anymore. I fund my own productions, music videos, choreographers, lighting engineers, editors, crews, and creative directors. I hire every single person on my team by myself. I’ve done indie-gogo campaigns and worked in bars and clubs to support myself and to fund high quality, professional music videos that I can stand behind. It’s just the reality of the day and age we’re living in if you don’t have the platform of a tv show or have investors funding your career. It’s been a tough road to navigate, but I’ve got a great team around me and I’ve learned so much not having anything handed to me.”
I debate asking my next question, but as a fellow queer artist, I think it’s an important one, so I take a deep breath and blurt out the words. “Do you think things would be different if you were straight?”
Adjusting in his chair, he takes a moment to reflect on the question.
“I do think I’d be further along on my journey if I was a straight boy appealing to a mass female/straight audience.”
He takes another moment to continue constructing his response. “From the time I came out as a teenager until now, I’ve been turned away by major labels and major television shows because straight producers and execs said a gay boy, like myself, would be less marketable. Gay executives have even discriminated against me in the past. But I have never let that stop me from pursuing my dreams as a songwriter and as an artist over the past decade. As far as closed-minded people go, I like to take a page from George Michael’s book. After coming out, he used to tell reporters, “I don’t need the approval of people who don’t approve of me.” That has stuck with me for years. Since moving to Hollywood, I’ve gotten to personally thank artists like Troye Sivan and Adam Lambert for being openly gay pop artists in our industry and for helping pave the way for people like me. It is possible to be gay and to be accepted and celebrated in this business. Maybe we just have to work a little harder.”
“That’s very honest,” I reply, “and true.”
“So, on that note,” I smile. “What’s next? When are we getting another EP or better yet a full-length album?”
Stewart smirks. I know it’s a question he probably gets a lot. “At this point in my life, I’m much more interested in releasing singles and videos as stand-alone pieces,” he says. “We live in such an ADD culture with short attention spans, and most people don’t listen to full albums or even EP’s anymore until artists are more established. I’ll definitely release another single or two within the next year and continue writing for other artists in the scene. We’ll see where it goes from there!”
Find him on all social media platforms @StewartTaylorMusic
Photo Credits: Kento Tachibana