"I try to sit down every day
with my note pad and
my guitar and
work on songs."

Taylor Talks

an interview by Andrew Elias

TAYLOR ALEXANDER BURST onto the scene earlier this year with a stunning country version of Cher’s iconic pop hit, ‘Believe’ on this year’s television hit show, The Voice. He surprised the nation and impressed judge Adam Levine, who chose Taylor for his team. Alexander did not go on to win on The Voice, but the celebrity allowed him to pursue his own songwriting and afforded him the opportunity to record and tour.

I interviewed Alexander as he was preparing for his performances during the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel’s Island Hoppers Songwriting Fest. He will be performing in Fort Myers Beach on September 29 at Matanzas on the Beach, September 30 at Yucatan Beach Stand Bar & Grill and Diamondhead Beach Resort’s Cabañas Beach Bar & Grille, and October 1 at Pinchers Crab Shack.

Andrew: You became a national celebrity when you ‘killed it’ with a surprising version of Cher’s hit ‘Believe’ during the Blind Audition on this year’s season of The Voice. What led to you doing that song? What’s the story behind that performance?

TAYLOR: I actually started performing that arrangement several years ago when I was playing bars in Georgia. It was such a left field song choice that crowds loved it, so it seemed like the perfect audition song for The Voice.

How did you feel when Adam Levine picked you? What did you learn from working with Levine?

Getting chosen by Adam Levine was amazing. He really encouraged me to identify and then lean into what I do best and not try to be all things to all people.

Who or what inspired you to start writing songs? Any mentors? Any favorite songwriters?

I started writing songs when I was around 11 and was inspired by a lot of different kinds of music, but at the time mostly punk. I picked up acoustic guitar after I heard Dashboard Confessional for the first time, which helped me discover other acoustic-based music like Bob Dylan before finally rediscovering my love for traditional country music. Some of my favorite songwriters right now are Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and Travis Meadows.

Do you have a particular process when writing — or, as Keith Richards has said, you “just happen to be in the room when the song arrives”?

I guess I’d consider my writing process more like showing up to work than waiting for inspiration to strike. I try to sit down every day with my note pad and my guitar and work on songs.

Who were your favorite singers and what about their vocals or style do you like?

Some of my favorite country singers are Merle Haggard and George Jones. They were masters of emoting in a song without overdoing it.

You were in bands for many years before you recently decided to go solo. What led to your decision to go solo?

I decided to go solo mostly out of convenience. Being in a band is a lot more gratifying because of the camaraderie and support but eventually the guys that I liked being in a band with were less and less available so I decided to just do my own thing.

You’ve been told that you were ‘too country’ by record business executives. What did he/she mean?

Yeah. In fact, one guy told me, “You should’ve gotten here 25 years ago and we could’ve gotten your songs cut”. I guess they were looking for stuff different from what I write, which can admittedly be self indulgent and personal at times [laughing].

It’s been written that you might just be ‘the next big thing.’ What do you say about that?

That’s an awfully nice thing for someone to write, I’d love to buy them a beer!

You were born in Flowery Branch, Georgia, but now live in Nashville. What was the best parts of life growing up in Flowery Branch? What’s life like being a songwriter in Nashville?

Yeah, I grew up in a few different places but probably spent the most time in the Flowery Branch area where I graduated high school and spent some pretty formative years, so I claim it as home. I enjoyed my time there for sure. It’s a quiet place full of kind people and great stories. I’ve been in Nashville now about three and a half years and it’s not always been easy, I’ve had a feast or famine experience, but I like a place where hustle can be rewarded and there’s a lot of great people here who are willing to help out.

What was your main objective when writing for Real Good at Saying Goodbye? How was your experience recording it?

My main goal for writing the EP was to record as many songs as I could afford that I felt best represented what I do as an artist. The experience itself was great I recorded with some friends of mine (Brendan St. Gelais and Zach Zinck) at The Smokestack [Studios] here in Nashville. I got some local players together (Tim Carrol - guitar, Jess Perkins - pedal steel, Cameron Carrus - bass, Taylor Jones - drums, Randy Harper - keys, and myself on acoustic guitar) and we cut all the songs live, except vocals, in one evening session and the three songs we completed became the EP.

What can folks expect to hear when they come to see you perform at the Island Hoppers Songwriter Fest in Fort Myers?

I’ll be playing songs most of which will appear on my next record which I hope to begin recording this year. •

September-October 2017