Posted On 21 Sep 2017
Taylor Phelan is a songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist and indie-rock artist. Phelan was raised within a tight-knit musical family in his home state of Texas and began to play guitar and write his own songs at 16, cutting his teeth at coffee shops. He started his professional career as the founder and front-man for the Chicago-based alternative band, The Canes.
In 2014, Phelan was a favorite contestant on the seventh season of NBC’s hit reality series, The Voice, an experience that revealed his tremendous talent as a solo artist. In 2015, shortly after signing with the indie label, Native Nine Records, Phelan gravitated back to his southern roots and teamed up with Nashville-based producer Joshua D. Niles to work on his first collection of solo material. Now touring the country with a powerhouse backing band, his debut EP will be released in Summer 2017.
Learn more about Taylor in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016? How has 2017 been treating you so far? Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year?
Building, refining, planning… those are the words I’d use to describe 2016. This year has been a whirlwind. I’m all in now and we’re just waiting to see if this thing is going to work or not. It’s exciting but if I’m honest, it gives me a crazy amount of anxiety! I wanted to write more this year but I’ve actually had less time to do that.
Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What kind of music do you listen to when you are working? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood?
I’m sitting in the coffee shop I frequent when I’m home. It’s less than a mile from my house and there’s a cozy back corner that I camp out in for hours. Fleet Foxes are playing right now but I’ve recently been wearing out The War On Drugs. 80’s inspired synth pop is my go-to for a good time.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
Not really. Being a musician always just seemed like a hobby. I thought about music as a possible profession for the first time when I was about 16.
If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Or could you really not see yourself doing anything else?
I’m a graphic designer but I’m not totally in love with that as a profession. I really like problem solving and leading people. I’m obsessive about details. I couldn’t do a job that didn’t give me the autonomy to make my own decisions and try things. That would be the worst.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown in Texas has shaped who you are as a musician and the art that you create?
Hm… I’m very different than my hometown! Can’t say that it’s influenced my music.
Let’s talk about your brand new single, “Settle Down.” Where did the inspiration for this song come from? How does this track prepare listeners for the rest of your soon-to-be-released debut EP? Did anything surprise you about the process of putting this first solo collection together?
“Settle Down” was birthed out of our general feeling of unrest. The country and the world are in a weird spot right now. It seems like everyone is afraid of something and our default as humans is to become defensive and point the finger somewhere. This is true on all sides of any argument. “Settle Down” is somewhere in the middle of that chaos with a white flag asking for a minute of calm and compassion. It’s by far the most culturally relevant, message driven tune on this first EP. No real surprises but I did learn a lot about the process!
I am curious to know how your songwriting has changed over the years? What were your songs about when you first started writing them at age 16?
My writing use to be a little more angsty, I think. I’ve always been an abstract lyricist with the actual meaning of a song being one or two steps beyond the words themselves. I think my writings have shifted from my internal explorations to being more about my surroundings and observations.
I’ve read that you began your music career in an alternative band called The Canes. What was it like transitioning to a solo career? How did your experience on The Voice help reveal that you could be a solo artist?
That’s right. I’ve always liked the compradore of a band better than a “solo” artist. I have always wanted to share the spotlight and stage with a team. The Voice caused my name to be the thing on a marquee but the overall vibe is similar to that of a band.
Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Mumford & Sons, The Killers, The 1975, Kodaline, John Mark McMillan, Bon Iver, John Mayer, Ben Howard… to name a few.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
As an artist, I’m still trying to identify what my message is. I’m just trying to be as honest as possible along that journey and I hope people feel that. My goal is that anyone who interacts with my work would feel a little more human.
What do you have planned for this summer? Will you have any time to play out live at all?
We are heading west for the last leg of this summer tour! It’s going to be a great way to wrap up this season.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started on this music path? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
Keep trying and keep refining. Learn from everything and know that just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean there’s no place for you in the industry. Also, not everyone makes it. That doesn’t mean you suck.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I’m sure I’ll think of something after this is posted. But for now, I think that’s it!