Jeff Taylor is an all-around musician. He sings. He writes. He produces such a great body of work. The native son of Jackson, Mississippi and current resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Taylor embodies the mere souls of acts like Coldplay, John Legend, and Adele. The way he beautifully blends modern soul music with alternative instruments to bring the world such a virtuosic sound. This past November, Taylor debut his EP “Retrograde”, which was entirely self-produced to showcase his unique sound. I got the chance to talk with Jeff about inspirations, the making of Retrograde, and future plans.
What made you decide to pursue singing?
I’ve been a musician since I was a kid, and I’ve always had dreams about recording and releasing music. I had been playing games for the past couple years until eventually my best friend basically told me to get my shit together, even if nobody heard it but us.
Tell us a little about your abilities with different instruments.
Honestly, it’s just knowing how music works that lets me pick up on ones I’m not familiar with. I started playing piano when I was around five. Both of my older sisters play too. I can play a little guitar, but I mostly just learn enough of what I need to know to achieve a particular sound I’m going for.
I know you have a background in gospel, growing up in the church. How did that affect your songwriting and singing, if it did?
It definitely informs my composition style in some ways, and I think you can definitely tell on songs like “Already Lost.” Lyrically, I wanted to touch on a lot of things that I felt like I couldn’t really say. Obviously one of those things was growing up gay and internalizing a lot of negativity about it. I still go to church today and it makes me happy, but it was something I had to figure out as an adult.
What are your plans for Retrograde?
My plan for Retrograde is basically to introduce myself to the world as an artist. I wanted to release something that I could be proud of when I look back at my first project.
Tell us a little about Retrograde. How did it come about? Where do you see it going?
It came out of a lot of pain. It went through at least 3 different iterations before I got to a point where I was being my most honest. That was really one of the main hurdles for me to get over. I was in therapy at the time, so that helped me out so much with opening up to myself and being free to express what was really on my mind. So I wrote a lot about my depression and struggles with figuring out who I am as a person in this phase of life. I think it’s something everyone goes through, but we don’t really talk about it because everyone wants to pretend like they always have it together. So my main goal was to say from the jump “I’m a huge mess. I have no idea what I’m doing.” And I’m a huge space nerd, so I thought of the term retrograde as the title to symbolize how depression works. When a planet is showing retrograde motion, it looks like it starts to move backwards in the sky, and that’s how I felt about depression. It’s not sudden, it just slowly brings you to a halt and then starts to carry you backwards in a way. So that said, I’m absolutely going to continue working. I think there’s more to the story of this period of my life before I close the chapter and move on.
Where do you see yourself, career-wise, in 5 years?
I would love to get a call tomorrow from Clive Davis saying he was gonna sign me. But in the meantime I just want to keep pushing myself to make my best art and reach more people. Five years from now I hope I’ll have a solid discography and be more recognizable. And hopefully tour! I’m really anxious to let people experience me as a performer. I say that because I’m terrified of performing my own music, so hopefully it’ll force me to grow.
As a singer, what makes you stand out from the rest? Why should the public care?
I look for the things in our lives that don’t always get attention and focus on those. I try to draw out that part of yourself that you may have been buried by a bad relationship or just society in general. Plus I think I’m really good at delivering an entire concept as a body of work. I handmade every aspect of this project from writing and producing the songs to designing the artwork. That’s not something everyone can do.
Being in this industry can be tough, what’s one lesson you’ve learned so far?
The most important thing is that I know I won’t be able to do everything forever. Taking control is one thing, but actually being your own producer, engineer, designer…it’s a lot of work. Hopefully something will change all that though. *wink*
Any concepts or ideas for future projects?
I’m working on that now. I want to push myself as a writer, and I’m always absorbing new ideas. I don’t want to give too much away in case I change my mind tomorrow and go in a completely different direction, but I think it’ll be an evolved form of what you can hear on Retrograde. There’s a lot more life to cover. A lot more things on my mind that I want to dedicate musical moments to.
What’s your dream collaboration?
Can I give like 10? My number one would be Emily King. I’m obsessed with her. But I would love to work with Johnnyswim or Coldplay. Or Brik.Liam. He’s a friend of mine and I’m a huge fan. I would also love to write something for Adele. I would probably just die after that. –Pooh Bailey