Tayla Parx: Your Favorite Artist's Favorite Songwriter
Singer-songwriter Tayla Parx has a mind and hand of gold, as her pen, by way of her lyrical abilities, has blessed just about every major artist’s discography. From Mariah Carey, to Big Boi, to Prince Royce, to BTS, to The Internet, to Ariana Grande (yes, Tayla Parx was one of the writers behind “Thank U, Next”), Tayla Parx’s contribution to the music industry spans across almost every genre. When an artist is constantly associated with household names and popular songs, it can be easy to lose sight of their own identity, but Tayla Parx holds tightly to hers. As she says, “Everything Tayla touches automatically becomes ‘Tayla Made,’” from other artists’ music to her own.
Speaking of her own music, in the last quarter of the year, Tayla Parx has given us two singles, “Me vs Us” (September) and “Slow Dancing” (October), and she plans to release her debut album “We Need To Talk” in 2019. In anticipation of her album and in celebration of the music phenom that is Tayla Parx, we are excited to share this exclusive Tayla Parx interview from September:
What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you do?
I am Tayla Parx. I am from Dallas, Texas originally, and I live in L.A. I am a creator—a creator of music, a creator of film. I’m a singer, a musician, a writer. I usually just keep it broad.
I read that you started off acting. What made you want to switch from acting to making music? How did you do it?
The interesting thing about me is that when I was in Texas, I had only known music. I was singing in Italian until I was 9 or 10 years old. Then I met this lady, Debbie Allen. Debbie Allen happened to be someone who was on the dancing side of things but also crossed over to directing “Grey’s Anatomy” and other massive shows. She asked me one day, “Do you know how to act?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I’ve never tried it.” I’m a kid. Then she has me read her this book. She says, “Just pretend like you’re each character.” I’m the mom, I’m the grandpa, I’m the brother, and the main character as well. All of a sudden, I’m an actress. From 10 to probably 11, I was doing shows at the Kennedy Center in D.C. I performed for Will Smith and Diana Ross and Denzel Washington. So now, because I was on stage, I was able to act and sing at the same time. That intrigued me, obviously because I could never give up music. After that, my parents said, “Maybe you have something here.” We ended up picking up everything and moving to L.A.
You have such a supportive family.
Such a supportive family. I’m extremely lucky because they didn’t have to do it, you know? So I’m extremely blessed for that. But that’s how it all started. From Texas, to stage, to acting, and then… It was a journey to get back to music, honestly. But it was a necessary one because it makes me happy.
That’s good. I think everybody has several interests and opportunities to create, but at the root, there’s always one specific medium that’s closest to your heart. It’s important that you try to find your way back there at some point, and that’s what you did.
What’s one thing you wish someone told you when you were younger, back in your acting days?
I wish somebody told me—and this is hard to tell somebody and have them believe you—that it’s okay to be fearless. It’s okay to want things that nobody has ever done before. Don’t allow it to make you think twice about doing the things that nobody has ever done. I didn’t get that until I got older, but once I sat into that… Here we are.
How has your year been, music-wise?
Music-wise, my year has been incredible. I have the number one ranked record on pop radio, I have two songs in the top ten on Billboard. It’s been incredible as far as the songwriting goes. And even the artistry, because the reaction that I’ve been getting for my music video for “Me Vs. Us,” and the song in general, has been incredible. When you make something so personal to you, it’s nice when people say, “Oh, I get what you’re trying to say.”
It’s like, “I understand you. What you’re saying about yourself resonates with me.”
Exactly. Any time I write a song, I want that understanding with the listener.
Where do you feel like your sound fits into the grand scheme of things? Who is Tayla Parx for?
Hmm. I think the whole point of my brand is being “Tayla Made.” Everything that Tayla Parx does is like everybody can take whatever they like from it because it’s so broad. I have a song called, “Mama Ain’t Raise No Bitch.” I felt like this song was a female anthem, but you know, so many guys come up to me about that song. And I was like, “Well wait a minute. Maybe I am singing for more than just me.” The strongest songs ever, anybody can take something away from them. Whether you’re a 65-year-old woman in Maryland or whether you’re a 16-year-old boy in Brooklyn. I would like you to both take something away from it. My music is for everybody, and that’s why I don’t say “him” or “her” or “she” or “he” in the entire album of “We Need To Talk.” I wanted to keep it super broad while still getting my point across. I think we all live very similar lives, even if we don’t see it. We all fall in love. We all have very similar stories. That’s an important thing for me. You can be at my show and be singing the lyrics and relating to the lyrics with someone who’s completely different next to you. You’re both singing it loud, but for different reasons.
Your pen game is something serious. You’ve written for Khalid, Normani, Janelle Monae, Ty Dolla $ign, and even BTS. At the end of the day, even if you’re songwriting for another person, you still want that music to represent you—a piece of you is probably in there. So how do you manage to get in the head of the artists while infusing a piece of yourself into that song?
I think the art of songwriting is also being the therapist for an artist. I know what I want to say for my own music, so I usually completely take myself out of the equation when I’m writing for someone else. I want to hear what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. How can I get millions and millions of people to relate to this exact feeling, you know? So I take myself out of it, and I truly listen. I listen to their life experiences, and I listen to their love experiences. I ask them, “How did that make you feel when that happened?” It’s therapy.
Music has always been therapeutic for me and anybody that I talk to. You turn on a record when you’re sad, and you turn on a record when you’re happy. Knowing that, as a songwriter, I really just try to listen. The best songwriters are great listeners. Also because I write so many different kinds of music, I go out of my way to break every box, every genre, every gender expectation. I go out of my way for people to be like, “Woah, Tayla wrote that? I was so shocked that she wrote a Panic! At The Disco song!”
You’re constantly challenging your audience.
Truly challenging them. I’m an African-American young girl from Texas, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t write this country song. It doesn’t mean that I can’t have the number one record in Latin. I like to completely break every [preconceived] notion that you would have had about a song probably being written by a specific person.
There are a lot of artists who have a signature sound. You’ll hear a song on the radio and immediately go, “That voice sounds like so-and-so,” or “That sounds like so-and-so wrote it.” But then with an artist like you, people ask, “I wonder who wrote that song?” And it turns out that ‘Tayla Made’ it.
Exactly. I want to take what you made, make it “Tayla Made,” clean it up, refine it, and really perfect who you are. I get to do that for my own album. When you hear my album, you can tell that’s Tayla Parx—that is [my] sound. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s vibrant, it’s cool. That’s different. That’s my specific lane as Tayla Parx versus Tayla Parx writing for this artist—it’s “Tayla Made.” Both get something out of me though.
Can you describe your writing process?
My writing process is very similar to word vomit. I don’t want to hear the track before I step into the booth. I just want to freestyle it. I want to see what my first reaction is to this song. What is the first melody or the first lyric that comes out of my mouth? I just let it free. That’s the same thing that happened with Alicia Keys’ “In Common.” The song was written in 20 minutes. I went in, wrote it. After, I thought, “Oh, I probably wrote that about this person.” I just let it happen because usually the second and third ideas are good, but they’re not as real as the first one.
They’re not as genuine.
They’re not as genuine. So that’s my process. I like to let it come as it goes. We don’t overthink it. We just let it be.
What’s been your favorite song to work on, and who’s been your favorite artist to work with?
That’s the hardest question ever only because they’re all so different, and I’ve learned something different from each one. Whether I’m working with legendary artists and they’re telling me some knowledge from the past 20 or 30 years that they’ve been in the game, or whether I’m working with somebody new who’s learned something that even those artists don’t know because the game changes all the time. I think I learned something new from every single artist that I’ve worked with, based off of their genre or where they live. There’s no favorite. There are definitely songs that I have a story to them that I’ll always remember, for sure.
Your visuals are always so colorful and eye-catching and creative, just like you are. Do you direct your videos? Or is there a star director who is able to relate to you and understand you and capture you in the way that best tells your story?
For this last video, and for the next few videos, I’ve been working with an incredible director—his name is Raul [Gonzo]. We sit together, and we go through the songs. We say, “This is what the song is about, these are the lyrics, these are the colors that fit into my world, these are the vibes, these are the things that are important to me.” He’s so good at fusing that, and really understanding, and having the conversation. When I show up, from the sets to the casting to the crew, it’s just all me. It’s perfect. He’s really really talented. That video was the first time we worked, actually. Now we’re doing the next two videos this weekend.
Your style is super unique, from your hair to your outfit choices. You’re clearly here for yourself. No matter what you wear or how you wear it, your outfits makes sense within the context of you. What inspires your outfits?
Life inspires my outfits. Every time I travel—I love to travel because it’s one of my biggest sources of inspiration—I see something that someone has on in the street, whether I’m in Asia or whether I’m in L.A., or New York, or London, or Scandinavia. They all have their own unique style. I walked down the street in Japan, and I was like, “I love how people have their hair color like this!” I tried it out. Then I was like, “Let me mix it with this other thing that I saw in New York or London.” I love sweaters, I love winter attire and fall attire. I love to layer. I love to break every rule. Right now, in fashion, this is a time that we can do it. People just want to know that you’re being genuine. I love the fact that not everybody would wear it, but they get it. And then for the people that would [wear it], they finally have somebody to look at and say, “I’m unafraid to do that same thing in my own way.”
What is your favorite article of clothing—one article of clothing that you wouldn’t leave the house without if you didn’t have to?
Right now, they are these baggy jeans that I got from this thrift store in L.A. There’s that Fairfax Trading Post. And I got these pants from them, and they have a little teapot painted on them. They’re the perfect amount of baggy. Those are my favorite pants right now. People are like, “You still wearing those pants?” I’m like, “Yes, don’t come for me!” That’s my favorite thing right now.
What can we expect from you for the rest of the year, or at least the beginning of next year?
For the rest of the year, you can expect a lot more music from Tayla Parx. I’m excited. We’ll be dropping a song every single month throughout the rest of the year leading up to the 2019 release of “We Need To Talk.” There will be videos for every song. I’m excited to drop more visuals, drop more music, and continue to invite people into my world.