Singer Russell Taylor believes that real artistry is about peeling back the layers of one’s soul and allowing the creative truth to take form.
Far from a novice in the music game, Taylor — a self-professed nomad — has poured out his heart and soul on stages all over the world, including stops in London, Amsterdam and Paris, as well as famed stateside venues like The Mint and The Roxy in Los Angeles and SOB’s and Joe’s Pub in New York.
Having been blessed to share stages with legendary artists such as Patti LaBelle, Isaac Hayes and Mary J. Blige to name a few, Taylor also has the honor of winning the coveted “You Oughta Know” distinction from VH1 after beating over 400 competitors in the cable giant’s first ever crowd-sourced contest on Artists.VH1.com to join the ranks of famous “You Oughta Know” alumni, including Adele, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Lorde and many more.
Rolling out recently caught up with Taylor to discuss his musical influences, his latest album, War of Hearts, and what he’s looking forward to most while in Chicago.
Who were your musical influences?
I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Dionne Warwick, Nina Simone, and Michael Jackson. But, my parents also listened to Foreigner, Seals & Croft, Hall & Oates, Tina Turner, etc. All of these artists are woven into my musical tastes. When I went off to college, my roommate got me into the Woodstock movement of artists, and introduced me to The Dave Mathews Band. My taste in music is eclectic to say the least. I’d say I am a gumbo of musical influence — yeah I love food too!
Was winning VH1’s “You Oughta Know” distinction in any way a motivator or even confirmation that you’ve been doing the right thing musically?
It absolutely was both a motivator and confirmation. Creatives like me and you take chances every time a new work is released to the public; we are daredevils in a sense. I have been giving Evel Knievel a run for his money for some time. Sometimes you get great rewards, like the “You Oughta Know” distinction, other times you don’t. The key is to keep working.
I took a chance on War Of Hearts by keeping it for myself, and I am so glad that I did. The recognition from VH1, and Centric, and Sirius and many others has been priceless as it has given me and my music a mainstream cosign that engages the listeners that I would not otherwise have. Most importantly though, all of these things encourage me to keep producing my art.
Speaking of which, for those unfamiliar with War of Hearts, tell us a bit more about it and who you worked with on it?
War of Hearts is actually my third release that came out at the top of the year on Jan. 27. There is production by Needlz (Bruno Mars, Cee Lo, K Michelle) and Tim Kvasnosky (Miguel, Shoshanna Bean). I wrote or co-wrote every song on the record with Salakida Cali.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to as far as being in Chicago? Any must see or do happenings here for you?
Though this will be my first time playing Chicago, I have been before. I love the Chi in the summer. I know I need to grab some Chicago style pizza. I’d love to get a speed pass to see the skydeck, check a museum abd pick up a lil’ something on Michigan Avenue. I probably won’t have time for all of these things, but if I can get 2 of the 4 done … well, that just means I’ll have to come back.
What’s next for Russell Taylor?
So many great things are bubbling. I am touring through the rest of the year in support of War of Hearts, then I start writing and recording the next music project in August. I have a great collaboration in the queue with a buddy in a Grammy-winning and well-known rock band (too early to say who). But also, I have some upcoming work with artists, writers, filmmakers, an art gallery and even two consumer brands. My work ethic supports three projects at a time, and then some wine.
Russell Taylor plays The Promontory in Chicago along with Avery Sunshine on Thursday July 23 with other dates on the flyer below.
War of Hearts is currently available at all music outlets.
Connect with Russell on social media: Facebook – www.facebook.com/RussellTaylor or Instagram/Twitter – @RsoulStar
For more information on Russell Taylor, please visit www.RussellTaylor.net.