Having a vision of being Vanessa Carlton meets Billy Joel, Danielle Taylor never let go her love for being the singing voice of a Disney character. Before Danielle got her second LP The Chase, she was told that she was good, but she needed to grow to stand out and not be just another beautiful voice. But just like any artist, life happens and she became homeless three times. Danielle had to tear her ego down which led into a succession of small successes one after the other. This launched her to a path of making her own music, singing her own songs and meeting the right kind of people who shares her goals. Learn more of her stories of singing Disney songs and making a phenomenal comeback in the world of music.
I have another guest and her name is Danielle Taylor. This is a crazy story. This is a gal that grew up here in Southern California and she ended up homeless three different times. Her life’s goal and journey was to become a professional singer-musician. She recently played the clarinet, but of course that’s hard to become a singer when you’re playing the clarinet. She transitioned over into playing the piano and then forming a band and then starting to cut records and getting music deals and singing and going life on the road. She’s just got a beautiful voice. It was really a joy to have her come here to Hermosa Beach. We chatted about her life story, how she became homeless, how she got herself out of it, not once, not twice, but three flipping times. It’s really incredible. I also do this a little bit American Idol style in terms of having her sing some of her songs. I do those in 30 to 45-second clips, but just like Simon Cowell, sit back, give us your best foot forward, give us your audition tape, and she did. She delivered and it was a lot of fun.
As always, go in, rate and review on iTunes, Finding Your Summit. If you want to find out any more info on me, you can find me at MarkPattisonNFL.com. The podcast has continued to grow and I’m very appreciative of that. Without further ado, let’s talk to Charles, The Captain.
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Danielle Taylor, Her Phenomenal Comeback From Struggling Musician To Recording Artist
I’m so privileged to have Danielle Taylor drive all the way over from Riverside, California to Hermosa Beach where we are broadcasting. She is such an amazing soul and I’m really blessed. One of the reasons I’m blessed to have her here is because, as many of you know, I’m climbing mountains and I was a former athlete, but one of my secret passions that I always wish I could do is become a singer. She is a phenomenal singer. We’re going to get into that and talk about her story. She can sing like an angel. Danielle, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I’m actually really excited to be here. One, I like you, I like Hermosa Beach, and I like talking.
You love to sing.
I love to sing, yes.
One of the things that you just talked about is this big gigantic painting of these four lemons that I have. You asked me about those lemons. Everybody has lemons in their life, and so what do you do? You make lemonade when bad things come up and happen to you. I think one of the things that I’ve always had as a reminder of really trying to keep that positivity and that cup-half-full mentality is obstacles come up in your way. What we’re going to get in on a few occasions is just the journey and the path that you have taken have led to you being homeless a few times in your life. Talk about lemons in your life and what you did. You overcame those things and you made lemonade. Let’s start, where did you grow up?
I’m a Southern California girl, top to bottom. I was born in San Diego. My mom wanted to pursue acting so she moved us out to LA. She did that. It didn’t really work out for her because she had kids and it’s probably really hard to do anything when you have children. We stayed in LA for a while, in North Ridge and the San Fernando Valley. I moved out of my mom’s house the day after I graduated high school. I just wasn’t getting along. It wasn’t my jam. I was like, “I got to get out of here.” I left and I didn’t have a plan. That was the first time that I was bouncing around. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a place to stay. I just was like, “Can I sleep on your couch tonight?” until I finally found a spot. That worked out for me for a while. I did some school, I worked at Starbucks, and just odd stuff. Then I ended up being homeless a second time. It’s really fast.
We’re not going to go that fast. We’re going to slow down a little bit. I want to get into where did you discover that you had this talent? God gave you this gift so when you opened your mouth and you start to actually sing, you’ve got this beautiful melody that comes out of your mouth.
Thank you. I’ve always liked singing. I love Disney and I still love Disney. I’d love to be the voice of a Disney character. I just sang along to Disney stuff when I was really young. My mom, it was important for her that we all learned an instrument. She thought it was good for brain development. I chose an instrument and once I did, I got stuck in that world more than the singing side of things. I didn’t get to study singing. I studied classical music on the clarinet is what I chose.
It seems like that’s fairly hard to sing when you’re playing the clarinet, right?
Yeah, a little bit. I’ve always loved music. I have always said that if it didn’t exist, I would invent it because it’s just such a big part of my life and who I am and how I express myself. I love music and I love it in any form, so I was like, “Fine, I’ll play the clarinet. I’m going to do this. It’s going to be great.” I started to teach myself. My mom saw me taking off with it so she got me lessons. I played it from third grade when I started to a couple of years out in high school into college, and then I started teaching it as a way to make money. I did it forever. Singing didn’t get to be part of the picture for a while.
Did you know that you have this gift?
I always thought I was a good singer.
You’re bopping around the house singing these Disney tunes, right?
Yeah. My mom would be like, “Shut up.” Not mean, but like, “You have other people living in this house, turn the music down, stop singing so loud,” when I would sing.
You’re doing like karaoke?
Yeah, just along to whatever is on the radio. Anytime I would approach a choir teacher when I was younger about trying to be in choir, they would say, “You’re really good at the clarinet. Stick with that.” I had no idea if I just like to sing and I was not great at it or if I was fine at it but I was better at the clarinet. I didn’t know what the reasoning was and I felt really like, “Okay.” I didn’t sing in front of anybody for a really long time.
Did you not like school play, musicals?
I was in a couple of musicals as background or understudies, but nothing like in the forefront at all.
By the way, I was in Brigadoon my senior year. That was a big step for a football player. I was part of the cast in the background. I had no leading role. I think I played the village idiot just singing away, it was great. Walking around with a kilt, that was great.
Kilts are very manly. I wore kilts in high school. We were the Highlanders. I didn’t get any time with singing until I was a senior in high school. Around the time I was a senior, I was in the musical The Wiz. I was an understudy for Dorothy and I was some village idiot as well. Then I was in choir finally. When you’re a senior, for some reason, you’re allowed to take way more classes. I know people take four, but I took eight because I wanted to take the regular stuff and then extra-curricular, like choir and stuff like that. I got to sing finally. I wasn’t that good, honestly. It takes 10,000 hours to really put your life into something and become what anyone would consider good at all. I wasn’t that good. I did my best. I got to sing at my high school graduation with a group of people and staff which was really fun, but there was so much stuff that other people could do with their voices that I couldn’t do.
How did you develop that? You’re talking to a novice here, an aspiring singer that never will be. That’s just not my gift. We all have gifts. How do you do that? You have innate ability and then you’re taking that to another level. How do you make your voice become like what it is today?
A lot of tearing down of your ego is a big part of it. I attribute my voice today to the producer that worked on my second EP with me. I didn’t really grow. There was no real growth for me. To be okay, to be just fine, you just sing along to stuff and try to match the pitches of what you’re singing. I think that’s just practice and you’re singing along to stuff you like. That’s how you would develop anything on your own without lessons and stuff like that. Of course, lessons are really helpful but I didn’t have money to take lessons so I didn’t take lessons. I do now. I’m taking them now, but I didn’t before.
Your second LP was called what?
It was called The Chase. It was all about chasing your dreams. I did this whole thing, and I got to work with this Grammy dude named Erich Talaba. He’s pretty good. He was like, “These are good melodies. When you get in here, you’re going to really have to bring it.” I’m like, “I could bring it, whatever.” I get in there to do the vocals and I’m singing what I think is awesome vocals, and he’s like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “What do you mean what am I doing? I’m rocking this song. I’m singing.” He’s like, “No. You need to belt it out.” I was like, “I am.” He’s like, “No, you’re not.” It was really hard for me. I cried every day we recorded at the end of it, not in front of him. I was definitely not as sweet to him as I could have been because I was on the defensive every day that I was there. He was literally tearing down my ego to help me be a better singer, performer and as a person.
I’m so grateful. I thanked him a million times at the end of the process. I bought him this giant gift basket full of stuff. “I’m so sorry that I wasn’t an angel working with you.” It was so hard for me. Some of the melodies had to be rewritten because my voice wasn’t good enough. It’s a real blast to the ego when you think you’re amazing and someone goes, “Actually, you’re good but you have room to grow.” Then you realize now, I know more about my voice. I get better every year because I’m constantly working on it. I am learning how much I don’t know how to do, and that’s amazing.
Let’s do this a little bit like The Voice or American Idol audition. People walk in and they go, so I’m Simon Cowell. Think about that period of time when you wrote your song from that second LP, The Chase. Give me a little sampler. You’re walking in, this is your audition. Just give us a little 30-second.
I would be like, “Hi, my name is Danielle Taylor and I’m going to sing this song called Fearless.”
Why do you think you’re going to be the next American Idol?
Because I’m fearless and it’s a great song and I have a good voice and I’m the next best thing.
I got to make sure I sing the right song here. “Everybody starts out with the same thing, a simple sense of adventure, blank canvasses. When we agree, we felt invincible, we are untouchable, and we dare to dream. I don’t know about you but I want it all back. I’m ready and I just want to be, I just want to become, I just need to become a fearless one.” That’s the song.
That’s great. Now, we’re going to go back to your high school. You were having this conflict like a lot of kids do, and they’re ready to leave the house. You don’t necessarily have a plan. No plan but you’re just like, “I’m out.” Then you’re couch-surfing from here to there. Where did you go and then what?
I’m couch-surfing and my stuff is at six of my friends’ houses in their garages or whatever. One of my friends is like, “My parents have this back house that you could live in.” I was like, “Cool.” We worked it out and I got to live in the back house. That’s where I was for a while. My friend’s mom got me my first job out of high school. I worked at this place called the LA Wave, an independent newspapers. I got to just work as a receptionist and stuff. She drove me to and from because I didn’t have a car. It was really good for a while, but then I wanted to do something else. I was like, “Maybe I should go back to school. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I quit my job to go back to school. I had to work at Starbucks which I was awful at. I couldn’t wake up at 5 AM and be on time. It was just the worst for me. I ended up getting let go there.
I didn’t have any more money and I couldn’t pay the rent anymore. I was trying to negotiate with my friend’s mom like, “Let me stay here.” I think I got a car by that point and I was like, “I’ll drive your kid. I’ll pick him up from school and I’ll do things. Let me stay.” She was like, “Okay.” It didn’t work out for me. I don’t remember exactly why. I think it was probably my bad. I probably was irresponsible and didn’t do what I was supposed to do. She was like, “You got to go.” I moved again and I put all my stuff in friends’ houses. This time I had a car so then I started sleeping in my car. That was the first time that I literally don’t know where to go.
Tell me what that’s like especially as a young girl. I’ve got two daughters. I can’t imagine my daughters living in their car and sleeping with weirdos out there at night and the security, of course you lock your doors.
People can see you in a car sleeping. It’s weird. It depends on where you’re sleeping. I would drive up and down the suburbs of Burbank or wherever I was, whoever I saw that day. I’d be like, “Okay, bye. You have a great day.” They didn’t know I was sleeping in my car. Then I would just drive up and down the street until I found some place that felt safe, that people weren’t really walking around on, that was still well-lit. I would just sleep there. I had a giant comforter and I would just try to cover my entire body and face. I was like, ”Maybe it’s just a lump in the car.” That was fine. I ended up moving out to Ventura, California.
I was off and on dating this boy and I was like, “I don’t have a job. I don’t have any responsibility. I literally have nothing tying me to any location. I’m just going to move. Why not?” I drove out to Ventura. The day that I decided, “I’m just going to live here,” I got an apartment and a job in one day. I went and I was like, “I want to live here. I just got this job at the mall and I don’t have any money yet but I’ll figure it out.” They were like, “Okay.”
Did you have aspirations? There’s a lot of moving targets. There’s tons of uncertainty for you back then. You don’t know where you’re going to be. You don’t have a house. Am I going to get a job? What’s the job? You have a car. How I you pay for the gas? All these things. Was it in the front of your mind, the middle of your mind, the back of your mind, in terms of the singing aspiration, the singing career?
I don’t even think it was really on my radar yet.
How old are you at this point?
I graduated at eighteen. I think I was like late nineteen or early twenty. It was something I love to do but I still wasn’t brave enough to even do it in front of my closest friends. I still wasn’t singing. The guy that I dated wasn’t supportive of me really in my artistic endeavors and stuff like that. I didn’t ever show that side of me. I had really low self-esteem, just all of this stuff. I was very like, “I’m fine. I can take care of myself,” but I was also like, “I’m not cool. I need to change who I am to be more cool instead of just being myself.”
I’ve learned a lot in my time. One of the things is that when you’re trying to go after a crazy goal, you need to really get clear on what that goal is, number one, and number two is surround yourself with positive voices. Of course, the opposite of that is get rid of all the negative energy that surrounds you. You just can’t fly high.
When I was dating that guy, his whole family was musical. He wasn’t really, but his family was. They would have family dinners and the dad would play guitar and the mom would sing and the brother played guitar. I would come over and there was music in my life still, but I wasn’t part of the music in my life. I would sing to myself but I would never sing around my boyfriend. I ended up living with that guy. I never sing around him. It was really weird. That relationship went south and his mother was like, “You need to break up with my son if you’re ever going to do music like you say you want.” That is a big statement from someone else’s mom. I was like, “Okay.” He and I ended up breaking up, and right after that I started being like, “I want to do this. I bet I could do this. How do I do this? I don’t know how to do anything.”
Let’s talk about the how.
I told a friend of mine. At that time, I ended up working at Mercedes and she and I met. I was like, “I want to sing but I don’t even know what I want to sing or how to sing.” She was like, “I know this guy who’s a producer. He works with Disney people.” I was like, “Set me up. I love Disney.” I met this guy and he told me to bring some songs like, “Sing some songs that you like, whatever they are. It could be different genres, just whatever.” I brought some songs over and I sang, and he said, “You have a nice voice. Do you know how to play anything?” I was like, “I could play the clarinet.” He was like, “You can’t play and sing. You need to learn an instrument.” I was like, “Okay.” He’s like, “And you need to learn how to write songs.” I was like, “Okay.” It’s the best advice for me and my life but he was like, “There are so many pretty voices out there. You are not going to stand out if you are just a voice. You need to be unique, have something unique to say, do it in a unique way. You need to figure out what that is for yourself. I’ll get you started.” He wrote some stuff on guitar and gave me a recoding and said, “Write words and a melody to this.” I did. It was very like, “Every morning I wake up, I get up, the clock is screaming and babe you’re late again.” It was very Disney-poppish. My friends were like, “Yeah, it’s cool but it’s so Disney.” I was like, “Yeah, okay.”
That’s when I started experimenting. That’s when I started trying to figure out what instrument to play. I started on the guitar. It was way too hard. I had acrylic nails at the time and I was like, “I’m not taking these off.” I had always loved the piano so then I was like, “I’m going to figure that out and I’m going to get a piano.” I started looking on Craigslist and I found a family that was like, “We’re getting rid of our piano. It’s a great condition piano. You just have to move it.” I was like, “Okay, I’m going to get this piano.” I set it up and I remember I had $300 to rent the U-Haul and gas and all that stuff I needed to do. I was living in a house that I was renting and I didn’t have a refrigerator. I also needed a refrigerator that I saw on Craigslist, but I only had enough money gas-wise to go get one of the two items.
I chose the piano because I was like, “I don’t care about the food.” I got the piano and my friends helped me put it in this house that I was living in. Every day after work or before work, I would get up and I would play it. I would have it tuned and I would watch what the guy tuning it would do. I would be like, “I’m going to do what you’re doing when you leave so I can try to get better.” I was pretty bad for a long time, but I had the base. I knew music. I had known it my whole life and I really knew classical music. I was trying to do really complicated stuff on the piano instead of basic chords at first.
What was your style?
I was trying to be like Vanessa Carlton meets Billy Joel maybe, very quick. My hands moved really quick on the keys and stuff. I could only hold a chord with my left one and then do crazy stuff with my right one. I couldn’t move both at the same time independent of one another. The process was really long and I would record myself on whatever my phone was at the time and try to like, “Is this good? Does this suck?” I would later listen to it but I didn’t have any good topics. I had nothing to write about because I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. That’s another thing. What do you even talk about?
You’re taking a certain path, which makes sense. It was your path. The way I think about it, if you’re a singer, you get a band together. You go get the guitar player and you go get these people, and you’re the singer and you can write but you’re not necessarily. How come you didn’t go down that path?
I didn’t even think about it, honestly. I think because I’m such a self-dependent person. I thought, “I have to do this. This has to be on me.” I did come to a crossroads at one point where I was going to go there. There’s a school in LA called Musicians Institute, and I was thinking about going to that school and learning more about playing piano and singing. I talked to my mom and I was really tensed on the inside, and that’s really an unusual feeling for me. I’m a pretty go-with-the-flow, chill, happy girl, so when I’m not feeling that way it’s very worrisome for me. I was so knotted up and stressed out. “What do I do? This school is going to cost me so much money. I’m going to go into debt. Should I even do it? Is it worth it? What do you think, mom?” My mom was like, “Music is in your bones. You know music. You don’t need to go to more school for music. What you need to do is put a band together and start doing it.” I was like, “Okay, thank you.”
That’s exactly what I did. That day, I went on Craigslist and I’m putting that out like I’m looking for songwriter and some people to play music with. My current bass player is the guy who responded. He brought an electric guitar player with him and they met me. It was amazing. It was the first time I’d ever heard electric instruments with an acoustic piano, because I guess I wasn’t exposed to ‘70s music. I didn’t really listen to a lot of music that did that so I was like, “Oh my god, this is so cool. This is a thing. We’re a band.” That was my band.
You’d name of your band as part of your name, right?
Yeah. I went through that whole process too. I was like, “Do I want it to be called me? I want to be a band. I want us to all be friends and be equal. Should we just call it a name?” I started doing a lot of research and reading up the ups and downs of being a solo artist with a backing band or being in a band. The benefit of being a solo artist is that it’s you that drives it so that you’re responsible essentially for making it or not. In a band, if I’m the person that drives it but I don’t write any of the songs and someone leaves the band who writes the songs, I’m screwed. It doesn’t matter how much I want it. I was like, “I’m just going to depend on me and I’ll just have people in the band who do what I say and then they have creative input and all that stuff.” That’s what ended up happening.
Sounds like a common theme of depending on you and that cost you in different ways of either not asking for help or trying to seek it out and figure it out yourself, leaving your family life situation and then also ending up living out of a car. You must have had just tremendous amount of, “How do I get out of this?” and this internal fortitude to really elevate yourself to a different place. Obviously, you weren’t going to stay there all your life and you didn’t. You got out of it.
It’s so cliché. My mom read all the books about self-help and all that stuff. She regurgitated all of that to me, and then I took it as like the gospel. I was like, “Life is what you make it. Okay. If my life is awesome, it’s because I worked hard and made it awesome. It’s not someone else’s fault if it’s not great.” I took that to heart, and be positive. All the things you hear in a self-help book or in sermons or anywhere that would be positive, uplifting stuff, that was what I grew up on. That’s what my mom fed us. I have two younger sisters. Each one of us digested it differently. I took it like, That is the way.” Then I watched a bunch of Disney movies where it’s constantly reinforced being a good person and working hard and persevering end up giving you what you want in the end. Don’t give up. That kind of stuff was reinforced in movies I was watching as a kid, so it just became who I was. I’ve always had a very, “It will work out.” Even if I don’t have any money, even if I don’t know how it’s going to work out, I know that it will and it does.
Was there a dad in the picture?
Yeah. I have a dad. I have a biological dad that I don’t know. When I was five years old, my mom married a different guy who I call dad today. He adopted me. That was the first song I ever wrote. I wrote a song for him. I love him. He’s one of my favorite people in the world. He is amazing. He has been the most supportive of my music the entire time. I needed money to make my first record or I needed money to buy a computer to try to record my ideas. My dad’s always like, “I got you, girl. I’m here for you.” He’s the best person I ever have and I love him.
The saying is, ”It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s so true. You meet so many of these different pieces. You look back on your career, and whenever that day is or even today, it’s your mom, it’s your sisters, it’s your dad, probably some of the band mates. You talked about earlier, the manager, the producer of the songs who is a big influence that really stripped you down so you could rebuild you back up to a better person and singer.
Definitely person too. When you finally start to make any kind of connections, I don’t know how it is in any other fields, but I imagine it’s the same. It’s intimidating to work with people who are better than you. I think a lot of times you throw your own wisdom out the window and don’t trust what you know because you just take what they know as the truth. For me, I really struggled with that because I was like, “I’m smart and I’ve gone through a lot of stuff and I know about songwriting and I know about this. He doesn’t know about this. There’s no way he could know about this, but he does know about that. When do I listen to him? When do I listen to myself?” It’s such a struggle and I’m really glad that he’s a nice, patient person because I definitely had moments where I was really panicked. I wouldn’t say that I was awful to him, but I definitely wasn’t the nice person I try to be on a regular basis. I felt really bad and I apologized a million times. He’s like, “Everybody does this. Everybody goes through this. Everybody fights for their idea.”
It’s hard not to get defensive. It’s you. It’s your ideas. Again, what you’re thinking about is, “I came up with these songs, I’m singing them the way I interpret them, and then this guy is saying no.” That hurts.
It’s awesome too, because I have learned. He did my most recent CD with me. We know each other now. We speak the same language now. He understands what I mean most of the time when I’m saying things and vice versa. It’s so cool to hear my demo of a song. It’s almost identical to the song most of the time because we don’t change my songs too much, but there are little inflections that I’ll do or something.
On the song A Borrowed Dime that I have, I did this weird wiggly thing at the end of the note in tons of spots, and he was like, “Don’t do that. It will mean more if you just sing it straight.” I hated that idea at the time, but my kind of line is, “Does it change the song for me? If it doesn’t change the song for me, be open-minded and just run with it.” It wasn’t anything. It was just his artistic preference. Now that I listen to the song, when I hear myself on that versus what I had on the demo I’m like, “His idea was way better than mine.”
I actually like that song. I heard it. I want you to sing it. You’ve now made it to round two. We’re going to do just a little sampler again just to see if you make it to round three.
I’m a very formulaic person so I’m just going to start from the beginning.
It goes like this, “Lying here next to you, sharing your bed. Listening to every breath, every little word unsaid. I can’t wait till you get up tomorrow because then I’ll have another chance to plead the bank to borrow. Some time, maybe just one afternoon. Some time, only an hour or two. Because we’re all living on a borrowed dime. The one thing we can’t buy is more time.”
Love it. Way to go. Now we’re going to get into somehow or another you ended up homeless for a third time. Of course, anybody that falls on hard times, whatever that is, that’s a tough time.
For me, I feel like bad stuff happens to everybody. That’s really how I feel. I feel like how it impacts you and how you deal with it determine how awful it is. The first time leaving my mom’s house I was like, “I don’t even care. I don’t care that I have nowhere to go because I’m free,” so it wasn’t so bad for me. The second time was like, “Yeah, that’s my bad. Now I have the opportunity to go anywhere I want. I’m just going to move to Ventura.” That was my thing. The third time was like, “Dang, I can’t believe this happened to me again.”
How did that happen?
I was living in the house where I originally got the piano. This was before I put my band together and everything. I was living in this house and I was practicing all the time like six hours a day. Every free second that I had, I was practicing.
My house was about the size of your studio, but there was a granny flat connected to the backside of my house. I was disturbing my neighbor essentially my landlord. He was like, “You are too noisy with that piano. You’ve got to go.” I was like, “Okay. Let me find a place to go.” Just through my own hardships and lack of responsibility as a young adult like I didn’t have good credit and all the cliché stuff you hear about impoverished people with bad credit, that was me. I’d already had two car repossessions. I was just a horrible credit risk.
I found another place that I wanted to rent out house-wise. I was like, “I need to find a place that I’m not going to have any connecting walls so that I’m not bothering anybody.” This house was like, “Yeah, sure. We love you. You have a great personality. We’ll take a chance on you.” I was like, “Thank you.” I had a good reference from the place I was in. The day I was supposed to move, I had the U-Haul, I had everything ready, they called me and they said, “We changed our mind. We don’t want you to move here.” I was like, “Oh no,” and then I told my landlord. My landlord was like, “My daughter’s coming to live in this house and she already gave her notice so you got to go. There’s no option.”
It was the worst because it was just like, “Crap, this happened to me. This isn’t really my fault. This just happened. Now I have to figure out what to do.” I put all of my stuff in the U-Haul and I drove it to a storage unit. It’s $1 for the first month or whatever. I put it in the storage unit and then that was it. I was just like, “What do I do? Where do I even go? Where do I move to?” I had a job so I had money. I would go to my job everyday but I was living in my car. I lived in my car for three months after that.
It was a while trying to find a place that was going to work with the piano. I was trying to make sure that it didn’t happen to me again. It was so depressing and I ended up going to my storage unit every morning. I would sleep in the parking lot of the mall in my car which was the worst because Ventura is a very beachy town like Hermosa, and there are some dodgy characters that walk the streets after the sun goes down because they don’t have a place to go. I hated it. I would sleep in the mall parking lot which would shake any time a car drove through it. I would take showers in the public restrooms. I would like A, B, C clean-up thing. I would wake up right in the morning and I would rush off to my storage unit and open it up. I put the piano right at the front and I would just play the piano.
How old are you at this point?
I don’t even know, like 23.
All this is happening too pretty quick from eighteen.
Back to back to back. I met my bass player when I was 23, so it was right before this.
Now you’re in all this stuff. You’re back to back to back, and you’re in and out in situations and bad credit. I want to understand how you climbed up over it and how you got through it. This is about finding your summit. You’ve had all these amazing adversity. At some point in time, there’s a crack in the wall where you’re just going, “The light’s coming through, I’m going towards it. This is not going to happen to me again.” You’re progressing in all the different life skills that you need to learn, and you’re progressing towards a career that you are today.
I’m looking on Craigslist and I finally found an apartment. I was really worried about it but they were like, “It’s going to be fine. We know what you’re doing. We know who you are. You can totally play your piano here, whatever.” That’s where I met my band. That’s when I made that decision to have a band. Once I had a band, I could hear how it would all fit together. Once I could hear that, I was on fire and I didn’t stop. I put my band together in October and by March I had something that I wanted to record. I put my MySpace page up. I did that and then I was just like, “I’m going to perform at every hot spot in LA.” I did everything. I did the House of Blues and the Rainbow Room and The Viper Room and anywhere that I could perform.
How do you get in? Did you have the audition tape?
No, I didn’t have anything at the time. I just would email them and be like, “I don’t care what your standards are, I will meet all of them. I want to come perform here.” They were like, “Okay. You need to sell X amount of tickets to do the show.” “Okay, done.” I would do it or I would pay out of my own pocket so that I could just have the opportunity to be in those places. That’s how I started getting experience. That’s where I started meeting people and learning about what it means to actually sing songs that you care about instead of just songs.
How was that for you to get on stage in front of people?
The very first time I did it, I was scared because I didn’t know how to play and sing at the same time. I couldn’t play my piano, so I asked one of my friends who knows how to play I was like, “Can you play my songs and I’ll just play chords?” They were so complicated. He was like, “Yeah, sure.” I did that and I was fine with being on stage because my mom was there, my sister was there, my friends were there. It wasn’t a judgmental environment the first time for me. It was very Bohemian little spot. “We want music here anyways. We don’t care, just do your thing.” My friends and family were there. It was pretty supportive and good for me. It got worse when I got into LA. The stage fright got so bad when I first started opening for national headliner acts.
My very first show was for Jonny Lang. I couldn’t even breathe. It was a sold out show and he had all these lights and fog machines. His band was amazing and I was like, “I hear their sound check.” I remember being in my car being like, “I don’t know how I’m going to open for this guy. I don’t have any air, I can’t, whatever.” I would pick songs to open shows that would have lyrics that would motivate me. I have never recorded this song but there is a song, I don’t even know what I called it, but the beginning words were, “This moment I own it. I’m going to make it last forever.” That was the opening line of the song that I sang for that show because I was terrified and it gives me time to breathe. Eventually, I got over it. I think that’s just a practice thing. The more you do something, the more comfortable you are with it. I’ve done it so much that now it’s not a big deal. Small crowds on their cellphones and you can tell if they’re watching you or not listening. When they go to the bathroom, it’s worse.
Let’s talk about where you are today.
Today I have my album out. It’s called 1440. It’s a measurement of time. It is 1440 seconds until midnight. My idea for that song was pretty much like Cinderella at the ball. I’m referencing Disney again, like if you only get one life and your life is over at midnight. If you get 24 hours or whatever and your life is over at midnight, what are you going to do with it? You better live it to the max if you don’t get a ton of time here. You don’t get a lot of time. You get 1440 seconds before you’re dead and gone. That’s what the idea is.
That’s certainly been your life so far. Just on the edge and pushing it and going for it. Tell me what your life looks like today. You just got done with this album. Are you out touring? What’s that like?
I do 170 shows a year, so I’m always performing. I perform these 52 weekends in a year. I do Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and sometimes I do Mondays and Wednesdays and whatever odd shows. I perform anywhere and everywhere. That’s a large source of income for me because I always get paid whenever I go. I’m just trying to move forward on that front.
I have my music on Sirius XM which was crazy. They approached me and I thought it was a scam. I have my music on Sirius XM which has opened a lot of doors for me. I’m currently talking with this gentleman who just started up his own record label about possibly joining his label or just working with him to connect with producers that are even larger than the one that I have worked with. I’m a very loyal person so I like to work with people who’ve worked with me economically or just emotionally or whatever. The guy, Erich, that has done the last two records for me is amazing, so I’m like, “I’m not leaving you unless someone way better than you comes along.” I just mean we all have the opportunity to get better so if there’s someone who has been in the business who’s worked with Adele or something, well then okay. Otherwise, I think he’s great and I’m looking at recording more songs soon. I have a new music video that I just did for my song, Is It OK? That song is a very private song and it’s the song that people like the most of my songs.
What does that sound like?
“It’s one of those days when it’s hot but it rains at the same time. One of those days I pretend that I am but I’m not fine. It’s one of those days I couldn’t get up if I wanted to. It’s all of this weight on me.” That’s the beginning of it.
Where can people find you?
My website is my favorite place people can find me. It is DanielleTaylorMusic.com. From there, anywhere else @DanielleTaylorMusic is a pretty good way. If you Google it, it will come up with everything. My Instagram is @DanielleTaylorMusic. My Facebook is @DanielleTaylorMusic. The only thing that’s not @DanielleTaylorMusic is Twitter. That’s @DanielleTaylor_ , which I hate. I wish it was music. Anyway, everything’s findable through my site.
This has been a unique journey. I’ve talked to a number of people and I’ve never talked to somebody who was homeless. It really takes a lot when you’re stuck to get unstuck, and that happens to a lot of people. I think you said this before early in the show where it’s just one of those things where we all have our different version of what that is. I’ve had mine and I could go on and on and on, and I have, about what that is and what that means. It’s just like at the time when you’re in it, a lot of times it’s hard to see the future and how you’re going to get out of it. You got to take these little micro-steps. As you inch along to move the ball down the field, as a sports analogy, one thing connects to another. I always like to say, “Action creates reaction.” You have to do it.
I call them small successes. A small success gives you the motivation to find that next small success. My life is just a succession of small successes, one after the other. Little tiny things that I go, “That was cool. I want another one of those.” I like your ball and your moving. I don’t really know much about football, but I totally love that analogy because that’s what it is. You can only see so far in front of where you’re standing. You have to just be like, “I can take the next five steps. I can figure out how to get from this side of the room to that side of the room.” Once you do that and you look back, before you know it, you’ve crossed an ocean because you’ve taken it slow instead of just looking at this insurmountable goal in front of you. I’m sure when you climb mountains, you’re not looking at the top going, “I have to take one giant step.” You’re thinking, “Let me just make it to this pit stop,” or whatever they’re called.
They’re not pit stop. They’re one step in front of the other to the next camp as you make your way up the mountain. My secret fantasy is to always have been in a band. I never have been. This is the closest I’ve ever been to this. I’m telling everybody out there what I asked you before you showed up. We have literally never practiced this, but there’s a song that I always play that goes into my ears. It’s such a sweet song, it almost makes me tear up. It’s a song that Carrie Underwood re-did called How Great Thou Art. It’s a simple song to play and it’s just so beautiful. As I was listening to your voice in some of your songs and doing research for all this, it was like, “I need to play this song. She needs to sing it. We’re going to take this on the road and go national. I’m not sure what’s going to happen out of this, but it would be a blast to do this.” Would you mind playing this with me? We’ll just do a sampler and we’ll see where it goes. This is the song that Carrie Underwood made famous called How Great Thou Art.
“O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”
We can end it there. That made my whole world. It was awesome.
I never get to sing with just a guitarist, I loved that.
Everybody out there can see why I’m going to skip my day job. I will just do podcast and pretend like I’m doing this. I appreciate that. I put you on the spot.
It’s a beautiful song. I can’t believe I’ve never heard it before. I was talking to my mom about this song actually and I was like, “I went to church but I never heard this song.” It’s a great song. It’s beautiful.
It’s a spiritual song. I think it gives hope for a lot of people that are out there. It gives me hope about the direction of the path that I’m following. It just uplifts me in the right ways. It gives me peace and calm. I love that. I love hearing it from you and I love hearing it the way Carrie Underwood sings it. Anyways, Danielle, thank you so much. You’ve been a joy, you’ve been a treat. Good luck to you in the future
Thank you for having me. It’s been so awesome talking to you. I appreciate it.