Singer-songwriter Taylor Grey has a lot to look forward to in life. The 19-year-old is just about to wrap up her second year at Stanford University. Following the completion of her spring semester, she’ll be joining a new generation of college kids moving to Los Angeles this summer to start focusing on their careers. Her line of work just happens to be within the fickle and uncertain world of show business.
Grey is having to grow up quickly. While her college friends were enjoying their spring breaks across the pond over in Amsterdam, Grey was in New York City taking meetings and visiting with media to begin promotion on her upcoming debut album, Space Case. Set for a release via Kobalt Music Group sometime in May, which Grey was quick to point out as her birthday month, her debut album will feature 12 songs written by herself with a little help from producers Josh Abraham (P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Shakira) and David Kunico (Dierks Bentley, Alicia Keys, Selena Gomez).
“When I first found out that we were going to be working together I was kind of mind blown,” Grey mentioned about working with Abraham. After all, the veteran pop music producer had recently worked on Justin Bieber’s very successful Purpose album. For an aspiring pop singer and songwriter, there's not much higher one could set their sights than a chance to one day reach Bieber status, especially in the wide eyes of a teenage girl.
AXS caught up with Grey in the busy area of midtown in New York City recently, where she had some time to sit down and talk about her upcoming album between interviews and meetings. Even for a girl who travels back and forth to Los Angeles on a regular basis at this point to record and work on her music, the idea of being in New York City still seemed to subtly excite her.
AXS: How often do you find yourself in Los Angeles?
TG: I go down on weekends a lot to record. Every break I go down there, like any holiday break off of school, so I would say pretty often. Multiple times per month.
AXS: As a college kid in Los Angeles, what do you like to spend your time doing in LA when you’re not 21 yet?
TG: I rarely have free time when I’m in LA, but I love going to Juice Crafters. I always have to go there.
AXS: So who are kids in college listening to these days anyway?
TG: A lot of Future and Drake. A lot of rap actually, but I try to stay back to the late 1970s and 80s. The Eagles are my favorite band. Remember when the iPod nano first came out? My dad had one when I was younger with three songs on it, and one of them was “Hotel California.” I’d steal it and listen to it, and the imagery in the song scared me, but I couldn’t stop listening to it.
Another artist Grey mentioned having a strong liking and connection to was Maren Morris. The 26-year-old songwriter and recording artist launched her own career in the country music realm of Nashville. It’s been Morris’ early-career crossover into more traditional pop with her music that launched her into becoming a big name last year, and earned her notable recognition including CMA’s New Artist of the Year award in 2016.
While Space Case is by all means a mainstream pop album, one of the songs included on the upcoming release, “Open Road,” finds itself stemming from Americana and country-pop roots. What’s surprising about the song is that it fits Grey like a tailored suit, almost sounding more natural coming out of her than the heavily commercialized pop heard throughout the rest of the album. According to Grey though, that’s not the kind of world she wants to dive too far into as her career is just getting started.
TG: With “Open Road,” I wrote it with Dave Kunico, who is a country writer. When I’m in that space musically, and I know that about someone, I tend to transition into their world. I always write songs in the now and in the present. That one had a country vibe and it ended up on the album because it kind of feels like a freedom song, you know? It’s very driving. I like the way it turned out lyrically, I mean it’s just a happy road song.
AXS: Would you want to push “Open Road” to be released as a single in the country music universe to see if you can expand your fanbase like that right out the gate?
TG: I think first and foremost I want to stay genuine to who I am. I’m not from the area of like, Tennessee, so I don’t think it’d be super authentic to try and be a country artist, even though I really like writing different styles of songs. I’d love it if people who like country music gravitate towards that song, and I never want to be stuck with one specific label as a writer. I consider myself a songwriter before a singer, but if I’m feeling this style, let me write in it.
AXS: Do you have any nervousness about the album or are you embracing the chance to work with an open palette and the freedom of not having to live up to crazy expectations?
TG: I’m just excited to get new music out there. These songs are really reflective of who I am and who I was when I wrote them. I know I’m going to continue to write after this album and keep going. There’s definitely an nervousness, but it is what it is. People like what they like and I hope that people can discover songs on the album that they find relatable.
AXS: What was your experience like working alongside a producer like Josh Abraham?
TG: I wrote a handful of songs over the summer. Josh came in an executive produced the entire album. He’s extremely talented and to have someone that successful who’s also that talented say, ‘Hey! I think you’re great and I like what you’re doing,’ you’re looking around the room to make sure he’s talking to you. He ended up working on every single song.
AXS: Was he around a lot? What was your relationship like?
TG: As an executive producer he oversaw everything, but Nico Stadi, who has worked with Bieber a lot, was the vocal producer and really more day to day with me during the tracking process.
AXS: What are some immediate influences they both had on you?
TG: They made the entire album come alive. They have such an eye and ear for how things should fit. Even as someone who wrote the songs, they’ll notice things that I’m not able to hear. One really telling experience was with the first song I recorded, “Impossible.” I wrote it to a beat I created on the iPhone app. They just took that and created this immense song around it.
AXS: The duet you did with The Vamps’ Brad Simpson will also end up on the album right? How did that one come about?
TG: "Fallin'" was actually one of the first songs I wrote for this album. I didn’t write it with him in mind. After it was finished, I sat down with the song's original producers, Ben and Bryan, and we all kind of agreed that this song should be a duet and needed two people to tell the story. Even though Brad’s voice is very different than mine is, artistically I knew we would vibe well together. The song was already written when we sent it to him, but he, totally unprovoked, added a single lyric to the song and changed everything, and that’s when I knew he had to be the one to sing on it.
AXS: Do you want to stay in school if you can?
TG: I’m definitely getting that degree one way or another [laughs]. I spent my entire sophomore year in the library so I’m getting that degree. If things pick up I’d be fine taking a gap year.
AXS: So what’s next after the album release?
TG: After the release, I’m going to spend some time touring throughout the summer. I’m moving to Los Angeles so I can keep writing and recording. Songwriting is a hobby and I love doing it, and I want to keep at it. I want to be an artist that people can relate to. For me it’s about being an artist, not just a song, because songs are fleeting.