by Lauren Rosier
The Tri-State area has one of the most active and exciting music scenes in the United States. There is constant talented emerging and incredible musicians making a name for themselves.
Meet up and coming, singer/songwriter, Taylor Tote, based out of Monmouth County, New Jersey. She’s a musician that has been singing and performing for as long as she can remember. Tote has already received so much recognition from various music competitions, open mic events, and other music events, that it foreshadows just the tip of a successful music career.
“I was an only child for a little while, so I would preoccupy myself with listening to music and coming up with dances and skits. I would dress up and always put on shows for my family. When I was in 4th grade, my two best friends and I formed a singing group and wrote songs. Even though nothing materialized, we performed together at our 6th grade talent show and have cherished memories.”
And just that small taste of a singing career hooked her. Soon after that, she took every opportunity she had to sing. “Music always fascinated me. At my kindergarten graduation, I said I wanted to be a rock star, and that hasn’t changed since then,” She revealed.
She continued to perform at various talent shows and if there was live music where she was, she would ask to sing a song. From Martell’s Tiki Bar, SAWA, to The Falls, as well as parties attended by her family, she was constantly singing. She would sing “Drops of Jupiter” by Train a capella and always be asked to sing another.
At age 15, Tote focused in on honing her craft, and hired a vocal coach to help her learn the fundamentals of singing: proper breathing, posture, and diction, while not interfering with her vocal personality. A year later, at age 16, she wrote a song titled “Jane” and performed at her first open mic.
From then on, that’s when things began to take off. She was invited to perform at various open mic events as the “Featured Artist.” She took various first place finishes in competitions like the NJ Talent Search, Do The Shore Singer/Songwriter of Cape May, and in 2013, was invited by a cover band to be their lead vocalist, and accepted. There she brought some of her original material to the band and led them to win the “Rock to the Top” competition at The Stone Pony the same year.
It wasn’t until her time at the Berklee College of Music summer 2014 program that she realized that “songwriting was equally important” and that “I needed to sharpen my songwriting skills to further my career in music.”
Tote launched the next phase of her music career in 2014 by starting her own band under her name, and continuing to grow as a songwriter as well. As with most musicians, she’s influenced the most by personal experiences, but has recently discovered that she’s able to write about situations that she’s not currently going through.
“I want my songs to be honest and easily relatable and I always thought that I had to write about what was currently happening in my life,” she reveals. “I told myself that if I was happy, I could only write a happy song, and if I was upset, I could only write a sad song. That made songwriting very difficult at times because I was limiting myself so much.”
Writing from current personal experience has usually resulted in a terrific song, but she’s also learned to trust other people’s advice, and write based on past experiences, too. Tote’s debut, self-titled EP was released a little over a year ago now and she worked with producer Steve Jankowski to determine what four songs would be the best to showcase her voice and songwriting abilities. “We chose the songs we felt would best show the different sides of me as a songwriter and performer, yet work together in a cohesive collection that tells a story,” she explains.
Her first single, “Superman,” is the opening track, and one that she was truly excited to record. The track is an example of an incredible combination of acoustic elegance with violins, choir, acoustic guitars, and mandolin, then crescendos into a full band sound.
All four tracks are written based on difficult breakups that Tote experienced during different times in her life, but all with their own separate characteristics from those particular situations.
Tote on the songs off the EP:
“Superman”: I wrote this song a few years ago when I was feeling lost after an on-again, off-again relationship, but didn’t finish until a few years later. I actually hated the song, so I gave up on it. My best friend, Dana, actually convinced me to finish the song and I’m so glad I did. It is so awesome to know that “Superman” has become a favorite for many.
“Jane”: I love the arrangement of this song with the horns. I’m happy to say this is a well requested song. Although written about a lot of he-said-she-said coupled with a friend being cheated on, everyone gets happy and loves to hear it.
“All You Left Behind”: A vulnerable breakup piece and is based on a breakup that was incredibly hard because she was “made to believe that during the relationship that I was absolutely nothing without him.” This track is so deep and relatable, and unfortunately, so many people are caught up in a similar situation. “The string ensemble brings a haunting, powerful background to the song that makes listeners really connect.”
The last track on the EP is “Crazy” and was written with Steven Wise. With this track, it’s actually very crazy, because in the moment, she was unsure of what to write about, but as it formed, she realized it was about everything she had been going through at the time. It was a long-distance relationship, she had just left a band she was a part of for a while, started her own band, and didn’t really know who she was. This song, she says, has been described as “raw and powerful, tearing off the layers of expected intimidation and turning the band loose in an explosion of compositional rock brilliance.”
So there you have it. Come out to Launch Music Conference next week and support emerging musicians like Taylor Tote. Buy the music, see a live show. They need you. http://www.launchmusicconference.com/