Taylor Gray is this week’s guest. He is an R&B artist based in Los Angeles and curator of the popular playlist "Flavor Waves" on Apple Music and Spotify, which has garnered the attention of artists such as Victoria Monét and Ro James.
Author Armistead Maupin talks to The Guardian newspaper about the importance of logical families.
This is a weekly podcast of around 30-40 mins long publishing every Tuesday. I’m your host Dan Hall, and in each episode I chat with a gay / bi musician from anywhere in the world about their life and music.
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Enjoy the music of previous guests by listening to these playlists with tracks selected by the artists themselves.
If you enjoyed this episode, why not take a listen to Rebel Will.
Taylor: At one point, you know, I would rather. Drink tequila or something and feel calm in two minutes, then do these weird breathing exercises or, you know, go to therapy and feel better in a couple months.
Dan: This is In the Key of Q featuring musicians from around the world who inspire my queer identity.
Dan: Everybody is welcomed to the conversation, whatever beautiful identity pleases you. Music helps us feel connected and know that we are not alone.
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Dan: I'm Dan Hall. Tune in and be heard.
Dan: This week's guest is an RNB artist based in Los Angeles. As well as creating music. He curates a popular playlist "Flavor Waves" on apple music and Spotify. Which has garnered the attention of many artists, such as Victoria Mone and Ro James. He's a singer songwriter and is here with us today on In the Key of Q
Dan: Hello to Taylor Gray. Hello Taylor.
Taylor: Hi Dan. Thank you so much for having me on.
Taylor: Okay. My relationship with music began from, I guess, as long as I can remember. My family, um, You know, playing a lot of music in the house. My dad was very well versed in R and B and soul music and would always teach me music history and like things that he knew about the music business. My mom is a gifted pianist.
Taylor: And so between the two, it was encouraged that I, you know, learn to play music. And I started playing the trumpet when I was 11. And that just escalated into singing and writing music and performing on stage and hip hop dancing, and it just really snowballed into what it is today. You know, I owe it all to my parents.
Dan: So, Taylor you're in your late twenties now, what kind of RNB was your father listening to?
Taylor: Oh, I mean, let's think, um, Chaka Khan, um, Prince, Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross. Um, and then even more recent artists at the time, like Boyz 2 Men, uh, Jagged Edge, um, Whitney Houston. I mean, really just anything that was like black popular music.
Taylor: Um, even so far back as like the Temptations or James Brown, um, all of that was played in my house. It actually reminds me of this memory. Uh, I have. When I was a kid. Um, the whole like, uh, I guess you could say like the Gangsta Rap movement was like really popular. So like Ja Rule, you know, people like that.
Taylor: And so my dad walked in on me listening to some of that music, cause it was what everyone at school was listening to and it was explicit. And so he wasn't a fan of me listening to stuff that explicit at like nine years old. And so he told me I was banned from listening to that radio station until I was 16.
Taylor: And so I had nothing else to listen to on the radio. So I would listen to. This a radio station called 106.7, which played like RnB and like classic soul music. And so I kind of rediscovered that music on my own. Just listening to it in my room, on the radio. I'm listening to like Deborah Cox or whoever came on that day, Baby Face and just really sharpening my knowledge of RnB. And then from there I took all my parents' CDs and I burned them onto my, uh, our family computer and, you know, put it on my first iPod when I was 12 or 13 and started learning more music that way. And so it just really became something like a project for me. And I'm still doing it to this day.
Dan: And I'm guessing during this period of your upbringing, you were still, you weren't out of the closet yet. You hadn't come out as, as gay. What did it feel like listening to music, but not really feeling or hearing your queer identity reflected back or maybe it just wasn't relevant?
Taylor: Well, I guess for me, it wasn't relevant at the time, because at a young age, I just didn't realize, you know, some people say that they knew they were a gay slash queer when they were like four.
Taylor: And I didn't feel that way. Um, I was kind of like a late bloomer and I think that my, I guess awareness of sex was a little late as well. And so I separated music from like the, like, I guess the, I couldn't see myself in music. I just loved what it felt like. And so, um, I think when I was in like middle school was when I started realizing my feelings a little bit, probably eighth grade seventh or eighth grade.
Taylor: And so then, um, I just, I guess applied my own personal feelings to whatever they were speaking about. I don't know, I just kind of made it work. Um, but I did have like a specific, um, what's the word gravitation towards Tevin Campbell. Um, Tevin Campbell was, is an amazing RnB singer. Um, but you know, he, I feel like his career was kind of stunted due to like rumors of his sexuality and other things.
Taylor: And so I did feel like I could see myself in him a little bit more. And I think maybe because I felt more empathy towards his story in his career. And so I, I guess at that point was when I started gravitating towards, um, artists that were misunderstood or different.
Dan: Why do you feel it is important when we're listening to music? Not necessarily for queer identity, it could be for any identity. Do you think music does provide that mirror for us? And why is that mirror important when you're in this relatively young, formative time?e fact, they say hindsight is:
Taylor: Um, because I feel like in a way I'm emotionally stunted or like immature or that I find myself. Really affected emotionally by powerful, like queer love stories, or experiences of people that are like, you know, like when I, when I see things like, um, oh, what is that movie? Uh, Call Me By Your Name or movies like that.
Taylor: Where like, the kid is like 17, but I feel like I'm, it's like 17 year old me, like feels for this kid and like, feels like emotionally affected by it. It's like. You know, I should have been seeing this movie when I was 17. This should have been accessible for me when I was 17, because I needed that. But I didn't realize how badly I needed it.
Taylor: So it's important that when you're growing up, you feel like you're seen and heard because now as an adult, a lot of us have this ability of feeling still not seen and not heard because we're so used to it. We're so accustomed to being invisible or for being erased from the narrative.
Dan: But we still faced that conversation don't we we, where people will go, "I dunno why that, I don't understand why the gays are still fighting for visibility. Cause you know, that there's that gay best friend in that, in that show, you know, the one that got canceled last season."
Taylor: Yeah, the sassy gay best friend, that's a real bitch, you know?
Taylor: Like, I mean like do they exist? Yeah. But there's so many different types of queerness and I think honestly, music. Is where you'll find those ref, those reflections, those representations. And unfortunately you have to look for it as well, because I still think that there is a white privilege present in queer music in the queer music industry and the media production, the media publications that pick up certain artists.
Taylor: And booking agents and all of that, you know, they still gravitate towards this homogenized idea of what queerness looks like. Even in music, you know, like the gay, electro pop music that's present at the clubs and stuff as if gay people don't make all kinds of music, even like, even in genres that we hear on the radio, but they're just being overlooked because they're gay.
Dan: And I still think in our music, we suffer one of the problems that we suffer, I think in real life. And especially in drama narratives that we sort of are allowed to be gay. We're allowed to have our queer identity as long as it's not too sexual, as long as we're fun. And as long as we have entertaining stories, and if we do talk about sex, it's sort of got to be sex where things went wrong and, and just, you know, where somehow we're always left at the altar.
Taylor: Like they either want us to be like, we either supposed to be hyper-sexual or we're supposed to be like asexual. Like there, we're not allowed to have like a normal, you know, sliding scale of sexual feelings and habits and whatnot, because they don't do because to be gay is to either be really only like about my sexual, like about sex and not my sexuality, or to only be about like, you know, but, you know, "I don't want to be seen by for my sexuality. So like, don't look at me in that way". Like, it's like, we can be whatever we want to be. We there's like a whole gray area in the middle that anyone can like land on when it comes to sex and sexuality. And that comes out in our music and in our art, like let us, but people just be them like gay is not just one image.
Dan: But I think that can be even tougher for the intersectionality of black and queer identity. The IZM talks about this a lot in his episode in season one, where he says as a gay black man, where he is allowed to have a sexual identity, it has to be a fetishized sexual identity. He has to be a thug. He has to be a top. He has to be the cuckold's fantasy. That he's not just allowed to turn up and go, "should we have sex and a bit of a cuddle and then, you know, have a cup of tea." He's just not allowed to do that.
Taylor: Yeah. And you see it, if you, I mean, if you pay any attention to, um, you know, queer artists and music and stuff, you see that it's very visible. It's very present. Um, It's hard. It's not necessarily hard to explain, but it's just like, the proof is right there. You don't really need to explain it. It's right there, but I completely agree.
Taylor: I grew up in semi-urban area, you know, and in urban areas with a lot of minorities and stuff, like there is still a level of homophobia that's not as present in other, um, areas, you know? And so my natural instinct was that gay was bad. Even if my parents weren't saying it, that was just the vibe I got in the world that we lived in.
Taylor: And so I wasn't ever growing up into myself. I was growing up into somebody that's not me. And so I basically just ended up not knowing who I was not ever feeling like I could express myself because if I was to express myself would be to potentially open up Pandora's box of all these things I don't want to be.
Dan: And what did homosexuality mean to you?
Taylor: I guess to me it meant I'm bad. Like, that's just what I attributed it to. I attributed it to bad shameful, just like, I guess to a degree, you know, like. Hell. I wasn't like grown in like a crazy religious household, but that's just like what you hear. And so, you know, as a kid and you just kind of internalize all of the random things you hear, um, you just think that everyone's going to abandon you really.
Taylor: And I, wasn't a bold kid. Like, you know, some, some kids are bold and like, they'll do what they want to do. And they'll say what they want to say. And they're happy to just make... They're happy to like, I guess make a statement, you know, especially like high schoolers and stuff. I was the opposite. I was afraid of getting in trouble.
Taylor: I was very play it safe, still am at times I'm very, like, I gravitate towards like trying to be like, you know, grounded and whatnot. And so I think music is where I can say what I want to say, do what I want to do, and who's going to stop me.
Dan: So you start recording music.. Are you an out gay man at this point in your music?
Taylor: No! I was not, and I regret that to this day, actually. Um, I was about 22. I was kind of, I guess, in a way that's late nowadays to come out. I was like 23, I think when I came out, but I still had those lingering feelings at first. Like, because I hadn't put out any music. Um, how are people going to receive it? You know, I have people that look up to me as like, you know, an academic kid that's going to law school. So maybe I shouldn't speak about this kind of thing. I don't want to alienate people and I need their support early on to get other support. And so I definitely would either not reference sex at all, or I would reference a woman.
Dan: And that must've been very challenging for you when you're in a space such as music that is supposed to be all about authenticity and honesty.
Taylor: I just kind of relied on what I would like when I was a kid, you know, the fantasies of myself on stage. I just tapped into that and I basically created a fantasy of myself, um, that lasted for a while. And I feel like I'm just crazy enough, it feels like I'm just now tapping into like who I am. So people still don't actually know who the hell I am and I'm, I'm ready to really unveil that because I'm just ready to really take that weight on my shoulders and just kind of dump it on the wayside and be like, okay, for real, for real, this is who I am. You're not going to get anything, but this expecting nothing but me moving forward.
Dan: So Taylor, what was that moment when you decided enough is enough?
Taylor: I got kind of tired of pandering to straight people. Cause like, why do straight people need to be pandered to ever you have nothing to worry about when it comes to sexuality.
Taylor: So you shouldn't, if anything, be learning about us! It's okay. Why am I trying to make you feel comfortable? You never made us feel comfortable. So it was kind of like that. And then just, I know firsthand people that are not completely straight in the industry, but pretend to be just so that they can keep their career going or to, you know, like kind of like maximize their potential and things like that frustrate me for them and for myself.
Taylor: Um, so I just don't ever want to be that person. I'd rather be, I'd rather be like unsuccessful being absolutely myself and doing everything I could do to be my very best representation of myself than to be very successful and literally like molding this image that's completely bullshit.
Taylor: I got teased called "Taylor Gay", most of my childhood, you know, so, I mean, come on. It's easy. It's right there. And so, um, things like that, that made me hyper aware of myself at all times. Um, feeling like, you know, like, oh, like I need to do everything that I can to not be like this. I need to get into sports more. I need to not carry myself like this. You know, when I walk down the street, I need to walk like this. When I talk, I need to talk in this kind of way. Those were all things that happened to me at school. That wasn't anything that happened to me at home, but it affects everything and you actually get so, um, disenchanted that you don't even remember that, like your family doesn't do that to you. Like, you don't even remember like what it feels like that like that you don't even feel like there's a place to go or that you have an option of just being completely yourself anymore because you've let everything else cloud your.
Dan: Well, school is such an important space of socializing. It's such an incredibly important space where we develop socializing. So it makes absolute sense that things that happen there can really affect us. However good things may be in the home.
Taylor: Exactly. Exactly. Well, I'm not going back on a lot of stuff. I haven't thought about it in a long time.
Dan: So you spoke a bit about anxiety in your music production. Can you tell us what that looks like?
Taylor: If anxiety could kill it, would people, you know, people that have it understand what I'm talking about. For me, when I have really bad anxiety, it's like, um, sensory overload. So on top of my thoughts, like it's like your thoughts are like, are racing to a point where like you have, for me, it's like multiple negative thoughts hitting me at the same time.
Taylor: Like, oh, you're dying. Oh, something bad is happening. Oh, like, what's that? Oh my gosh. Like your body just realizes something. Me is freaking out. Um, you can't breathe. Like you're technically breathing, but it almost feels like you're forcing yourself. Like if you weren't to force yourself to breathe, you would just like have no breath..
Taylor: It really just, I mean, they say it resembles having something like a stroke or a heart attack. That's what it feels like. But on top of that, you have negative thinking as well. A lot of times, like I've gone through like, I guess modes where I haven't released music in a long time. People like, "where is it? Where's your music?" And I'm like, "it's coming, it's coming".
Taylor: But mostly it's just because I am going through it. And, you know, instead of healthily handling it, I was doing things like drinking alcohol to suppress it, which is costly as well. And I just, at a certain point, just wouldn't have the money to continue making music because of like the way I was unhealthy coping with it.
Taylor: The best thing you can do is to try to meditate or breathe. Um, like, you know, hold your breath, like inhale for four, hold it for eight, breathe out for eight, but that's still takes time for it to work. And so when you're having a panic attack or really bad anxiety, you're too anxious to have the patience for it.
Dan: And Taylor, you talk about self-medicating this in the early days. Can you tell us what that looked like?
Taylor: Yeah. I mean, alcohol straight up, um, I, some people they say, if you have anxiety or like depression, you're I think three or four times more likely to develop an addiction. Um, because you know, the healthy mechanisms are not quick fixes.
Taylor: It takes time, it takes effort. And simply put a lot of times we don't want effort. We want quick fixes. I'd rather I, at one point, you know, I would rather drink tequila or something and feel calm in two minutes, than do these weird breathing exercises or, you know, go to therapy and feel better in a couple months.
Taylor: You know what I'm saying? Like, I want it now, but it gets to become a dependency. Because then your normal feels like the fear that you're going to have another anxiety attack or the, or the, or the looming presence of anxiety. And so then you keep yourself medicated in order to avoid feeling like that ever again.
Taylor: And it turns into a bad habit quickly.
Dan: Do you feel there was a point at which you had to go like this can't go on. Was there, was there, what was your bottom?
Taylor: I mean, my bottom was not that long ago. Um, my bottom was two months. I got into an altercation like that. I wouldn't have gotten into if I hadn't been drunk while I was in the right, because I was defending someone that was being rude to a friend, I ended up getting hit and my eyebrows split open now have a huge scar on my face, but which that was uncharacteristic of me.
Taylor: So that was one thing where I knew things were getting out of hand where I was doing things that weren't necessarily me. But then when I went home, it happened again, you know, I was argumentative irritable. Um, Just not myself at all. My anxiety was through the roof. I felt like it felt like my adrenaline was surging through me like gasoline and someone lit the match kind of thing.
Taylor: I think that for me, the dependence on alcohol was more so because of the anxiety. Um, so luckily I, once I handled my anxiety at the time I stopped drinking alcohol. Once I started getting a handle on it, Gotten to feel like it's more manageable and I don't really miss alcohol at all. And what advice would you have for anyone listening to this who feels that they are having any sort of potential dependency issues?
Taylor: You can definitely get past it or you can definitely at least try. Um, definitely try because I've tried before, but I wasn't ready, um, to give it up, you know? Um, I think that. See what you envision the best for yourself and just live that, you know, I think a lot of times it's easy to see it as like a pipe dream.
Taylor: Just stop envisioning and start living. And that's kind of what I'm in the mode of right now. And it's working for me right now.
Dan: Really good luck with all of that. I think it's fantastic that you've jumped on that and very inspiring to our listeners that you're speaking about it so openly. And certainly I would hope that one of the things that will come out, so sobriety is a lot more free time. What do people like you do with your free time? You make music!
Taylor: Yeah, literally. That's all I have. Like, I have so much free time. I'm just throwing it into the music at this point. Yeah.
Dan: So what have you got coming up?
Dan: Well, um,
Taylor: recently I released a single called To You. Um, and it's an, I really love this record. I consider it kind of like pressing the reboot button, unlike the computer, which I feel like it's like, that's kind of like, what I'm going for with this new, um, project is really just like pressing, reset and restarting as if know, the pandemic never happened as if I was on my P's and Q's to begin with, like I was two years ago and it's like, as if I never left and just really getting back to the core of myself and, um, really expressing myself in my truest form and To You as the first reflection of that. So definitely go check out that song.
Taylor: And I have an EP that is coming up really, really soon. So be on the lookout.
Dan: For the next two minutes or so, I'd like to give a platform to you and I promise I'm not going to edit anything. I'm not going to get out of the pen. Oh, this will all be yours. So I won't be like, "he's not being interesting enough. I just cut out that 30 seconds!"
Taylor: Right. I'll be like, I'll call afterwards, "Dan, you got to get rid of that!"
Dan: So the next, uh, the next two minutes or so is yours to speak about whatever you want. It could be something we've already spoken about or something completely different. The floor is yours..really focus on themselves in:
Taylor: I just recently did a photo shoot with an amazing photographer named Darrio and, um, he's he and his boyfriend of nine years live together and the shoot was just incredible. And, you know, people look out for each other, you know, and it's all you gotta do is just make yourself heard and seen and reach out to people, express your ideas, you know?
Taylor: Get yourself up and just do what you really desire to do. And there's always people that are going to rally around you and support you, make yourself seen and heard and love every bit of you. Um, I'm finally trying to love myself the way I'm supposed to, and that's working out for me. Um, and I don't want to be the only one out here doing it.
Taylor: I'll always support whoever reaches out to me and, you know, just wants me to hear what they're doing. Um, you can send your music to my playlist firstname.lastname@example.org. Um, I'm just, you know, I also make a black and queer AF playlist for all of my black queer people for pride month. So if you're wanting to send me music through that, you can as well, um, just know that you always have people in your corner, even if you feel like you don't..
Taylor: I grew, as you heard in this interview, I grew up feeling like no one was in my corner and all I had to do was just look at the people in my own home. So just realize that there is a home for you somewhere. And I consider myself part of that household. And I love everybody that's listening to this right now.
Dan: Have you ever felt that queerness is something to be ashamed of?
Taylor: I never felt that other people's queerness was something to be ashamed of. I felt like my own was.
Dan: That's an interesting answer.
Taylor: Yeah. Um, I never heard it because I never personally had a problem with it. I had a problem with myself because I thought people would have a problem with me.
Dan: And what do you think you'll 15 year old self would think of you now and think of the music that you're making?
Taylor: I think my 15 year old self would love the music that I'm making. Um, what they would think of me now, I actually feel like this weird, like shift in like to this sobriety lifestyle has actually made me more in touch with my 15 year old self.
Taylor: So I feel like at this present moment, my 15 year old self would love me. I feel like two months ago, my 15 year old self,would
Dan: What queer artists are you listening to at the moment?
Taylor: Well Ravina has an album coming out soon. Let me pull up my phone while I'm at it. Cause I listened to literally hundreds of songs a day, cause I'm always curating. So I would just have to go down the list. President Ward. Um, it's a friend of mine. He's a rapper. Sevn deep S E V N deep. Um, an excellent, excellent rapper out here. You know, I'm trying to like highlight more underground artists. FURILLOSTAR. I love him.
Dan: He is great. And of course, people couldn't hear my interview with him in season one.
Taylor: Oh yeah. Yeah. He's a, he's a friend of mine as well. I call him Lolo! Keenan Lonsdale. I actually just saw him in concert recently. Lovely, lovely person. Oh my gosh. And of course so beautiful. I mean, he's gorgeous.
Taylor: Yeah, those are just some few examples of artists that I listened to. Um, I have my Black and Queer AF playlist that I curated every pride month. So anybody that's interested, um, can check that out on Apple Music and Spotify, Black & Queer AF. I have volume one and two, and that's full of all sorts of artists like Sid, Khalila, Gansta Killer.God is Mikey big Frida? Kaytranada. Um, we, you know, we are, our biggest supporters were our own family.
Dan: And of course we'll put links to those playlist on the show notes, parents and counselors said, let's stop trying to get on other people's tables and niches, make our own tables and we'll rise together.
Dan: Now then Taylor, where can our listeners find you online?
Taylor: You can find me honestly anywhere. I have Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Audiomack, um, literally all streaming services. I make myself visible, but I have a general link that you can go to and, you know, find the specific platform that you listened to and stream me there.
Taylor: I'll provide that link to you, Dan, um, as well as follow me on all of my socials through that link as well.
Dan: So then Taylor, we've been listening to your music all the way through this episode, but I like to think we've saved the best til last. And this is where I asked you what your gateway song would be. This would be for audiences who don't know your music and will act as a gateway into the rest of your catalog. What would that song be and why?
Taylor: Well, I think for me, that song would be No Time. Um, it was written by me produced by me and Matt Kolb. And what I really like about No Time, I literally wrote that song in bed, you know, at like three in the morning. And it puts me in that position, lyrically at the very beginning of the song. And I finally get up and just kind of shake off all of the negative thinking that's been present in my entire life. And I just recognize my inner strength and my inner talents, and I just go for it. And I feel like that's been the real theme of my career of my life thus far is whenever something gets me down, I eventually find the strength to just get up and keep it moving forward. And, um, I think that you'll hear those elements in this song specifically. And I also think it'll be a great gateway because uh, by the time this episode airs, it'll speak to where I'm at with the music that's coming out soon.
Taylor: And how, um, basically I've continued to push myself and stayed on track.
Dan: Taylor Gray. Thank you very much for coming on to In the Key of Q and sharing with us your music. And of course, your story.
Taylor: Absolutely. I really enjoyed this interview, Dan. Um, thank you so much for having me. I'm really honored.
Dan: Thanks for listening to this episode, you can support In the Key of Q via Patreon. The link is in the show notes.
Dan: Theme music is by Paul Leonidou at unstoppablemonsters.com. With press and PR by Paul Smith.
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Dan: Thanks to Kaj and Moray for their continued support and to you for subscribing.
Dan: The show was made at Pup Media. I'm Dan Hall. Go listen to some music and I'll see you next Quesday!.