Finding Her Groove: An Intimate Interview with Taylor Kelly on her musical journey, ever-evolving sound, and new EP ‘The Spins’

Born and raised in the suburbs of Rochester, NY, Taylor Kelly has become a cornerstone of the vibrant Philadelphia music scene, where she has further honed her introspective take on jazz, soul, and funk. Known for her dynamic blend of genres, Kelly combines her smooth, powerful, and technically informed voice with a full horn section, addictive hip-hop and electronic beats, and complex arrangements.

A Berklee College of Music graduate, she has released six albums/EPs and has shared the stage with notable artists such as Dirty Loops, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Moonchild. Kelly’s music is a testament to her unyielding commitment to self-expression, seamlessly integrating influences from Stevie Wonder, Roy Hargrove, Erykah Badu, and Emily King. Her sound melds the improvisational looseness of jazz, the rhythmic earworms of funk, and the moving resonance of soul, carving out a unique niche in the music world.

In this interview, Taylor delves into the inspirations and meanings behind her latest EP, The Spins , her journey into music, and her ever-evolving sound.

What inspired “Take Me,” the first single from your new EP, The Spins ?

I was really feeling myself and honestly hadn’t felt a confidence like that for a while, so I just went with it. This EP is a lot about my struggles with OCD (particularly harmful intrusive thoughts), and with this particular song, I just wanted to stay in this moment of feeling alive and free. I think that’s why I’m asking for someone to take me away because I knew I’d eventually go back to just being in my head and, frankly, not feeling very good about myself.

Explain the meaning behind The Spins.

“The Spins” is actually the name of the closing track on the EP, and I really just thought it captured how I felt writing all of these songs. Thoughts were racing so intensely in my head that it would feel really dizzying. It’s short and simple and right to the point!

What kind of gear are you currently using?

In my live performance, I always use a TC Helicon Voicelive Touch. For me, it’s about arrangement and adding and taking away layers depending on what the song needs at different points. It allows me to really deliver the songs the way I want them to be heard — whether that’s taking you to a trippier place with massive delay or beefing up a chorus by adding in an octave below the melody. It makes everything sound bigger and more interesting, and I love how cinematic it can feel.

How did you get started in music?

I fell into music at a very young age and no one pushed me into it. My dad was a trumpet player up through college, and my mom was a dancer through her 20s, so I think it was in my bones, but I got involved with choirs and bands as soon as I was able to and then was quickly drawn to musical theater. I was always drawn to the stage (and, let’s be honest, being the center of attention). I’ve always loved entertaining, making people laugh, and moving them. It wasn’t until going to Berklee College of Music that I began to write my own songs and really come into my own as a musician/vocalist and go down the path I’m now on.

What is your definition of sound, vocally and musically? And is your sound evolving?

When I first started singing, I took classical voice lessons and simultaneously was really passionate about musical theater. To listen to a recording of me singing at my senior voice recital in high school and then listen to me now would be pretty jarring. I think our sound evolves and changes based on what we’re spending our time listening to or surrounding ourselves with. Sound to me is just that. I always love when people tell me I have the “Philadelphia sound” because it’s really cool to know that you’ve really been listening and so influenced by where you are. My sound is ever-evolving, and I think that’s what makes being a musician so exciting.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

I’m almost always inspired by my own personal experiences. It’s always been hard for me to write from any other perspective. I can certainly fabricate things that I’ve experienced to really get the feeling or idea across, but I’m always writing from what I’m feeling in that moment or something that happened to me that day, week, or month. It keeps me honest, especially when it’s hard for me to process things or express how I’m really feeling. It’s healing, really. Of course, I draw inspiration from other artists I’m listening to, but I think that’s more subconscious.

What can you share about your writing process?

I write in my journal a lot, so sometimes I’ll have lyrics just waiting to be put in a song, but I won’t know it until I’ve sat down at my keyboard and come up with a chord progression I really like. The music always inspires the lyrics for me since you can really create a world with chords, tempo, and feel. I’m not practical when I write so if it doesn’t all come out at once, it’s likely I’ll never finish the song. I really have to allow myself the time and space to be in a flow state — an uninhibited place where I’m not really thinking about anything I’m writing and just writing. I don’t write very often at all, but when I do, it’s because I really need to.

Why do you make music?

It is healing. It helps me process my world, my feelings, my experiences, my relationships. It is an incredibly powerful outlet for stress, anxiety, uncertainty, joy, love, sadness, anger, fantasy, reality. It is truly everything. And to be able to share that with other musicians and other people around the world? Now, that’s pretty f–king cool.

https://www.taylorkellymusic.com

https://www.instagram.com/taylorkellymusic3.0

https://www.facebook.com/people/Taylor-Kelly/100090411202568

https://ffm.to/taylorkelly_takeme (“Take Me”)

https://youtu.be/X824RMUnNq8 (“Take Me” live)

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