Tayla Parx Talks 'TAYLAMADE', Word Vomit, & Creative Control
At the young age of 23, Tayla Parx has already established herself as a leading songwriter in the music industry. Having been nominated for three Grammys, she has written for some of this decade’s biggest pop stars, including Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera, and Fifth Harmony. No stranger to versatility, Tayla has also ventured onto the big screen, appearing in the Hairspray movie and on a number of TV shows, like Victorious and Bones.
Now, the driven, energetic artist is channeling her talent towards a more personal project. Her new mixtape, TAYLAMADE, features songs written by her and for her, and allows us to fully enter her world as the budding artist she’s proven herself to be. We sat down with Parx to discuss her experiences writing for big pop stars versus for herself, and where she’s headed next (hint: there’s lots more art on the way). Check her new mixtape below, and keep reading for our exclusive interview.
I want to start with your mixtape that’s dropping July 7, TAYLAMADE. Are you excited about that?
Super excited! It’s probably the most honest I’ve been able to be in the past few years, basically.
What made you decide to do a mixtape, and not an EP or an album?
Because I think the mixtape—EP, it’s a certain amount of songs, I would have had to just be like, “Let’s just put five or six songs,” because then you get into LP vibes. But then, I wanted to just be like “You know what? Let’s just create it and we’ll decide whatever it is after that.” And then I realized I had like, 20 tracks. That’s a mixtape.
Might as well just put it all in there.
Exactly. I wanted to tell a story, have enough time to tell the story.
Yeah. Is there a narrative or common thread that goes through all the songs?
Yep, yep, yep. Basically, it’s—imagine like, “Girl meets boy, girl breaks up with boy…” it’s a story, and you can kind of just listen to it fully through, or you can just listen to it without—I have interludes and outros that weave it all together, it’s super Tayla Made.
I love that. So I know you’re primarily a songwriter and you’ve written some huge hits for some huge artists. What was that like, getting so much recognition from that?
Incredible. The experience of writing for all of these amazingly talented artists, and just creatives in general—because they all have something different that’s like, “Oh, this is cool, this artist likes this or this artist likes that.” It’s a really cool thing that I’m able to learn from so many greats—like all the greats: Christina, Mariah…
What’s the process like, when you’re writing a song for someone?
Word vomit. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Do you just meet with them and throw ideas around?
Yeah. They play the beat—I like to start off asking them, “How was your day? Who are you loving? Who are you hating?” Sometimes we’ll even write a song and they don’t even realize they’re about to write their life. Like, I worked with artists that I’m not going to name, but we’ve been writing songs and then over the next few weeks or month, something announced that they had broken up. And it’s funny because we wrote that out, and then a few months later it happened. So it’s this subconscious ride when you’re in the studio. I guess, the first thing that comes out of your mouth are probably things that are sitting in the back of your head for a minute.
Definitely. So what would you say is the main difference between writing for someone and writing for yourself, process-wise?
Process-wise, I don’t have to—when I’m writing for somebody else, I have to think, “Who are these people, what is your life like?” And I’m going to make that fit into this amount of time, and sound this exact way, or this way, to make everybody else be able to relate to that, to that feeling that you feel. For me, I’m like, “Okay. Well, I’ve written all of these songs for everybody else, I’ve written everybody else’s story. Now, I get to just walk in and kind have fun in the studio. I know immediately how I feel, I don’t have to ask myself, “How are you feeling today?” I’m like, “Give me something to inspire me and to let whatever has been sitting in the back of my head to spew out.”
So you have creative control.
So much more creative control! Which is scary at the same time, because there’s other artists that I work with that can write for themselves and can write for other people too, but it can also be something that holds you back. Because then you start overthinking and you start—that’s the main thing, just letting it be free, and now I don’t have to be boxed in, so I’m like “Okay, let’s just run with it and have a good time.”
That’s awesome. Would you say that you prefer writing for yourself versus for other people?
See, I think this is the main thing that I’ve been having to balance. To have half of me that’s like “Yo, stop writing for everybody else, just focus on you,” and then I have the other half that’s like, “Write for everybody and continue to share those feelings.” Because not everything that I write will be for me, and I guess it would be a shame to be so closed in on thinking about only me, that I’m missing out on great songs that could just flow. It takes more than just me—having great music, you know? That’s how I think about it, I’m like, “Yo, I could never stop writing for other people,” because I bounce from genre to genre so often. I think that it would be super selfish to be like, “I’m gonna keep every song, even he ones that I don’t care about, to myself.” [Laughs] Then also, I’m inspired; imagine if I was to say, “I’m gonna stop anything from coming out that doesn’t sound like me.” I like that I have the ability to do both, I don’t overthink as much. I’m like, “Okay what’s the worst that can happen, if I walk into the studio and it’s not for me?” The worst that can happen is I give it to my favorite artist or to somebody else and still be able to affect an industry from a completely different perspective.
Did you initially want to write songs for others, or did you start out wanting to be a solo artist?
I started off wanting to be a solo artist, and it was right after Hairspray. My parents have always been kind of—they just wanted to make sure that any deal I got into or any situation that I was placed into from a very young age, that I didn’t look back at that five years, ten years, 20 years later and regret it. So, we avoided record deals for a really long time, you know? I was like “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” and then I realized, no writer wants to write with me because I don’t have a record deal. They all are like, “I won’t make money off of you if you don’t have a record deal.” Then it forced me to be like, “Well, I’m gonna write for myself.” So I started to write in my bedroom, which also led me to teach myself how to engineer, which were things that were really beneficial for me as a writer because nobody wanted to write for me at first. So, it literally forced me to do it myself and now people are like, “Yo, how did you learn to do all that stuff?” And it’s like, literally when nobody will do it for you, you have no choice. Thank God, that was actually pretty good.
Is it a different process every time you write a song, or do you have a recurring pattern?
It just depends on the day, I guess, and on the second. Somebody could send me a text right before I step into the studio and it will affect my entire mood, or I could hear a beat and think of something that happened two months ago, or this beat makes me feel like I’m in South Beach, which is one of the records, you know? Like, I’m the type of person that lives in that exact moment. That exact moment that you’ll never feel the same exact way, before or after.
For sure. You were talking about Hairspray, and I know you’ve done some acting. Is that something that you want to pursue further, or was it a side venture?
Now that I’ve had time to actually enjoy my full love of music, now I’m actually open to going back into it. There was a time where I was like, “You know, I don’t want to do acting anymore,” so I stopped, and only did voiceovers. So I started to voiceover for the game Sims, and I was like, “Okay, that means I can still be in the studio and I’m not singing in the studio but I’m acting, but I’m able to be in a studio at least, I’m so happy about this!” At the same time, I was able to write songs because it was less time-consuming to do voiceovers versus acting and being on a set for God knows how long. Now that I’ve been able to solidify and get grounded in music, I’m like, “Now I can come back in,” because I started to become successful very young and very fast after like seven TV shows, and then I started to get so taken away from music that it made me kind of resent it a little bit until now.
Yeah, now you have the groundwork in music where you can go for it.
Yeah, definitely. Now I’m excited to act again, I never wanted to hate it. So I’m like, “You know what, let’s come back. Let’s come back when we follow our heart a little bit.”
As far as future projects, I know you’re writing the song for the new Dior campaign.
Yeah, I did the Dior campaign, which was the reason I was in Paris—it was so cool! I went out there during Fashion Week and it was super fun. A lot of these lines, they see me as something fun because I usually wear quirky and cool colors, and I love to redefine gender and genre and all of those things. So, Dior was pretty cool because they always have something—they’re always reinventing themselves, which I love. So I was super happy to be a part of that project and they were like, “Yo, would you just write something, what does this make you feel?” They told me the title and they told me everything else and I was just like, “Okay, let’s see what’s up,” and they ended up loving it.
Are you into fashion?
I love it. I love clothes—literally I had like seven pairs of shoes for three days. [Laughs] It’s like, but what if I get inspired? I have such a girl’s car, I’m like, “Okay I’ve got an outfit change just in case.” It’s just clothes and shoes. I guess everything I do is going back to what’s going to inspire me to write something cool. This whole project is literally you getting to know me in the realest way, because I don’t really talk about my feelings a lot. I’m probably the most outgoing introvert ever. It’s super fun so be able to—you know who I hanging with, you know where I hanging, you know what cities I’m in, you know where I hung in those cities, when you’re listening to this project. It’s just super fun to be able to be free and let people know who I am.
Yeah, it’s not just about your feelings and heartbreak, it’s about you as a person.
Exactly! It’s me as a person, along the way. You know, yeah, sometimes I got my feelings hurt along the project. And that’ll allow the songs like “Mama Ain’t Raise No Bitch” to happen, which is one of my favorites because—usually I write a lot of female anthems for other people, right? I was like, “I don’t want to write just some female anthems” unless its something that really comes out naturally, and right after I got my feelings hurt, I was like, “I need to write something to pull me out of this.”
Well I guess my last question is, what else is in store? What’s in the pipeline for you this year?
Right now we are about to start performing, which is gonna be really exciting, getting back into acting a bit. So you’ll get to see that starting over the next few months. Also, a whole new album, top of the year. My actual first album. So now we’ll be able to live with TAYLAMADE the mixtape all throughout the rest of the year, and just—I like to let the fans decide where we go next. Let’s just get into a room and see what people gravitate towards, and just keep running with it and write exactly who I am over the next few months.
Just play it by ear.
Just play it by ear, exactly.
Images courtesy of Tayla Parx
Stay tuned to MILK.XYZ for the latest on our favorite artists.