She's a Central New Yorker who's taken on the world of Country Music. Her debut CD, "Unbreakable", was released in 2007. Next up was "Taylor Made Hits" in 2008. Her first original Country CD, "Magic", was released on April 1st, 2013. Her name is Doreen Taylor and we spoke with her about her life in music.
Q - Doreen, what's a nice girl like you doing in a business like this? The music business is a really tough business.
A - It is. It is tough. I think that's one of the reasons I chose to be an independent artist instead of signing with a label. I've had offers many times to sign with a major and it was always I would sit in front of them and they'd say, "You're perfect, now change." Like that old joke, "I love everything about you, now let's change everything about you." It was just too much of me sacrificing my identity, my sound. Being classically trained, I don't necessarily sound that way anymore, but I do have to give props to my background. I do have to pay homage to that and to respect that. I can't dumb-down my music for anyone. I really don't want to water it down for mass appeal. I would rather sell less albums and know that I did it the way that was true to my heart rather than doing it because it just fit a quota or a formula. I believe music is art and art should not ever be edited for any reason what-so-ever.
Q - You are the second singer I've interviewed recently who went the independent route because major labels today want your publishing and merchandising rights. By the time everyone takes out their percentage, you're lucky to realize 10%.
A - That's true. For me, being a songwriter, performing I'll always love, that's in my heart. But songwriting, when you're creating something and they want to take it away from you, that's very, very hard for me. I'm not twenty years old anymore. I'm not just breaking into the business. I've had a career. To come into it at this point where I've already been doing it on my own and have someone else come in and micro-manage everything, it's tough. It would be very tough for me. I stuck to my guns. I'm doing it this way and I really believe it's paying off with everything that's going on now, these things that are happening are happening because I believe I'm an independent artist. I would never have had the opportunity to do the songs for the Parks or all those things we're going to talk about. I would never have had any of those if I were probably with the red tape on the label and all those things. I love the way my life is right now. It's amazing.
Q - It's interesting you should mention the Parks. I of course do research on the person I'm interviewing before every interview. According to Wikipedia, in early 2104 you were "honorably selected to write and perform a national tribute, 'Colors Of The U.S.A.' to benefit the National Parks Conservation Association."
A - (laughs) Well, I look out for the future. I can almost plan my future that far in advance. (laughs)
Q - How time flies! It seems like just yesterday it was 2014. And I have to say, Doreen, for a woman of 120, you look pretty good! What's your secret?
A - (laughs) Where are my endorsement deals for like the skin care products? (laughs)
Q - You better run with this! You could get a better deal than Taylor Swift or Rhianna or Britney Spears.
A - I think I wrote my own ticket. I gotta love the computer where people write things about you. (laughs) That's funny.
Q - You've got a Masters Degree in Opera Performance. I actually think you've got too much education to do what you're doing. Were you thinking of becoming a teacher?
A - To be an Opera singer, to really do it and be a touring Opera singer doing companies, and I actually had done that for awhile when I first started out, you do need a Masters in Opera. Technically, in the music industry when you go on to higher education, you do it to learn about music of course. When someone talks about music with me I actually can talk about music. I know what I'm talking about. I know how to read sheet music. I know music theory, ear training, sight training. I've been very, very trained. I consider myself a legitimate musician. A lot of singers out there unfortunately today don't have that kind of education. They go in and they just sing, where me, I consider myself a musician. I actually know music. I do play several instruments, so that also blends to that as well. When you are in Opera, you have to have training like that. I am, I would say, proficient. I don't want to say I'm fluent anymore. I'm definitely fluent in French, proficient in Italian and German as well. Those are things that you just have to keep doing. There's things like IPA, International Phonetic Alphabet. Things that no one ever studies. These are classes that a serious Opera singer will take because you need to sing in any language and it's unfortunate we can't learn them all. So, there's ways we can get around it so that we can sing in Portuguese or we can sing in Russian and maybe not have a hundred per cent understanding of the language. Going the path that I was, Masters, some of 'em are getting their Doctorate degree. They would have been the teachers and the ones going after their Ph.D. For me, a Masters was normal. It was very specialized. My undergraduate degree was more voice performance and more of a general education, whereas when I went on for my graduate studies, it was a very specialized form so I could really, really start branching out to Opera and to all kinds of music honestly. At that point, I started understanding that I was really going to have a nice career in music theatre as well, which was obviously similar but very different.
Q - Why did you settle on Country music?
A - When I grew up I loved mainstream music. I grew up in Alden, New York. It's a farm town. That kind of music was popular then. It's popular today. I think it was popular probably forty years ago. It's a kind of community where that kind of music thrives and of course heavier Rock 'n' Roll as well and I like that as well. I like all kinds of music. I really do. I think when I was young I had the most eclectic play list of anyone that I know of ever had. I could find beauty in almost any kind of music. I liked Country, but I didn't like per se the old school Country. I love where Country is kind of going today. I love the fact that it's infusing a lot of different dials and it's embracing a lot of different paths. I enjoy that 'cause that's exactly who I am. I'm very hard with putting people in a box and saying, "Okay, your are Rock 'n' Roll. That's all you do. And you are Country. That's all you do." I don't believe any kind of music is one genre. You're always pulling and extrapolating other styles and genres if you're going to be successful. It's too boring to be one kind of thing, flat all the time. You've got to keep infusing it. There's one song I do that has Country Funk in it. I combine like the best of what Prince would do, combining the beat of what a Country artist would do. I fused them together to make this very unusual Country Funk kind of sound and that's what's innovative. That's what I enjoy in Country right now because it's really changing. It's evolving and fitting with the times. Country was a very logical step with me. I just never thought I could do it when I was younger. I didn't have the mainstream looks for it and I didn't have the mainstream sound 'cause I was being trained classically. So, I said I can't be a mainstream artist and then throughout my time I said "No, I can't accept it. I want this." So, I started re-training my voice after all these years of Classical training and getting out into the work field doing a one woman show in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and all these places, up and down the East Coast, whereas I was doing this one woman show singing mainstream music, doing a cover show where I would do Rock, Pop, Disco, Jazz, Top 40. Everything. What a way to really break me in a good way and bad way because my style started to change. My style started to change into a mainstream sound and it also toughened me up as an artist. After you do a show like that, there is really nothing much I can't do at this point. By all rights, my voice should have been blown out by doing that, but I did it the right way because of my Opera training. So, I learned this way to combine my classical training to make a mainstream sound and I can do it and I can sing show after show after show. Powerful, powerhouse shows and not hurt my instrument, which is the best of all worlds.
Q - You like Patsy Cline, don't you?
A - I do. I actually would sing some of her stuff in my cover show. That's how I knew Country also and probably the route for me to go. I would sing all those songs and do all of these different genres, Beyonce, old and new, I would do. All of a sudden I'd break out into a Country song and everyone would stop. Those were the songs that people would stop and take notice and realize there was something really different about the way I sounded or the way those songs came across. Even I had to start saying I think this is the way I should be going because I feel they just come natural to me. I feel like that style is inside me. Even when I write my music, I feel like my music really lends itself to the Country style because most of the music out there right now, let's face it, in Pop, Hip Hop, they are looping a beat. When they say they are writing music, it's a touchy subject for me because I consider writing music the old school of writing music where music used to be music, not just producing a beat in a basement. I don't want to get in trouble for saying that, but it's a hard thing. They will consider DJs 'live' music. I'm like that's not really 'live' music. (Laughs). It's ridiculous. I understand what they do. They put on a good show because they have to. They don't have musicians standing up there. They are not using their charisma and showmanship to sell a show. They are sitting there behind a desk pretty much doing what ever they are doing. If they are old school, they are spinning. If not, then they are just pressing a button. (Laughs) They have to rely on special effects, lighting, psychedelic things going on in the background. But it's a good light show I have to admit usually. But as for creation of music and where I'm being moved, no. I can't say that musically it's moving me. That's my personal opinion.
Q - You have your own record label?
A - Yes. I'm woman-based. I'm proud of that. 100%. It really is my own label. I'm my only artist, which is great, you know? (Laughs)
Q - Running your own label must be a lot of work on top of your song writing and performing.
A - I have a very good team. It's a small team because at this stage it's easier to manage. I'm very hands-on and I love being part of that. I'm also a businesswoman as well. To be able to get out there and contribute a lot of the promotion... I have a very strong Internet presence. A lot of that is because of me. I have a very strong marketing background. For some reason I seem to excel in marketing. A lot of that you see is me. Then I have a wonderful production manager who does so much more than production managing and I have a great business manager who handles the accounting and a lot of the financial aspects. He is amazing. He is just incredible. Then my PR firm. We have the right pieces of the puzzle and we are just, as time goes on, adding people into our little army. It's very nice because it's homegrown. It's a very exciting time because we are starting from Ground Zero almost. I've had a career. I've been successful, but this portion of it is really starting from scratch, with the release of my "Magic" album not even two years ago and the success we've had with that in those two years has been off the charts. It's exciting because we are evolving every day. People say, "What are you going to do tomorrow?" or "What are you going to do next week?" I honestly say, "I don't know." Every day my phone rings with something exciting, something new. Some coal is in the fire somewhere and we are working together to get to this place. It's so exciting.