South Carolina native Pam Taylor is gearing up to release her new album Steal Your Heart this Fall and in anticipation of the new album, Taylor releases the official music video for “Squeeze Me.”
In 2012, Taylor scored on the Roots Music and Blues charts and played to sold out music halls her debut album Hot Mess with the Pam Taylor Band. Hot Mess hit #1 on Roots Music Report, #3 on Sirium XM BB Kings Bluesville, and #25 on the Living Blues Charts. She later formed the duo Stolen Hearts with partner Robert Johnson and released Dirty Southern Soul in late 2015. Since that time, Taylor has encountered the breakup of her band, health problems, and relationship issues, but has used the writing of her new music as her healing process. She has documented this journey in her upcoming third album, Steal Your Heart, set to release on September 22, 2017.
Taylor has also opened for or shared the stage with the likes of Cowboy Mouth, Shooter Jennings, John Primer, Los Lobos, Debbie Davies, and Kofi Burbridge (of Tedeschi Trucks Band), to name a few.
Pam Taylor awards: Taylor garnered numerous accolades over the past several years. She won the Queen City Music Award for Best Female Rock Artist three years in a row (2013-15), and won the 2012 Charlotte Music Awards for “”Best Female Rock Band” and “Best Blues Band.” She also won the 2014 Carolina Music Awards for Best Female Rock Artist. Taylor was also voted Creative Loafing Magazine Readers’ pick for “Best Local Songwriter” and was the cover feature artist for a special Women in Blues Edition of Blues E News Magazine in April 2013.
According to Taylor, today she feels that she has found herself stronger and more confident in herself and her music than ever.
A message from Pam:
In case nobody’s told you today, I love you and you’re beautiful. These are words we all need to hear and share with others every day. Let’s build each other up and spread the thread! ~Pam Taylor
We learned a little more about Pam and the insight on her upcoming album, her background in music, her FIRST guitar, current guitar gear, advice for aspiring artists, and where to pre-order her new music.
Songwriting is my therapy.
You have a new album titled Steal Your Heart set to release in September which has been described as a documentary of your journey overcoming health issues and a broken heart. Tell us about that journey.
It’s been more like a roller coaster and I’ve been holding on for dear life, but I’m finally letting go and enjoying the ride. The emotional journey of this record actually began in 2013 when I fell in love, my band broke up, I lost my job of 15 years, then suffered from a ruptured disc in my neck which caused my left arm to be completely paralyzed. It was the most change I believe I’ve ever experienced in my life and this record is full of songs that were written to help me get through it all. Songwriting is my therapy.
“Already Alright” was written to remind myself of just that. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together. It’s hard to see it when you’re in it, but that’s where faith comes in. “Ordinary” was written about my experience with the ruptured disc in my neck. I was unable to play guitar, perform, or even dress myself. I was spending my life on the couch, in excruciating pain. The doctors said I’d never play guitar again so I had to cancel my tours and put my whole life on hold. I felt pretty ordinary after building this fascinating life and this was my way out of that dark abyss. Obviously, the doctors were wrong and I’m grateful I trusted my gut and didn’t believe them.
I suffered from deep depression and anxiety in the face of all this change and out of that, “Mountain” was written. Nobody knows what goes on underneath the surface, much like mountains. We only see the end result, the magnificent pinnacle. The harsh environments below, in the darkness, is the foundation for the beauty that they show the world. but it’s only when you truly know the mountain, that you can respect and admire what it went through to get where it is, on top of the world!
“Make You Mine,” “Squeeze Me” and “Tangled Up” are all songs celebrating the new love I had found. The broken heart came when I was actually recording these songs, so all that raw emotion was put into the recording process. It must be a great catalyst because I was angry at a man while I was recording my first record Hot Mess and it did pretty good, too.
The next record will house the heartbreak songs, but not the tear in my beer kind. I write myself out of difficult situations so they become my anthem and every time I sing them, it brings me closer and closer to healing. All of my songs are like that. I write about real life issues in a way that is personal to me, but at the same time, Universal (one-song). It became apparent to me when I was recording these songs. Even though I wrote them about different situations, they seem to fit my current situation perfectly. Once again, they became my anthems, but for different reasons- helping me to ‘steal my own heart.’
The album consists of 11 heartfelt songs showcasing your songwriting and guitar skills. How long was the writing process for this project and did you start with the lyrics first, or the music?
I have a drawer full of songs from the past four years and it was difficult picking just 11 from them to document this time in my life. Each song was created differently. With some, the music came first; while others, the lyrics came first. I truly believe that the songs are writing me. Most of my songs come while I’m meditating. Lyrics and melodies will start to pour in when I’m in that state and I’ll have to jump up and get to my guitar so I don’t lose it. I know it’s divine. I am just a channel- I just have to be tuned in.
When your ugly truth can help others feel better about themselves, it then becomes universal healing.
Did your new work aide in the healing process?
Absolutely! All of it aides in the healing process. In AA, I learned that I am only as sick as my secrets. Writing honestly about overcoming the darkness and bringing light to the things that you’d probably never want anyone to know, much less the whole world, is how healing begins, it is very cathartic; it freed me from the self-loathing. When your ugly truth can help others feel better about themselves, it then becomes universal healing.
Every space between the note tells the story.
You played guitar on the entire album?
Yes! I am playing all the guitar parts, even mandolin and ukulele. It was important to me to be able to express myself through my instrument so that I could translate my emotion into music. I believe it allows the listener to connect on an even deeper level to what I was feeling when it was created. It’s like listening to someone’s soul sing. Every space between the note tells the story.
What was the recording process and gear used on this album?
This particular process was all new to me. Since I didn’t have a band, I would have to build it from scratch. I brought in world-renowned percussionist Jim Brock to help me create the beat…the heartbeat. I recorded drum tracks at Old House Studios in Charlotte, NC with Chris Garges. He has the hottest drum room in Charlotte and he’s a drummer himself, so I knew he would make them pop. Then I took the rhythm tracks to my friend Tim McGuire’s home studio, Soul Breeze in Waxhaw, NC, to create the organ/keys and violin parts. It took a lot of time to build the sound, so it was an economical solution for me.
For my vocals, guitars and all the finishing touches, I went to Joe Miller at Sounds Like Joe in Rock Hill, SC. I’d recorded vocals with him before so I knew I’d be most comfortable working with him. I then took the final tracks to Mark Williams at the Vault, Charlotte’s newest state of the art mixing room at the Playroom. Mark really brought my record to life. The last process before sending it off to be printed is mastering. I always use Dave Harris at Studio B. All that made for the magical combination that would become Steal Your Heart.
I used several guitars on this record – my James Burton Tele, my Grace Potter Flying V, and for most of the guitar work, I used my Taylor T5Z. I had the most fun experimenting with the different effects and layering the guitar parts. I wasn’t concerned with trying to make sure I could recreate this sound live so that allowed my imagination to soar. “It Ain’t Right” and “Witch’s Ball” were probably the most fun, guitar-wise. We used a reverse delay effect on “Witches Ball” and it’ll make your hair stand on end.
All in all, I think Steal Your Heart is a great representation of all the hard work I put into becoming a better guitar player than I was on Hot Mess. I was only playing rhythm then, but I had one short guitar solo on the song “Hot Mess.”
Fear, anger and division is rampant and my music has a mission to heal, to create unity and promote love and peace.
In your Indiegogo campaign you said that “Fear, anger and division is rampant and my music has a mission to heal, to create unity and promote love and peace.” This is so much needed today and music can really make a difference in someone’s life, especially with so much cyber bullying in today’s environment. What is the best piece of advice you would like to share to someone struggling with adversity?
Our minds are like a magnifying glass in that whatever we focus on, we bring to us. So, it’s important to stay focused on the things we want instead of the things we don’t want, or the way things are. Our vibration is what we offer to the world and if you’re angry, afraid, or depressed, that’s what you’re offering so that’s what you’ll get back. Nobody is a victim of anything except our own minds. If everyone kept up with making sure they were vibrating high with emotions like love, gratitude and peace, we could affect real change in this vibration based world.
If you see something that makes you angry, look away and the last thing we should do is share it on social media. Some think it makes you ignorant to not be all up in the air about what’s going on, but it only spreads more anger and hate, which in my experience, is true ignorance. The outside world is so focused right now with politics, war and terrorism, but I know that there is more love, peace and hope out. We just need to focus on that instead. If we stop pointing out all the things we hate, there will be less things we hate to point out. I know this from experience. Be the light, give the love and share the music cause it’s all already alright!
…my first guitar was an acoustic Washburn from my grandfather’s collection, which I still have and play to this day!
You come from a family with a musical background, and you actually started your musical journey on piano. Share with our readers a little about your background and how you transitioned to the guitar.
I was raised in a Pentecostal Holiness church and music was a huge part of my life as a child between church, and my father playing the sax, my grandfather playing guitar, I was heavily influenced by music, period. After church one Sunday, I climbed up on the piano bench while my mother was chatting and started to play “Amazing Grace” since we sang it in church that day. My mom immediately put me in piano lessons, which immediately ruined my desire to play it. For the next seven years, I was made to learn theory and got my hands slapped for being “lazy” and, of course, I was turned off by the whole thing so I finally gave up on it when I picked up a guitar. Oh, the freedom!
My friend Michael Montgomery showed me some chords and I was off to the races. I asked my Dad for a guitar for my 18th birthday, but he was skeptical due to my experience with piano so he told me to write him a song on this little plastic guitar we had and then he would get me guitar. So, I did…and my first guitar was an acoustic Washburn from my grandfather’s collection, which I still have and play to this day.
I took a break from playing for about six years while I focused on other things like drugs, alcohol, men, and partying. It was a dark path, but it gave me lots of great songwriting material. Luckily, I survived it and came back to electric guitar around 2007 when I was introduced to the blues. I really connected to the pain that the blues represented. The blues is the roots and the rest is the fruits. I haven’t looked back since.
Actually, I think all guitars are sexy instruments. They are the perfect representation of the female and male form.
Can you give us a rundown of your current guitar gear?
My go-to has been the Taylor T5Z. It is a versatile guitar that can sound like an acoustic or an electric. The Z model is built with electric players in mind so the neck is smaller than the T5, plus it only weighs in at 5 lbs, so it’s easy on my neck/back. I also play an American Fender Strat Deluxe named Cherry MacGuire, since she had me at hello. It was all about the looks on this one, but she plays like a dream, too.
I also have a Gibson, Grace Potter Flying V, which I play on my music video “Squeeze Me.” It’s a sexy guitar, just like the video. For my twangy country licks, I’ll play my James Burton edition Fender Tele. It’s pretty sexy, too, with its gold inlay paisleys. Actually, I think all guitars are sexy instruments. They are the perfect representation of the female and male form.
On my pedal board, I have a mini Tube Screamer, Cry Baby Mini Wah, BOSS Tremelo, Wampler boost, and the Digitech Obscura delay pedal. I play though a Fender Junior III with the fat switch. It packs a big punch. For solo shows, I play through my Fishman Loudbox. It really brings out the acoustic sound in the Taylor. I also use Snark tuners because they have the option to change the pitch to 432hz, which is an alternate tuning based on the idea that it is more harmonious than 440hz (standard tuning). I like to believe that it’s all about intention, but every little thing helps! Plus, I’ve found singing to this pitch is easier on my voice.
Having had the opportunity to take lessons from legendary blues guitarist Debbie Davies, what is one of the most important things you learned from her that you would share with guitarists that want to learn the “blues”?
Debbie is an extraordinary teacher and I feel blessed to have had her in my life at that time. She taught me so many valuable things like vibrato, bending strings, blues licks, and learning the patterns, but the most important thing she taught me was to be patient and kind to myself because I can be my own worst enemy. It was easy to get in my head about not being able to get a lick just right. It would make me feel inadequate, but she was so very gentle and would remind me that it was normal for my fingers to not get it right the first time, or the 100th time even. Once I relaxed and stopped being hard on myself, things started to speed up. For aspiring blues players, starting here is the fundamental foundation of almost every other style of playing, but in my opinion, you gotta live the blues to really play it.
Find your niche and
build a fan base.
Also, what is the most important piece of advice you would give aspiring artists about the music industry today?
That’s easy! Follow your heart, not the music industry. It’s still trying to keep up and it’s a dying industry due to the rising technology that puts the creation, production and distribution more in the hands of the artist than ever before. Focus on making music that has purpose, not keeping up with trends, because it’s just that, a trend. Find your niche and build a fan base. There are enough fans out there to support your music, you just got to make sure it stands out. But overall, don’t quit until the miracle happens, no matter how long it takes. If you move confidently in the direction of your dreams, you will amaze yourself and others along the way. Inspiring others will always be the catalyst for success. It’s a win-win.
I see you’re touring locally in South Carolina before heading to the UK in August. What can fans expect and where they can find out more about your upcoming tour?
Mainly I’ve been focusing on my solo sound because that’s how I’ll be touring overseas, but I have put together some amazing musicians to help elevate my shows and we have several of those planned before I leave to give Frans (friends + fans) a taste of what’s to come when I return to the US. I take you on a musical journey through my life that will make you laugh, cry, smile, dance, and hopefully inspire you to take what you heard and use it in your daily life or share with others. That is what it’s all about for me. Music is a common thread among us all and has been used for centuries for healing and connection. I just want to “Spread the Thread” in hopes that it will heal others like it has me.
You can find out more about me and my upcoming tour on my website at pamtaylormusic.com.
I also have many social media outlets: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook. Just Google me!