Most of us were introduced to Tayla Parx in the film Hairspray (2007), when her character “Little Inez Stubbs” sang and danced her way into our hearts. The Dallas singer is now all grown up and her music reflects her maturity. Her album We Need to Talk is an infusion of R&B, hip hop and pop orchestrated in color. She intricately blends her Tayla-Made sound with lyrics that brilliantly balance raw with relatable. In her single “Dance Alone”, she shows a side of herself that is visibly more vulnerable and audibly anew. She displays the diversity of her music skills by incorporating a fresh funk with the vibrant sound she’s cultivated at only 26 years old.
Along with writing her own songs, she has written for other artists such as Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Fifth Harmony, Panic! At the Disco, The Internet, BTS, Normani, Khalid, and more. Her robust resume doesn’t end there. She’s appeared in television shows like True Jackson VP, Everybody Hates Chris, Victorious, and Gilmore Girls. Oh, and she does voice-acting. Even with her accomplishments, Tayla serenades us into a new era of her sound as if to say, “This is barely the beginning.”
Let’s just say sis has a long LinkedIn page.
From our Fall 2020 Quarterly cover feature, FRONTRUNNER spoke with Parx about her new project Coping Mechanisms, music being her therapy, performing on her couch due to the COVID-19 quarantine, and how she’s achieved so much at such a young age.
Your style is so cute and quirky. When did you find your style and sound? How do you see these two things working together?
I definitely found my sound with the Tayla Made mixtape. It was my first opportunity to really just say “Look I’m just gonna upload this music to Spotify and see where it goes.” Because I had the freedom to say, “Well okay, it’s not like I’m going to lose anything.” I had that freedom mentally. Following that, finding my sound helped me find my look. I can be quirky and sometimes street and sometimes pop and all these different infusions of things but how do I match that visually? So my music was a big part of me finding my look.
I noticed you have a new look and it shows on the Dance Alone cover. Could this new look represent a new Tayla Parx era? Is there something fans can expect?
Yes, we definitely can expect that with this new look and new music. On the We Need to Talk album, you heard me get my heart broken. With this new project, Coping Mechanisms, you’re going to hear me build myself back up again. In order to do that you have to start at square one. I’ve never worn my natural hair before ever in my life. This is something that was very scary. It was like going back to the basics. I literally had a little burial to my wigs. I was like “Bye bye ladies!” This is the new hair and phase for Coping Mechanism, for sure.
Coping Mechanism is the album title and the era title. It’s the title of the new album which you’ll hear why. We’re all dealing with different ways that we cope and being able to identify them. I think we all don’t realize that coping mechanisms kind of kicks in once your defense mechanism fails. We all have them but I wanted to dive deeper into what specifically mine are so I could tweak it, work on it and find healthy ways to get through heartbreak.
You’ve been uplifting your fans during quarantine with Couchella AKA Couched with Tayla Parx, which is where you sing acoustic covers of your songs. Can you tell me more about why you think doing this is important during a time like this?
I think it’s really nice to look at your screen and see someone doing basically the same thing that you’re doing, sitting on a couch. We started it in 2018 and it was interesting because people weren’t really doing couch series. But there was something very human about performing your songs from your couch and doing it in a new arrangement that your fans haven’t heard before and doing it in a vulnerable state, which in your home should be the most vulnerable that you are. For me to give a different emotion because I’m so comfortable, I noticed my fans enjoyed that because I naturally sang it differently because I’m chilling at home. I’m a lot more free in my couch episodes.
Do you ever find yourself writing poems or expressing yourself through other art forms?
I was in a poetry class when I was younger. It’s so weird that I even remember this but I remember we did this exercise where we were writing poems. I was still in Texas so I was like seven years old. It was a poem called “A Mother’s Love.” I feel like me being able to express those feelings starting at a very young age allowed it to transform into a song. Most of the time when I’m writing, it’s either a line of something depending on if I’m going to write a rap or song or which artist I’m going to be writing for. It’s more so songs nowadays but I definitely remember in the beginning that it was poems because I didn’t necessarily know how to form a song. It was a lot easier for me to write a poem than a song at the time.
As a songwriter, what differences do you see writing for yourself versus for others?
The thing that makes me excited about writing for other people is the challenge of getting yourself out of your own preconceived experiences. It’s really hard to get into the head of someone else. You can say the same things millions of people say and feel everyday but saying it this specific way, it’s like playing darts and trying to get the bullseye. It’s a fun game for me to be able to say I understand somebody else and that’s what songwriting is. It’s tough to put the mirror up to yourself and ask where are we? Where did we come from? What are we trying to do? And to get that real with yourself. It’s a whole nother level of being self aware especially when you’re so involved in everybody else’s emotions all the time. I think my albums were my therapy the same that I’m everybody else’s therapist.
Has there been an unorthodox place or time in your life where you wrote a song? If so, how did it turn out?
It’s so funny because I started to collect a bunch of real sounds that I thought could work in songs. I did an interview last year and they asked me to scrape this toothbrush along a cactus and that was different. I was like “I like the way that this cactus sounds.” I chopped it up and made it into a sound. I’ve been experiencing a lot of how I can take these different things that I hear throughout the world since everything has a tone and rhythm sometimes. It’s just basically becoming a kid again. I used to be a big fan of turning bed squeaks into beats. It doesn’t have to be sexual but it was something that was cool and it made listeners be like “Did they put? Hmm.” Now I’m hearing it in pop music today. I want to explore diving into those different sounds because music is everywhere for me.
I feel like “Slow Dancing” and “Tomboys Have Feelings Too” have similar themes correlating to feminine and masculine vibes coexisting together. Can you tell more about that?
First of all, I’m from Texas and we can be very old-school in the way that we think. You can either be this way or that way and that’s it. People are that way with sexuality, too. I’ve always been in between. When I was younger, I grew up with a bunch of boys and I became very competitive in things that boys do.
Then I realized I liked the color pink. The older I got, I started to find the woman inside of me versus the little tomboy and I had to be okay with that. The thing you’ve identified with your entire life is transforming. “Slow Dancing” was that and saying I like slow dancing and romance and things like that. It’s things I didn’t like in the beginning and had to accept and be okay with instead of saying “I’m a tomboy and that’s all I am.” Same thing with “Tomboys Have Feelings Too.” They are the songs that kind of work together to explain the different sides of me that I was exploring.
With so many great artists and art coming from Texas, how do you see your hometown inspiring you?
When I moved from Texas to L.A., I always had some type of rhythm and I think it’s because we’re surrounded by incredible musicians and a lot of different kinds of music. Whether you’re thinking of Erykah Badu or Beyoncé, they all have very different sounds but they’re all Texans. I think the access to all these different kinds of music is something that I brought to pop music and rock music with Panic at the Disco’s! “High Hopes”. Those are the things I’m bringing to numerous different worlds that I’m in. I think that’s how we evolve music. Texas was a massive part of my ability to combine all of these different sounds to make something fresh. I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to be new under the sun but I definitely think there are ways to keep it fresh.
On “What Do You Know”, you sing “What you know about another 30 Under 30? Know I did it quick, I wasn’t even in a hurry.” Can you tell us how you were able to accomplish so much at such a young age?
It starts with believing that you can. There’s been a lot of stories of people moving to LA and not making it. There’s more stories of them not making it than when they do. That fear can’t stop you from attempting. That’s something that we as humans get very nervous about because what makes me the special one that actually does make it? That simple belief of thinking I can do anything is what allowed me to do the things I’ve been able to do and it changes all the time. There are a lot more people who will tell me that “I can’t” than [will] tell me that I can. At that point, we have to use it as drive but it all starts with the belief that you can.