Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Melanie Taylor recently released the music video for "Adderall," a song about breaking free from self-destruction.
With a sound merging indie-pop and retro flavors from the '90s, Taylor's music evokes emotional vulnerability, as well as raw authenticity. It's the kind of music that touches and alleviates inner bruises. In an effort to understand the source of Taylor's musical frankness, Popdust talked with the singer-songwriter.
How would you describe yourself?
As an artist, I would say I'm indie-pop with a soulful rock edge a la the '90s. That's what I grew up listening to. As a person, I guess I'm kind of a mix between the hippie stargazer meditating with crystals and a city girl that likes to be surrounded by people.
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten into?
Wow! You guys get personal. I'm from San Diego originally, and when I was still in college, my friends and I were all home for Thanksgiving and went into Tijuana for the night (unbeknownst to our parents). One of our friends had two of his college friends staying with him for the holiday because they were international students, and they forgot their passports. So going into Mexico wasn't a problem, but coming back was, let's just say, more of an issue. There may have been some running from the Mexican police involved, and somehow we convinced border patrol to let us back in…but it was a sticky situation to say the least!
What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
Oh, tough one. I recently sang "Shout" at someone's wedding, and I've pretty much been obsessed with singing it ever since.
Who is your favorite music artist?
Duh, Michael Jackson!
How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?
I actually was in LA more to pursue acting at a really young age, and there is a site called LA Casting where actors can submit themselves directly for projects without an agent, or in addition to their agents to get more auditions. I answered a casting call that looked interesting where a production team was looking for artists to promote in Europe, and would pay for a single as well as a music video. My story turned out a lot different, but that production team ended up being the people who brought you "Friday" by Rebecca Black! So needless to say I didn't stay with them, but they did actually help me get my start after giving me a really great music video and a song to start reaching out to other producers with. It was just a process of meeting the right people after that, and realizing that my heart was really more in music than acting, although I still do both.
What musicians influenced you the most?
I was a huge Alanis Morissette fan, and I think you can hear a lot of her influence in my more recent music. I also just grew up idolizing the kinds of singers who could really belt - Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion.
You recently released "Adderall." What's the story behind the song?
It honestly came out of a really bad fight I was having at the time with someone close to me. I wrote the verses and the pre-chorus all in a span of, like, 10 minutes, when I was just trying to process my emotions and was crying the whole time through it; it was cathartic for me. I brought the song to my co-writer (R8DIO) and he was like, "what if we made this song a metaphor [about] taking Adderall" and I was like, "that's kind of bold, but also kind of perfect," and that's how we got the chorus. In a broader sense though, I wanted to express that when you hold onto emotions and don't deal with them, you can end up hurting the people closest to you.
Your sound merges elements of electro-pop with '90s retro. What is your song-writing process?
It has actually changed with my newer releases. I used to want to get a lot of the music done first before I top-lined, but I've found that to be more limiting than the other way around. Now I tend to write out what I'm feeling and get a lot of lyrics down with the melody I have for it in my head and make the music fit around that. I just think it's an easier process to make the music work with what the concept is saying than trying to make words fit into a box they don't want to be in.
There's a charming vulnerability to your music. Is that deliberate or just happenstance?
It's deliberate. I like to share my experiences with the world in the hopes that other people relate, and it might help them in some way to know another person is feeling the same way. That's what music has always done for me, and I just want to return the favor.
Most artists like to believe their music is evolving. Is yours? If so, is it becoming more electro-pop-flavored or heading in another direction?
Good question! I feel like I'm still figuring it out too. Of course it's always evolving, but it kind of oscillates between more electro-pop and more musicianship without all the bells and whistles. But I love what you can do with technology now, so it's hard for me not to add all the cool production elements that are possible.
The music video for "Adderall" delivers raw, taut energy. Who conceived of the video's visual concept?
Thank you! I knew I wanted dancers to express the song, so I called a long-time friend and choreographer / artistic director, G Madison IV. He has worked with everyone and is on tour with Mariah Carey right now. So, needless to say, he's exceptionally talented. He took the idea of dance and elevated it to the idea of me walking into an empty theater where two dancers would be rehearsing and acting out the story of my life. He also really encouraged me to be vulnerable visually, which I originally wasn't going to do, but I'm really glad I went there.
What's next for you musically? An EP?
I plan on continuing to release a few more singles I've got up my sleeve first, and [I'm] actually working on the acoustic version of "Adderall" right now as well, which will be out soon. That's really where the song started, so I thought there should be a version of how it was originally written put out there as well.
Will you be doing any touring?
Yes, and also hope to recreate the tour I just did in Australia this past summer for next year! So stay tuned!