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March 26, 2022

Interview with TAYLOR ALXNDR

We had the pleasure of interviewing TAYLOR ALXNDR over Zoom video!

TAYLOR ALXNDR (they/she) is a DIY musician, drag performer, and community organizer based in Atlanta, GA. Raised in the rural edges of the metro area, ALXNDR has been creating in...

We had the pleasure of interviewing TAYLOR ALXNDR over Zoom video!

TAYLOR ALXNDR (they/she) is a DIY musician, drag performer, and community organizer based in Atlanta, GA. Raised in the rural edges of the metro area, ALXNDR has been creating in and captivating Atlanta and beyond since 2011.

ALXNDR is the co-founder and current executive director of Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP), an Atlanta-based non-profit organization empowering Black queer and QTPOC centered communities in the South through the arts. They are also the mother of the House of ALXNDR, an Atlanta-based drag family and events hub, creating drag-centered, inclusive events.

Getting her start performing at dive bars in the local Atlanta subversive queer drag scene, ALXNDR broke through in 2017 with her debut single “Nightwork”, an ode to the underbelly of nightlife. She followed it with her debut EP, Noise, later that year.

In 2018, ALXNDR released her debut album Hologram. An observation of social media, technology, and communication set to dance-floor ready synth-pop with 80s flourishes, Hologram received critical acclaim and was listed as one of the top 10 albums to come from Atlanta in 2018 (#10).

Writing, producing, and creative directing all of her music and content, ALXNDR’s DIY approach to her craft is born out of a need for honesty and an appreciation of the art form. ALXNDR’s live shows are a mixture of her interactive and improvisational background in drag, interest in video projection, and a foundational belief that music can make you think and dance. This has led her to perform with Charli XCX, King Princess, Mr Twin Sister, Sateen, & more.

TAYLOR’s work has bee featured in Vice, Forbes, Out Magazine, Vogue, them., and more. Bandcamp called them an “underground drag icon”. They were voted as Atlanta’s Best Drag Queen & Best LGBTQ Performer in 2019.

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4 (1m 27s): What is going on. It is Adam. Welcome back to bringing it backwards. A podcast where both legendary and rising artists tell their own personal stories of how they achieved stardom. On this episode, we had a chance to chat with Taylor Alexander over zoom video. Taylor talks about being born and raised in the Atlanta Georgia area and how they got into music. Taylor comes from a musical family. A lot of early musical influences came from the church and getting to know and singing the gospel songs through high school. Taylor used to write songs about people at their school, even making cover art, everything, putting the songs up on my space. They even tell a story about one of the songs that Taylor wrote attracted attention of, of a particular person at the school. 4 (2m 16s): And this person threatened to Sue Taylor. If, if the song wasn't removed in college is when Taylor took their songwriting a lot more seriously. That's also when they got really involved in performing drag, Taylor talked to us about putting out their first EAP hologram and all about this new record, 1993, which started out as a full album COVID hits. Then Taylor's able to kind of go through the songs and ends up weeding out some which led to 1993, going from a full album to another EAP body of work. You can watch our interview with Taylor Alexander on our Facebook page and YouTube channel app, bringing it backwards. 4 (3m 1s): It would be awesome if you subscribe to our channel like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Tech-Talk at bringing back pod. And if you're listening to this on either Spotify or apple music, Google podcasts, it would be amazing if you follow us there as well, and hook us up with a five star review. 5 (3m 20s): We'd appreciate your support. If you follow and subscribe to our podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts, 4 (3m 26s): We're bringing it backwards with Taylor Alexander. Cool. So this podcast is about you, your journey and music. And we'll talk about the record you have coming out on the 11th. 6 (3m 37s): Yes. Sweet. 4 (3m 40s): So first I'll talk to me about where were you born and raised? 6 (3m 44s): So I was born and raised in a small town called Griffin, Georgia. It's about an hour south of Atlanta raised there, my entire life, same house, same area of town, but I moved to Atlanta in 2011 to go to school. 4 (3m 60s): Okay. And what about music? How did you get into music? 6 (4m 3s): Music has always been in my life. I come from like a musical family, not so much like instrumentation, but a lot of my family is in the church. And so every single occasion was gospel music, always around music. I started taking piano at seven and I didn't really start putting out music professionally if that's what you would call it until about 2015, when I like sat down and taught myself how to use like logic pro and stuff like that. 4 (4m 32s): Oh, okay. Wow. So you grew up in the church as far as you, what sang in the choir and everything within the church or? 6 (4m 39s): It's interesting because like, my family is heavily in the church, but like my immediate family, my dad and my mom and my siblings, we never really went to church. I was pretty much a heat. 4 (4m 54s): You were the heathen or your, you said your other family members would go or no? 6 (4m 59s): Yeah. It was like, my grandparents were like deacons and like heavily involved in the church. My uncles would always go, but like my immediate family would go every once in a while, but yeah, every family function was just like singing around church music. 4 (5m 15s): Okay. Very, very cool. And you said piano at seven. Did you, when did you start writing music? 6 (5m 23s): I started writing music fairly young. I remember back in like elementary school, like fourth grade. Me and my friends would always make up these imaginary bands. And this was like early like pop punk. So everything was inspired by like fall out boy and old school later versions of note out. So we would write songs that were literally just like skeleton songs of like panic at the disco, just taking the melody, but adding our own words. So that was kind of the beginning, but I've been writing music since I was like in the fourth and fifth grade. 4 (5m 60s): Really. And so with those, with those bands that you would all put together, was it all just like, you know, fun hobby stuff or when did it become something that you would present to other people? 6 (6m 14s): It was all fun and hobby. I didn't really start sharing my music with people. And so probably high school. And so around like high school, I was really inspired by like the Juno soundtrack and like the soundtrack of Nick and Nora is infinite playlist. And so I have like a old MP3 player that also could record stuff. And so I would like loop and layer my own vocals and like make terrible little songs about people in high school and then I would play it in class. And so that was kind of like my like namesake, if you will, for like the last two, three years of high school is like Taylor, the person that like goes and makes music about people on their MP3 player 4 (6m 57s): And positive songs, or 6 (7m 1s): Sometimes positive songs, always about like other people's experiences. Other people's like my friend's crushes. There was one time I made a terrible song about this girl and she tried to Sue, but 7 (7m 12s): It's time to get your checking account to zero with free checking from PenFed at zero ATM fees, zero balance requirements, and zero time spent waiting for your paycheck to direct deposit because you can receive it up to one day early, open your account with just $25 and see how big zero can be apply online today at checking early direct deposit eligibility may vary between pay periods and timing of payers, funding to receive any advertised product. You must become a member of PenFed insured by NCUA 8 (7m 42s): Finding the right person for the job. Isn't easy. Just ask someone who hired a lounge singer to be their office receptionist. 9 (7m 49s): Hello, this is Mickey Marquis and you've reached the office of Doug and associates. Thank you very much. Catch me Tuesday nights at the hotel Johnson. 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Tell me about it. I'm not going to see you. I promise 6 (8m 55s): The girl, her name was Elizabeth, but I called the song Elizabeth bitch. And the cover art looked pretty much like her and this was like, 4 (9m 6s): So you pull on me, can make a cover art for the song. Oh wow. 6 (9m 12s): Cause this was like still what? Like my space music was a thing. So I would post the tracks online. And for some reason I would get like 10,000 plays on this really terrible, like little song that I did. And she was like, I know it's about me. And I was like, I have no idea what you're talking about. Like there's four other Elizabeths in our high school. So yeah, it was a, it was an experience. 4 (9m 34s): So you make these songs, make the cover, art, everything, and put them up onto my space. And you you'd get what you had, obviously a following there, 10,000 plays on some of these songs. 6 (9m 43s): Yeah, I think the biggest one I have was like around 16,000 plays. I don't know how people found it, but I would like post something wake up the next day would have like 1,002 thousand plays. And then like a month later it would have this certain amount. And I mean, I still don't. Yeah. I don't, unfortunately I like deleted my space cause it died. But, But I kind of wish I had, like, 4 (10m 11s): I was wondering, I know what it was responding to me. 6 (10m 15s): Yeah. 4 (10m 16s): Wow. Okay. From, from the songs that you were creating in high school, then you, you said you ended up going to college in Atlanta, is that you said, 6 (10m 24s): Yeah, I came here in 2011 to go to Georgia state university. 4 (10m 28s): Are you currently, I know, are you in Atlanta now? 6 (10m 31s): I am. It's where I live. 4 (10m 33s): It's beautiful out. 6 (10m 35s): It is. It's finally spring as I say. So I'm out here enjoying the weather. 4 (10m 40s): Yeah, I'm in Nashville and it's finally nice here too. Like I went outside, it was like 70 degrees. I couldn't believe it. It's been like 30 and under Well, that's great. So, okay. What took you to school in Georgia? 6 (10m 57s): I came to Georgia state university as a psychology major. That was a mistake. And so I switched to graphic design, but my mind was never in school. I was always like out at some like music show or a drag show or doing something else. So that's kind of where my mind was at when I went to school. And eventually I realized that I didn't really need a degree for what I wanted to do. So I dropped out a few times, but officially in like 20 15, 20 16. 4 (11m 29s): Okay. And so you, you were, you just knew that that the path was not with what you were doing at, at college. When did that moment happen? Like at what point do you say? Yeah, I'm just going to give it I'm I'm doing this. And what was the exact, like how, how did you kind of justify that as far as like, were you able to make more, like, I guess my question would be like, is it something that was lucrative to you where you could like actually stop going and you're making enough money to kind of survive? Or like how, how does that work and how did that kind of affect your decision? 6 (12m 8s): I just, I think it really just clicked over when I was like probably 20 14, 15. I had moved around Atlanta a few times and I was just always focused on like producing music shows or producing drag shows and performing in drag. And eventually it just got to the point where like, I have no joy going to school. I'm not learning anything at the graphic design program. They don't teach you how to use the programs. Just like tell you what's good art and what's bad art. And all my professors were just like, yeah, I don't, you don't need a degree to do this. Like you shouldn't be here. And I was like, oh, okay. So instead of spending all these thousands of dollars every semester, I'm going to teach myself Photoshop all the programs and just do it on my own. 6 (12m 50s): So I've kind of been hustling ever since. And it's kind of just now kind of paying off, I would say. So 4 (12m 57s): When did the artist's project start, like actually writing your own music and kind of putting it out? 6 (13m 2s): I started in 2015, I had kind of produced a few events for some DIY venues in Atlanta. And I was just like, you know what, it's time I have the space to learn and teach myself how to do like logic pro, how to record properly. And so I started putting out tracks on SoundCloud and like 2015. And yeah. 4 (13m 27s): What was kind of the next stepping stone from, from the SoundCloud songs? Or would they, one of them blow up or like kinda how, how did your career progress? 6 (13m 37s): Yeah, so I started with like a few just like bedroom recordings that I put on SoundCloud, like three of them and they kind of like did okay. And then I started getting booked for like different shows around Atlanta. And then I put out a little small EAP in 2017 called noise. And I had like kind of signed to like this indie label based out of Chicago called future hood that had kind of like distribution through like red bull music. And so, 4 (14m 7s): Oh, wow. That's pretty 6 (14m 8s): Huge. It was a fat little connection, but yeah, I think my first song to really blow up the biggest would be like my work probably cause it had like a really good music video and it premiere throughout magazine. So that's probably like, that was the first song that people were just like, oh, Taylor is serious about like making music. Cause I guess a lot of people know me as like a drag performer. And so they always think that drag music is going to be like, you know, yes, girl, kitty cat come to the club and my music was just like, I'm depressed. So it was very different for them. And I think that's when they started like taking me seriously. 4 (14m 44s): Okay. Did your music style change at all from those early, early days to now? 6 (14m 50s): He has a, I was really into like, I'm still into house music, but that was like the main like sound of my music back in like 2017. And then I put out another EAP in 2018 called hologram and that was kind of more eighties new wave, but also like hyper pop influenced. And that was the first project that I like had multiple music videos for. That was a project that I did my first kind of major, like Southern tour with. And so it kind of just progressed from there. And even onto this, you know, newer project that's coming out in 1993, the sound has also shifted because all of this music is, is, you know, pretty much eighties pop like eighties mainstream pop, new wave, pop, synth pop. 6 (15m 36s): So it keeps on changing with every project. 4 (15m 39s): Well, after putting out, you said hologram was the one that you started to do more what touring in the Southern touring. And, and what was that like as far as you know, now you have this, the next EPL, like what was the jump in as far as 0 (15m 55s): Is your savings just sitting there? Well, put it to work a premium online savings account from PenFed earns way more than the national average. 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Take me to the delivery by 3 31 20 22. 13 (17m 1s): Now you can get McDonald's crispy chicken sandwich, McDonald's spicy crispy chicken sandwich and or a fish, any Tober to six bucks. Sounds really good. Doesn't it pop up prices and participation may vary a single item at regular price can not be combined with any other offer 4 (17m 26s): That gave you the ability to, I mean, you said that your video is premiered on, on that magazine, but like, it sounds like the next video or the next record that came out, you had multiple videos for it. And it was kind of more all in, in that sense too, like, like, whoa, was it just more, you know, drive and more momentum there and just playing more shows or like, how did you get to kind of the next level? 6 (17m 49s): Yeah, I will say that it was definitely playing a lot more shows I think with how night work was received and the kind of press that it got, especially locally. A lot of people started booking me at like, you know, venues that I never would've thought I would've been at before, like punk venues or like rock venues or like, you know, just kind of like exploring different areas. And I think the internet also helped with me kind of like pushing forward and doing more stuff. I would say Instagram really helped me like get my name out there regionally connected me with a lot of different people, but also just like the production value on my music and the songwriting, I would say definitely improved. 6 (18m 36s): It was definitely still like pop music, but I just learn how to produce better. You know, I would sit and research how to properly produce music and I got it professionally mixed and mastered. So everything sounded very like clean and like, you know, just like ready to be played. So I think I just like stepped up my game entirely when hologram dropped. And that was, that was a really interesting like year cause I dropped it in like November, 2018 and then surprisingly like January, 2019, I opened up for king princess. 4 (19m 12s): Wow. That's huge. That is huge. 6 (19m 16s): How did you hear about me? And they're just like Instagram and I was like, oh, okay, cool. And then 4 (19m 21s): On a run of shows or just how many, how many shows were you able to open up for king princess? 6 (19m 27s): It was just one. It was 4 (19m 29s): Still, I mean that's massive. 6 (19m 31s): Yeah. I think actually how we got connected was I had, before I dropped hologram, I had done like a drag show opening for Charlie XCX when she came to 4 (19m 42s): Wow. 6 (19m 43s): Atlanta. Yeah. She's like an icon of mine, but she was touring when Taylor slipped and she was, she had just dropped like her pop team mixtape. And so she would do like after parties. And so she did one at like the venue that I played the most in the city we were connected and one of the other openers was been offi from Australia. And 4 (20m 2s): So that was the reputation tour. Wasn't it? 6 (20m 5s): Yeah. 4 (20m 5s): Yeah. 6 (20m 6s): And so they'd been off, he was opening up for king princess and he reached out and connected us. So it's just a whole bunch of like networking and connecting, but 4 (20m 14s): Wow, that's incredible. That is incredible. It was the drag shows different than what you were doing as far as performing under like Taylor Alexander as like a music project or did they kind of intertwine it all, 6 (20m 29s): Everything always like intertwined. I w I'm I'm always in drag. I would say about like 90% of the time when I perform my music, just because I think it just adds another quirky element to my stage persona. There's no like different character or anything. It's literally just like me up there in drag singing and yeah, it's, it's just always makes the situation kind of more fun and interesting. 4 (20m 55s): Sure. But like, are there shows that you're booked for that are just specifically like, okay, this is just going to be a drag show or this is happening and then there's, oh, here's my show. But this obviously you bring that element into it, but is that kind of a separate rule where other than that sense, 6 (21m 11s): There are definitely shows where it's just a music show. Like I'm not lip sinking, you're not doing drag per se, but I'm still like physically like garment wise and costume wise, like in drag. So I'll do like a 30 minute music set just fully in drag. No lip sinking, no real hosting, just performing. And then there are some places where I only do drag where I'm lip singing to music cause their sound systems aren't that great. So like every, every single spot has its own like request of what they want from me. So like I have my music gigs, I have my drag gigs. I even have like my DJ gigs, which I do now. So 4 (21m 48s): Wow. That is amazing. And being a performer and spending so much time, you know, onstage, and, and that sounds like it's a big part of who you are and, and what you're doing. How did that, I mean, obviously it was definitely affected in 2020 when everything shut down. But did that allow more time for you to focus on this project that's coming out or, I mean, tell me about that as far as like getting it, everything stopping and how did that affect you directly? 6 (22m 21s): Yeah, 2020 was an interesting year because the project that I'm about to release 1993 was originally supposed to come out in 2020 as an album. I had already had like a whole cross country tour planned. I had all these things lined up for music, video shoots. And by like July of that year, it was just like apparent. Like I'm not going to be able to tour behind this project, which I'm not the kind of artists that just like, like uploading stuff for like streams and stuff. Like I want to like be able to perform my music. So the album sat with me for awhile and then eventually I just like, you know, fell out of love with some of the songs, I think, unless you sit with something long enough, it's just like, you start to just like, not care about some aspects of it. 6 (23m 10s): So it definitely gave me time to like sit and be like, you know what? I don't need to, this doesn't need to be like a debut album. It can be a quick little EAP. And so, 4 (23m 20s): So you ended up, you ended up dropping some of the songs. 6 (23m 24s): Yeah, I did. Cause I had, I had released one in February of 2020 before everything shut down just as like a little taste test. And that went really well. It was called Romeo and then I dropped another one, say what you mean in June of 2020? And then by July I was just like, I couldn't. So I would say over 20, 20 and 2021, I dropped about like three or four songs. Cause it's supposed to be like a 10 song album and that just, they just felt redundant, like not necessary. And also just like, I try, imagine me like performing them live. And I was like, I don't want to even like seeing these live anymore. 6 (24m 6s): So, 4 (24m 7s): Oh, that's interesting. So sitting with them for a long time almost gave yeah. It gave you a different perspective on the songs and the sound. And 0 (24m 15s): Is your savings just sitting there? Well, put it to work a premium online savings account from PenFed earns way more than the national average. So you can get your savings working on earning you a vacation or a new kitchen or that fancy exercise mirror apply at premium online savings account holders must agree to electronic delivery of account, opening disclosures and monthly statements. $5 minimum required to open account to receive any advertised product. You must become a member of PenFed insured by NCUA and that's 1 (24m 42s): That green veins, Millions of Americans are getting back to work career builder, calls it the great rehire and we want to help you get the best jobs before everyone else. Career builder gives you the competitive edge to get the job you want at the salary you want with the benefits you want. We even sent job alerts. So your perfect job lens right in your inbox, go to career today or get left with whatever jobs are left. Find your next job 14 (25m 15s): When so much of life is about the big moments, it's the details in the all new 2022 grand wagon here that makes the small moments truly special. Take joy in American premium design with available Walnut trips and technology like the available 23 speaker Macintosh reference entertainment system. And with seating for up to eight, no detail is overlooked because it's the details that make every journey grant, the grand wagon air grand adventures return wagon air is a registered trademark of FCA us, LLC. 4 (25m 46s): That's really interesting to think about what it could have went another way. Right. You just put out the record and then you had a tour scheduled and I wonder what that would've looked like. And, but it sounds like you made the right decision. Yeah. When you're like, yeah, I'm just going to go ahead and do these, these, these songs. 6 (26m 3s): Yeah. Just drop it and get it out the way. So I think, I think I made the right decision. I think with the project is right now is quick and concise and like a perfect little like time capsule of like all those years that I spent working on it, which was like 2018 to like, I guess like a few months ago. So yeah. 4 (26m 25s): Wow. And I would imagine you're going to be playing the record out. What about that tour? Did you have a chance to reschedule any of that? 6 (26m 33s): Yeah, so it's just been shortened to a like eight stop Southern tour. So it's Atlanta, Athens, Columbia, South Carolina, Charlotte Durham, Asheville, North Carolina, some places in Florida and then new Orleans. 4 (26m 49s): Wow. 6 (26m 50s): Just a quick little tour just to get back out on the road, get these songs out and just kind of like give this EAP the, the attention it deserves before I move on to the next project. 4 (27m 1s): So are you, are you working on the next project already? 6 (27m 4s): Oh yeah. 4 (27m 6s): Yeah. 6 (27m 7s): It's, it's coming along, but I'm just trying to like take my time with this tour just to be like, you know, cause at one point this, you know, this EAP was an album and it was like going to be my official debut album, but the pandemic just completely like changed my perception of it. So I'm taking my time on the next project, even though I'm already like in some mixing and mastering sessions for it, 4 (27m 30s): But wow. 6 (27m 31s): Yeah. It's I like to stay busy. 4 (27m 34s): Sure. Do you have any, do you want it to be a record? Like, do you have a preference if it's an album again or your first debut album or if it's going to be a different project? 6 (27m 47s): I think it's definitely going to be a debut album. Just the way that I'm envisioning it right now. And it's the first time that like I've written out like a whole bunch of songs. Usually sometimes when I work, it's like, I'll get a beat, I'll make a B, and then I'll just like add lyrics to it later on and kind of let it go from there. This is the first time I have like written out like 12, 14 songs and now it's just like focusing on like production and then going from there. So, I mean, yeah, I'm, I'm trying something different taking my time, working with some, some new people that I, I usually don't work with. I mainly work by myself. I write all my songs, I produce everything. And then I have a friend who mixes a masters, but now I'm just trying to change up the, the, the music sonically. 6 (28m 32s): So working with a whole bunch of new people and like instrumentation for the first time. 4 (28m 37s): Oh, wow. Do you enjoy working like the collaborative effort or how was that the first time you did it? 6 (28m 44s): It's, it's interesting. I'm a control freak. So it's just like, if I hear somebody like, say like, oh, I'm going to lay down this, like this baseline or like put some drums to this and I'm just like, no, it needs to be specifically like this, I'll send over like a whole like list of references. Like this is the energy and vibe that we're going for. So I'm a little bit controlling, but I do like to collaborate with people. Cause I think you get more well-rounded music when you collaborate. I don't know when it's all just one person. It sounds very just like singular, which can be fun, but I prefer sometimes to collaborate 4 (29m 20s): Right on. And what are you most excited about the records coming out a week from Friday? I believe. 6 (29m 26s): Yeah, it is. I I'm just excited for people to hear, I guess just like, just to see a different side of me, this record is a little bit more, I wouldn't say downtempo, but it's, it's a little bit more meditative than like my previous project hologram, which was more like upbeat and kind of like electronic and kind of like energetic. This one's a little bit more subdued, just cause it's about like, you know, being a work in artists, being, you know, in a city that's always changing it's about mental health and you know, kind of like going through a lot of stuff over the past four years. Like I started this project like a few months before my last one came out hologram. 6 (30m 10s): And in that time, like I went from like doing a little tour of the south and then I lost two of my friends. And then, yeah, it was August, 2018 is when I started this project. And that was the same month that I opened for Charlie and then also lost two friends and then also went back out on the road, so, 4 (30m 30s): Oh wow. What a rollercoaster of, of emotions in that month. 6 (30m 36s): Yeah. But yeah, I'm just excited to give this, this project, the life it deserves. Here's some, you know, I wanna, I wanna get back on the road and like see people like bopping to my music. So yeah, it's just a chapter in this long book of my career. 4 (30m 54s): Oh, very exciting. And I appreciate your time. This has been awesome. I have one more quick question for you. I want to know if you have any advice for aspiring artists. 6 (31m 4s): Ooh. Hmm. My advice for aspiring artists is do it yourself. I, I truly believe in like a DIY spirit through everything. I think a lot of people think, oh, I have to have other people do this for me. Or like, you know, I have to outsource all these things. I think you learn so much about your creativity and your craft. When you sit down and say, all right, I don't know how to produce. Let me figure out how to do this. I don't know how to do this part of my artistic career. Let me like sit down and learn it. So yeah, I think a DIY approach.