1987 is a year I’ll always remember. It was the year I graduated high school and said goodbye to old friends. The year of my coming of age and the start of new beginnings.
A time when the future was wide open and the sky was indeed the limit.
I remember I was stocking shelves at a local supermarket one night dreaming about starting college in time for the spring semester. That’s when I heard that incredible voice for the very first time coming from the radio playing on the overhead speakers:
I feel the night explode when we’re together…
Emotion overload in the heat of pleasure…
As the song played on I remember just standing there among boxes of Lucky Charms cereal thinking to myself:
That was the only word to describe what I was hearing. Although I was a diehard metal-head music fan from the very beginning there was something about the music I was listening to that appealed to me. Her voice was infectious. It was the beginning of something very special.
For little did I know that 1987 was also the year that a singer from New York named Leslie Wunderman was about to set the floor, and the music world for that matter, on fire for the very first time.
Leslie had just transformed herself into Taylor Dayne and together with producer Ric Wake released “Tell It To My Heart”, a song that would eventually reach #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and usher in a sound that would take the world by storm.
A few weeks later, Taylor’s debut album of the same name would be released on Arista, produce three more top-ten singles and achieve double-platinum success in the United States.
One of those two million albums belonged to me.
Taylor’s first tour was as the opening act for none other than Michael Jackson and it was there where she would meet Frank Dileo, Jackson’s long time manager and the man who would go on to represent her for many years.
Her follow up album, “Can’t Fight Fate” would yield four more hit singles including her first number one: “Love Will Lead You Back”. Her journey had begun.
Over the last twenty-five years Taylor Dayne has sold more than 75 million records worldwide, garnered three Grammy nominations and has branched out into the film, television and stage world including her most recent film project: “Telling of the Shoes”. She is one of the industry’s most dynamic artists.
In addition to her own songs Taylor’s also flexed her muscle on some other artists’ biggest hits and made them her own. From her awesome cover of the Barry White smash “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” to her version of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” from her most recent album “Satisfied”; Taylor makes it all look so easy.
She’s also ventured into reality television as well, having recently appeared as part of Team Rachel on the show “Rachel Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off” where she competed for the Cambodian Children’s Fund Charity.
Last summer, Taylor released the single “Floor On Fire” which broke into the Billboard Top Ten further proving that this vocal powerhouse has no intention of slowing down.
I had the pleasure of speaking with this amazing woman and getting her thoughts on everything from how she became Taylor Dayne to her songwriting process.
We also discuss her upcoming greatest hits package and her admiration for young up and coming singers competing on reality television.
If the past is any indication, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Taylor Dayne.
goJimmygo (gJg): It’s so great to speak with you Taylor. How are you doing?
Taylor Dayne (TD): I’m doing great! Thanks for asking. I’m keeping busy by making appointments and getting on planes. <laughs>
gJg: When you look back on your career thus far what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
TD: It’s actually difficult to put into words. When I think about everything I’ve been through all I can say is “Wow!” I really can’t believe it”. <laughs>
gJg: For me, as far as 80’s female vocalists are concerned, you complete the trifecta. First there was Madonna, then Whitney and then there’s you!
TD: Thank you! I was actually a label mate with Whitney’s on Arista. I signed in 1987 when the single came out and then the “Tell It To My Heart” album dropped in 1988.
I think Whitney’s first album was released somewhere around 1985. She was more into pop where as I was more into the dance genre.
gJg: You’ve had so many hits over the course of your career and just last year had yet another one with “Floor on Fire”. How did that single come about?
TD: I remember at the time I wanted to do a Techno/Electronica dance single. So I searched for a producer and found Niclas Kings and Ivar Lisinski who are both absolutely amazing.
One of the other writers on the song is Tania Doko who is a big artist in Australia. They sent me the track and Tania and I went through melody and lyrics. We all just collaborated on it.
gJg: What is your process like for writing songs?
TD: For me, songwriting is a building process. I like to compare it to filling in the spots of a puzzle. Sometimes pieces fit and sometimes they don’t. The trick is you just have to keep building. That’s the art of songwriting.
gJg: What inspires you to write?
TD: It’s moment to moment. Experience to experience. For me it’s actually living in the moment. When I write something and feel inspired by it what you see is a picture window of what’s going on in my life at the time. It’s generally done in that way. You always have to stay true to yourself.
Although, I’m not going to say that “Floor on Fire” was done that way.. <laughs>
Sometimes songs are easy to write and sometimes they’re not. That’s why I like to collaborate.
gJg: I have to tell you that “I’ll Be Your Shelter” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
TD: Thank you! One of the things I like to look for when I’m writing or looking for songs to use is how they’ll feel when I perform them live. “Shelter” is one of my favorite songs to perform.
gJg: I also loved your take on The Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge” from the “Satisfied” album. That was incredible!
TD: Thanks. That is such an amazing song!
gJg: What’s the story about your transformation from Leslie Wunderman to Taylor Dayne?
TD: That’s an interesting story: It was when I was recording “Tell it To My Heart” with my production partner, Ric Wake. Coincidentally, Ric also happened to be working with Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) around that same time. Dee and I were both ‘Long Island” kids.
Ric was in session with Dee and they were becoming friendly. So Ric begins to tell Dee about my deal to do a single with “Tell it To My Heart” and how he was now looking for a new name for me. So someone had mentioned the name “Taylor”. That seemed to stick but we needed a last name to go with it.
So later that night a bunch of us all went out together and literally got out the baby book and went through it line by line:
“Taylor Dann?… No….”, Taylor Dunn?…Nah!…”…Hmmmm? Taylor “DAYNE!”
That was it!
gJg: What are some of your best memories from being on the road?
TD: Meeting a lot of my own inspirational artists tops the list. I was able to meet a lot of people who really inspire me. Artists like Prince, Bo Diddley and Robert Plant. I got to meet a lot of the biggest blues artists in the world.
TD: He really is. Prince is an incredible musician and artist. He used to play these “after hours” shows in small clubs and a bunch of us would all go. Before long he’d call to me and the next thing you know I’m right up there on stage with him. He liked to do that for all of the breaking artists at the time. It was amazing.
gJg: You also had the opportunity to open for Michael Jackson on the BAD Tour. What do you remember most about that experience?
TD: For me, the best part about the Michael Jackson tour was getting to meet Frank Dileo who ended up becoming my manager. Frank was a long time manager of Michael and really helped facilitate a lot of the success of his record sales.
gJg; What do you like to do when you’re not in the studio, on the road or on TV?
TD: I love being outdoors. I’m a real nature buff. It’s a big touchstone for me and really connects me to the Earth. Prayer time is especially strong for me. I’m passionate about it and it really helps keep me grounded.
gJg: Is there anyone you’d like to work with?
TD: There’s a lot of really great talent out there I’d love to work with. People like Justin Timberlake, Dr. Luke and Stanley Clarke are just a few that immediately come to mind.
gJg: I was watching you showcase your cooking prowess on “Rachel Vs Guy: Celebrity Cook Off”. I wanted you to win it so badly.
TD: As far as I’m concerned we did win. Joey (Fatone) and I were just thrilled to wind up where we did. Anything more than that would have been insane. It was such a great experience. <laughs>
gJg: What are your thoughts about the new wave of singers coming from shows like “American Idol” and “X-Factor”?
TD: Amazing. I think they’re awesome!
gJg: Your voice is so instantly recognizable. Do you think these kids spend too much time trying to sound like someone else?
TD: I think that the kids on those shows are just now starting to find their own voice.
There’s this whole way of singing: the use of syllables, expressing the melodies, feeling the song and making it your own. That’s what they’re doing now. Finding their way through the wilderness.
Most of them have never been in a recording studio or performed on that kind of a level before. Then all of a sudden they’re pushed into this big beast and the next thing you know, they’re developing. They actually develop right before our eyes. It’s pretty cool.
gJg: What projects are you working on right now?
TD: Right now I’m working on several different projects one of them being a new Greatest Hits package. This new album will include re-records of all of my big hits as well as some new material. I’m very excited about it.
Article first published as Tell It to My Heart: A Conversation with Taylor Dayne on Technorati.