My Pulse News

Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Laurel Taylor, musical storyteller

Article and photos by Ethan Nahté

Laurel Taylor is a crossover country pop artist, who performed onstage Friday evening for the Lum & Abner Music & Arts Festival. She did not stick to country music… or even to music as she played the soundtrack to her life in a way.

“I grew up listening to oldies with my dad,” which became evident during her performance of The Beatles’ “Come Together” as part of her storytelling when she wove a tale of how she got her start in Nashville after packing her bags and leaving Alabama to move to the “Music City” at age 18. She began her performance with her rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” the first song she had to perform as part of a Nashville audition.

Her style fit right along with some of the programs where a performer will take the audience on a journey and tell a story, be it their own tale or someone else’s, with a bit of comedy thrown in as she described some of the people she met along the way. It may even harken back to the days of bards and troubadours.

Taylor’s journey extended beyond her audition and through a few trials and tribulations as she tried to find her style and identity. She took the audience through her audition and behind-the-scenes look at when she was on Season 14 (2015) of the popular TV program “American Idol.” 

She has played plenty along the famous Broadway in Nashville, a street known for its live music venues, honky-tonks and nightlife. One famous venue she’s played is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, across the alley from Ryman Auditorium. She’s performed a lot of open mic nights to get her chops down. 

“I also listened to worship [music] on my mom’s side. Like deep Black gospel,” which makes sense considering Taylor was born and raised around Montgomery, Alabama. “I had a very wide range of genres. I like Vince Gill and Loretta Lynn.”

Taylor mainly learns and plays by ear, but she does have formal training. “I took piano for 10 years. I was the type who quit everything. I didn’t quit piano.” She told her dad she wanted to take guitar lessons, but being accustomed to her habit of quitting, he refused, so Taylor taught herself after her parents bought her an $80 guitar.

“I taught myself everything from ‘Smoke on the Water’ to original music I wanted to play. I taught myself the notes and I watched videos and learned a song called ‘Mr. Bojangles.’ Now today, being in Nashville has taught me to hone my craft by watching other guitarists.”

Her musical tastes and genres she performs have ranged from the oldies to Christian, country to rap, metal to pop. And sometimes, a mash-up of genres.

When she found she was asking herself, “Who am I?” she had an idea she had talent that needed honing. “I knew I could sing. I knew I could play guitar. I could not write [songs] at the time. I just started out singing Carrie Underwood’s ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’ at every festival.”

Afterwards, she was still attempting to find her style and what would gain her a larger audience. Today’s musical environment has changed so much compared to the early days when a musician or band would travel around, hand out a copy of their single to one of several DJs at a radio station in hopes they’d give it a spin to raise awareness of who they are and hopefully sell a few 45s or albums. Many current artists don’t even have a physical album. They stream a song or video on social and entertainment media platforms because many of the younger generation eschew owning physical media — although vinyl is making a comeback.

It may have taken some time to discover her musical and personal journey, but she said, “I don’t have to try to be who I am. Yes, to be in my faith, I have to walk morally correct, but me on a daily… I’m just me. I can’t apologize for being my real self… . It’s been a really long journey, but a good one.”

Taylor has had success with “One Step,” which has over 2 million streams since it’s 2019 release. That’s quite a feat for an indie artist. 

“It blew my mind,” she said. “People were tagging me from all over the world saying, ‘I’m just going to take one step at a time.’ That was one of the first songs I put out. That came from out of nowhere. I’m an independent artist and never been signed to a label.”

Taylor did have some luck with “One Step” playing on secular radio, and she’s not against radio airplay. She just finds that most of her audience tends to listen through streaming services such as Apple, YouTube or Spotify for instance.

Another single she performed was “We All Make Mistakes,” which lyrically and thematically, fit with Johnny Cash. She co-wrote the song with Don Goodman, who is known for writing songs such as “’Ol’ Red” for Blake Shelton.

“When I moved to Nashville at 18-years-old, he actually taught me to write [songs]. It was crazy how I ran into him. It was on a Sunday and a friend of his told him he needed to come check out this girl at Tootsies.” She said Goodman was less than enthused to get out on a Sunday to come check out any performer, but he relented and came down to check out her performance. “From that day we’ve been best friends. He’s older, he’s like my grandfather, but he has taught me to write stories in every way possible, in every genre.

“I said I’m not going to write about cussing. I’m not going to write about drinking. I wanted to be pure about this. He said, ‘How do you feel about going to jail?’ I was like, ‘alright.’” That’s where “We All Make Mistakes” was born from.

She has a new song entitled “Clarity” coming out with Christian hip-hop artist Tedashii. He has had songs in the Top 10 on the Billboard Rap Charts and the Billboard Christian Album Charts. She wrote the song a couple of years ago that was demoed by another vocalist and she didn’t think much of it. 

Her manager Lauren Hammett heard “Clarity” and talked her into recording it. When she heard her own vocal on it, she was hyped. She reached out to Tedashii on a chance, not even knowing him. A friend had his contact info. He was hep to what she was doing and they met up and finally recorded.

“It’s so fun. I’m trying to reach the younger generation and I believe I can. We’re going to release it July 21. We’re going to do a music video in August or September. I’m excited. It’s me. I have chased so many sounds. I just got the master [recording], I wanted to cry. It’s positive. It’s hopeful music, but it’s fun and encouraging. That’s what I want do.”

The single will drop under Taylor’s name and featuring Tedashii.

“On the way to Arkansas, I said ‘Clarity’ is what people really need to hear, because it’s what I needed to hear, but I didn’t know I needed to hear it until I cut it. When I was writing it, I was lost and confused and didn’t know what I believed anymore, just in general. I wanted to quit everything. Now, hearing it back, there’s going to be someone who needs clarity… someone looking and searching. I hope this song brings them purpose.”

Taylor plans to drop a full-length eponymous album on Jan. 1, 2024.  It’ll include some solo performances and it will probably include some other musicians she uses onstage for live performances every now and then. It’ll be interesting to see what stories her music and lyrics will tell come next year. 

You can keep up with Taylor and find all of the platforms for her music at

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