After being crowned the GIT Award One to Watch for 2016, Tayá sits down with Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby to talk Liverpool, working with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and the importance of the song.
Tayá is happening.
The winner of the GIT Award One To Watch 2016 is going places, one of the many soul artists in the city to be making her mark and proving there is more to us than guitar-based pop-rock.
We meet less than 24 hours following the death of Prince. As a die-hard Prince fan, this writer naturally opens up our conversation with a little rambling Prince talk. Her manager is also a Prince fan, and the three of us share a few thoughts on his passing. Although it is perhaps a self-indulgent way to begin our conversation, it becomes clear from this brief chat that the 17-year old Tayá is mature beyond her years, a fact that is undeniable in her work.
But she still has an infectious exuberance and optimism that is so vital for a young, burgeoning pop star. She excitedly tells us; “This is the first proper award I’ve ever won. Like, ever! It’s quite a big one too!”
Today, Tayá finds herself played on BBC 1Xtra and her song Got Me Wondering was produced by Radio 1 DJ Toddla T. She has also created a buzz in festival appearances, including at the British Summertime Festival in London’s Hyde Park alongside Nile Rodgers & Chic, Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie.
But she got her start the way so many great soul singers have; “I’ve always sang. I think everyone sings when they’re young, just singing along to the radio and stuff. But it’s always been a bit part of my life. I used to go to this choir after school, and all my mates used to go and they’d run like a Motown tribute or something.
“And then I just started doing little gigs around town just for fun and who is now my manager came down just to see who he liked in the choir, and he must have just taken a liking to me because I’ve worked with him since I was about 13!”
The Motown connection was interesting from the get-go. This shows a young woman with knowledge of music beyond that of her own generation. “I really grew up with Motown; Jackson 5, The Supremes, The Temptations, Diana Ross. As I got older I really got into R&B like Ashanti, JoJo and Ciara. I am just obsessed by 90s R&B. I live for it.”
In retrospect, all of this shows up in her song craft. Despite the modern production, Fingerprints (her collaboration with Soulection producer Sango) is still pretty classical if we just listen to the melody. There is a defined song at play and the production, though prominent, in no way carries the song. She has definitely found her own voice within these styles. Notably she has a distinct lyrical style.
“I really love when someone can feel something,” she tells us.” I want to make honest songs with an honest feel. I like writing about everyday things. Just all real stuff.
“I’ve got this song called Round and Round, and it’s about my best mate, who just always attracts drama. She’s got this boyfriend and they’ve been on and off for four years. At the time they weren’t getting along, and it was just like ‘Wake up!’ They’re actually doing alright now, though, so that’s good!”
It is refreshing to see young talent who know what they want, and she is adamant about the most vital part of what she does. “The song is the most important part. Production can be important too, obviously, but it depends on the kind of song. That’s that people listen to.”
Her talents are being noticed in bigger places. A trip across the Atlantic recently proved productive with one particular superstar producer
“We were in America and we had a meeting with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, who did all the Destiny’s Child stuff and he worked with Michael Jackson. His studio was incredible, and he had all his gold and platinum albums on the wall. It was amazing seeing him work. I had two days with him, and we did a song.”
Is it out yet?
“No, we probably will at some point but its top secret!”
Everything about Tayá screams the classic scouser in the best possible way. She has a big personality. She is totally affable and relatable. As it often does throughout our chat – the news of his death literally staring at us from the newspapers on surrounding tables – the conversation turned to Prince and how he never left his hometown of Minneapolis, managing to be a major part of the industry without living on its doorstep.
“He never left his hometown? That’s amazing. You know, Liverpool is so important to me. I am the proudest scouser in the world, but the industry is in London.
“I am so scouse though! Sometimes when we’re down there [in London], I’m talking to people and they’re looking at my manager and are like ‘I don’t know what she’s saying, but I like her!’ I would love to stay in Liverpool, but I know it might not be possible”.
She has, in fact, spent a lot of time in London as of late. Our meeting was even put off as she was gigging down in the capital, including a show with dreamy beach pop duo Elephant. It was a big gig, and brought out stars such as FKA Twigs and her fiancé, Twilight star Robert Pattinson. But, again, showing her commitment and musical knowledge, it was one significantly older star who left her lost for words.
“It was a last minute thing, they just called us and asked if I could do it, and luckily I could. So, I did the show, got off stage and I look around and Mick Jagger is in the audience!”
She gets her phone out and shows me a picture. Sure enough, there she is with literal Knight of the Realm – and undoubted icon – Sir Mick Jagger. Did she get any advice from him? “I was just too nervous to say anything! I even asked ‘Can I speak to him?!’”
We’ll take that as a “No”!
Tayá definitely knows where she is going, and winning an award such as the GIT Award One To Watch confirms she is on the right track. Knowing the harshness of the music industry, she is entirely grateful for the position she is currently in.
“Eventually, I want to be big. I want to do my own big shows and do the music I want. I am so lucky with the people I have around me. I have so much freedom. The industry is a scary place – I trust everyone around me; my whole label and management.”
When asked for a final word on her work, she looks over and says with an unpretentious shrug; “It’s me.”
Tayá will be performing at The GIT Award 2016 on Saturday May 14 at Constellations. You can find ticket details here.