Rising R&B star Russell Taylor takes center stage in this week’s New & Next spotlight. ESSENCE.com caught up with the Philadelphia native, fresh off his win for VH1’s December “You Oughta Know” artist of the month, to chat about his upcoming album, War of Hearts, what he wants his legacy to be and more.
ESSENCE.com: You may be new to some of our ESSENCE readers, but you’re not new to the music industry.
TAYLOR: I’ve been doing music since 2006. For the past two years I’ve been thankful to be an indie artist. My colleagues and I learned that when you perform in a city where people have no idea who you are, you have to work your ass off. You have to tap into that thing and deliver. That’s how I started, on the street, give me a microphone, a plug in and lets go!
ESSENCE.com: I read that your new single, “War of Hearts,” is described as a turning point in your career. Why?
TAYLOR: It’s a turning point in how I feel about what I do. It was the first time as an artist that what I created in my head was being translated well. This is the first song that has done that for me.
ESSENCE.com: In your opinion what makes this album so rich compared to the first two?
TAYLOR: On the first one, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to do it. There was a lot of back and forth with the record labels. So the first record was pure naivety. I had no idea what I was doing it was just a bunch of songs thrown on a record, very honest but naïve. On the second record, I was working with a different team of people than I had worked with before. I allowed myself to be molded into what they saw was right for me and right for the climate of music at the time. I stand behind the record, but the record was influenced by other people and what they thought. This record, War of Hearts, is completely and solely financed by me and explored by me. The entire approach was far more personal. Going into the booth and recording at three in the morning, relinquishing control, and more allowed me to be the truest and most pure artist I can be. I still have work to do, but War of Hearts is the most personal yet.
ESSENCE.com: ABC hit show Scandal helped shape “War of Hearts?”
TAYLOR: Within the first hour and a half of our first session (in Los Angeles) “War of Hearts” was born. It came out of the ether and part of what we talked about was what’s moving me right now? What clothes? What pictures? What artist? What TV shows? What movies? Scandal was the one that was first and foremost. I never watched TV, but Scandal was in the front of my mind. Scandal led to “War of Hearts,” which pretty much shaped the rest of the record.
ESSENCE.com: What do you want your legacy to be?
TAYLOR: When I think about what I want music to be, what I wish music looked like now, what I wish artists were now, I always go back to Motown artists. In particular, their work ethic and their 360 degree approach to every aspect of their persona; the writing, recording, etiquette etc. I apply that to myself. I also think about the caliber of artists that were at Motown. We can listen to their songs from 35 and 40 years ago and because of that 360 degree artist completion thing, it’s just as valid, it’s just as touching, it’s just as heartfelt. And we still get hit with the intention. The legacy that I want to leave behind 30 or 40 years from now as I continue to be an artist is to create a body of work where people will be able to listen, look, experience and touch Russell as an artist.
Watch Russell Taylor’s new video for “War of Hearts” below.