INTERVIEW: THE SELF-MADE ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE OF TAYLOR ALXNDR
Written by Devyn Springer
During our conversation over warm tea and cookies, I got the feeling that becoming an underground queer icon, one that exists somewhere between drag artist and Atlanta socialite, seems to be a master plan that Taylor Alxndr was destined for. We sat down to discuss their upcoming EP, NOISE, as well as life, activism, and other queer things. They spoke about their music, art, and activism with a passion that is matched by an ease; one that says “I have this in the bag, now get out of my way.”
The singer-songwriter is an Atlanta native, and says they remember performing since they were a small child. “I would sing Christmas carols around Georgia, and remember doing a small singing tour one Christmas when I was around nine years old. I sang Silent Night and stuff like that.”
Moving through years, Taylor describes shifting into the internet to cultivate their art, learning coding and design skills from platforms like MySpace and beginning to enjoy sharing their work. “I would always try to create the best layout, and have the best playlists on MySpace. I learned the basics of coding and designs on their, really, I think a lot of people did and don’t even realize it.” The underlying self-taught nature of their work is evident when you see their graphics and hear their music, because it feels fresh, personal, and well-done. “I’m 100% self-taught because my mom always taught me if I can’t do it myself, then it’s not really worth it.”
“I think you have more control when your whole life is DIY,” says Taylor. “And I like it that way. I have more control over my work and my life.”
Another aspect that not only solidifies Taylor’s self-made artistry, but also excites, is their incredible drag persona. The first time I saw Taylor perform was at an art gallery in Atlanta, MURMUR Gallery, and their short blonde wig and electric performance has me in the audience taking notes on how to better hone in on my own drag craft. “I first started doing drag as a way to get my name out there and to make money.” Taylor’s lead single, Nightwork, is an ode to the hard work and dedication drag performers put into their artistry. Their words in the interview echo the words of the song, as they describe their interest in drag was one of a passion for music and performing first and foremost.
“When I first started drag, I noticed there were several queens out there doing terrible numbers and I thought ‘I can do way better than that.’ So I did!” This is why Taylor’s music is influenced by their drag, and their drag is influenced by their love of music. It is cyclical, because it is a part of their passion.
Taylor is also the co-founder of Southern Fried Queer Pride(SFQP), an Atlanta-based organization that focuses on uplifting the lives of queer and trans people of color through art and advocacy. They say that the NOISE EP will have reflections on the work that goes into running SFQP, and traces of their activism will of course seep in. This is another aspect that makes Taylor’s debut music project highly-anticipated: it will not exist in a vacuum, rather will be infused with the singer’s identity as a Black, Indigenous, trans person, and the activism they do as well. “I’ve never really been one to write love songs, because it’s just not me.” Taylor says. “I’m much more interested in writing upbeat track that talk about life, my reality, the world around me, but still make you dance.”
“I am influenced by artists that don’t just make music or quick singles, but ones that are concerned with the entire package of their work: marketing, aesthetics, cohesive sound. That’s why I love and am inspired by people like Santigold, Solange, St. Vincent, Shamir, Blood Orange. People who produce and write their own work, and let that reflect in what you hear and see.”
Of course, these influences do not go unnoticed. With an upcoming EP filled with tracks on different aspects of the queer experience, including but definitely not limited to drag performances, mental health, and appropriation, you can see the traces of influence from other artists who’ve paved the way. “If I had to describe the sound of this EP in three words, I’d probably say: feelz, synthpop, and energetic.” Taylor describes the title and accompanying imagery of the album stay pretty true to each other, as they wanted to create imagery that conveyed “movement, motion, and a certain type of loud energy” that makes everyone in the room look at them. “I wanted to be a spectacle,” says Taylor.
Surely, as excited as I am for the release of NOISE later this month, both because of the effort Taylor puts behind their artistry and because of what it means for the Black queer community here in Atlanta, I can’t imagine this project will create anything less than a wonderful spectacle.