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  • Jillian Taylor
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    Jillian Taylor

Musician Jillian Taylor Is A Priddy Woman

Kerry Muir
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September 10, 2015

Jillian Taylor places a call from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Check this: Not only is it her 20th birthday, but also it’s orientation day at the world-renowned institute of contemporary music located in the Athens of America, where she’s a freshman. On this day, she’s running from orientation to ratings auditions, where the faculty will evaluate the new crop of students, determining skill level and grading them on a scale of one to eight.

“Eight is like a prodigy,” Taylor explained, the words tumbling out at a gallop over the phone. “One is like, you’re not very experienced, but you’re talented and have potential. Everybody’s totally freaking out.”

Jeez, talk about pressure. But Taylor sounds like she can take the heat and she gives the impression she might even thrive on it.

The young singer-songwriter has a rock-solid foundation, having trained four years under the wing of local music teacher Lee Priddy at Priddy Guitar Academy in Severna Park. There, she learned to sing and play guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. Priddy also jumpstarted Taylor’s songwriting skills, and Priddy’s family — his wife, Tricia, and their four children — became like a second family to Taylor.

“I was at Priddy for four or five years,” said Taylor, who met Priddy when she was 15. “They were like a lifesaver; they helped me build my skill and my passion and my determination to do music.

“My best friend actually introduced me to [Priddy],” she continued. “She was taking a guitar class at our high school, and for the concert, she wanted to play this Taylor Swift song and she needed somebody to sing it, and she asked me and I said, ‘OK, I’ll sing it for you,’ and I had to audition in front of Lee Priddy.”

When Priddy heard Taylor sing, he invited her to study at his academy. “Before I knew it, I was in a band and I was performing, and the rest just took off,” she recalled. “Five years flew by, and now I’m at Berklee.”

From age 15 to 19, Taylor sang, played and gigged all over Maryland with a band made up of other Priddy Guitar Academy students. The band, 502B, was named after the number of the room at Priddy Guitar Academy, where the group spent long stretches of time rehearsing (actually, the number on the glass door was 205B, but the musicians observed the number from the inside of the room). Taylor was the oldest member of the band, having started music a little later than the others.

“Subconsciously, I always loved music, ever since I was a little kid, but I didn’t really get into it until my freshman year of high school,” Taylor explained.

But writing poetry was nothing new by the time she came into contact with Priddy. She’d always had a lyrical bent, scribing poetry as early as 13. So when she delved into music, writing lyrics just came naturally, and a songwriter was born.

Taylor credits old-school folk musicians like Paul Simon and Don McLean with influencing her style, which she describes as “singer-songwriter pop with a folk flair.” She’s also drawn to Americana (roots-rock, bluegrass, country), and senses her music may lean in that direction as she grows and evolves.

Simon & Garfunkel was a huge influence on Taylor growing up. “I have older parents,” Taylor acknowledged. “They didn’t have me until they were in their 40s — my dad was born in ‘52 and my mom in ‘56 — so growing up, I listened to the music that they listened to when they were growing up: Don McLean, and The Mamas & the Papas. Sixties and ‘70s folk music is what I really draw from.”

Taylor emphasized that she also blends a fusion of pop. “When I was like 5 or 6 years old, my dad got me my first CD and it was Britney Spears’ ‘Oops!...I Did It Again.’ That was my first pop album, and I love that CD. I listened to that all the time; I still do. And I got into NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys and that ‘90s prince-and-princess pop stuff.”

In a nutshell, Taylor’s work blends elements of ‘60s and ‘70s folk with ‘90s and early millennial pop.

Taylor’s on a roll these days, and on September 8, her new album, “Jillian Taylor,” dropped. The EP is available on iTunes and CD Baby.

“It’s my debut EP,” she noted. “It’s basically just me putting my foot in the water and, you know, getting out there.” There is no particular theme, she said, just snapshots of her life.

Songwriting is Taylor’s strong suit. When she took part in the summer performance program at Berklee, she was a finalist of the program’s songwriting competition. Bluntly speaking, the competition is a big deal; only a few years back, pop starlet Meghan Trainor was a finalist in the same contest.

“They auditioned about 200 people (for the songwriting competition) and they picked 10 to perform at the Berklee Performance Center, which is like the Carnegie Hall of the college,” Taylor indicated. “I was one of the 10, and when I looked at the list, I couldn’t believe my name was on there, like, there was no way! Out of 200 people, they picked me and my song,” Jillian laughed. “It was crazy!”

Taylor recorded that winning song, “What Happened To Us?,” as a single, and she looks forward to releasing it sometime in the next six months.

So where does she see herself in the future? “Lee Priddy said I’m always welcome at Priddy Guitar Academy, whether I’m running band or teaching songwriting lessons, he says I’m always welcome back there,” she reflected.

Priddy is proud of his former student’s current string of successes. “She’s probably one of the best singers I’ve had through here,” he stated. “She was always excited, and she had potential.”

Meanwhile, back in Beantown, Taylor has high hopes for the album. “I just hope [listeners] … take five minutes of their day to check out what I’m all about and listen to my music,” Taylor said breathlessly. “I just really want to be heard.”

For news about Jillian Taylor and her new album, visit “Jillian Taylor Musician/Band” on Facebook. To learn more about Priddy Guitar Academy, go to www.priddymusicacademy.net.


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