When considering all the cherished elements that Texas/Red Dirt country music is valued for, there’s one element that stands out among the rest, original songwriting. Traditionally, the Texas country music scene has promoted artists that write their own songs as it contains a sense of vulnerability and authenticity from the artists. This sense of genuine raw emotion is exactly what you’ll feel when you first hear any song 23-year-old female Texas country singer-songwriter Taylor Graves writes. To say Graves’ songwriting is truly bone-chilling doesn’t nearly do it justice and that’s just one of many reasons why this Underdog’s music – and what has helped shape its sound – needs to be heard.
Graves has come so far to be where she is now and I don’t just mean that figuratively, it’s quite literal. Born on June 19th, 1998 in Bangkok, Thailand, Taylor Madison Graves had an early start on learning instruments as she first learned the piano. Unable to read music, she learned to play piano by ear from a teacher that was willing to teach her the way she needed to learn. Unfortunately, after moving to Perth, Australia in 2008, Graves couldn’t find another teacher that could do the same which led her to a year later — when she was 11-years-old— picking up a guitar.
Becoming immediately hooked to the guitar —as it was easier to pick up whenever she wanted and take it wherever she pleased— she built an emotional connection with the guitar, turning towards it to pour out her heart. By 12-years-old Graves was already writing her own music; she says she remembers the bewildered look on her parent's faces as she played them the first song she ever wrote. Even then her lyrics were far beyond her years, but what sourced these unfeigned lyrics? Graves says, “being relentlessly bullied and outcasted for being different played a huge role in my writing journey because in many ways, my guitar was the keeper of my secrets and it took the full brunt of everything I was going through. Music was my safe place and my favorite place to escape to.”
At 15-years-old Graves took on the streets of Perth and basked to make some extra cash with no idea how to turn her music into a career. Doing this she would make hundreds of dollars a day while drawing in a crowd, which Graves credits for building the confidence she has now. Though she knew being a musician was her dream, she saw it as unrealistic and unattainable, leaving it to only live in the back of her mind. However, not long after Graves would experience something that would make her far-fetched dream become a tangible goal.
When Graves was 17-years-old she auditioned for the Voice in the United States without thinking much of it and was shocked as she kept getting yes’ throughout the audition process. Around the same time she also auditioned for American Idol and the three yes’ she received from Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan — earning her the golden ticket that would send her to Hollywood the week after — was just what she needed to realize that she truly had the talent to chase this crazy dream. It was at that moment that she decided she would.
In December of 2015 Graves moved to College Station, Texas to attend Texas A&M University where she would graduate in 2020 with a bachelor's in animal science focused on large animal nutrition. Shortly after graduating from college, instead of using her degree to pursue a career in equine nutrition, she started playing music again. She made her debut into the Texas music scene at P.O.E.T.S Billiards & Bar, a College Station dive bar. From there the musician community in Bryan-College Station banded together to help get Graves’ foot in the doors of different venues. Not too long after that, Graves had herself a fully booked schedule, and since then its been full steam ahead for her as a full-time musician.
For inspiration Graves leans into singer-songwriters like Colten Venner, Jason Isbell, and Sean McConnell. Their priority towards lyrics reflects much in the approach Graves takes on her own music. “I delved into writing and just pouring myself into all of the songs that I have created. Learning to turn such strong feelings into melodies and lyrics made me the songwriter I am today,” said Graves. She also looks up to Texas country music singer-songwriter, Cody Johnson, as her biggest vocal inspiration. “He showed me what country music should be and has played a huge role in getting me to fall head over heels in love with country music,” She adds.
With that in mind, it was no surprise that when the time came to record her own music she chose none other than Cody Johnson’s very own fiddle player Jody Bartula to produce her very first single. In Bartula’s home studio, Graves recorded what would soon become her debut single into the Texas country music scene, “Nightmare in a Dress.” The single released on November 12th, 2021, has given us just a little taste of all that Taylor Graves has in store for us. She was thrilled as she heard the single be played on Bryan-College Station radio station Maverick 100.9 for the first time.
So where is Taylor Graves' career now and what’s to come ahead? Right now –with a recently formed band that is getting her through many new doors – stages are getting bigger, rooms are getting louder, and the audience are getting rowdier after each show she plays. The goal moving forward for Graves is to continue creating music that tells a story and that allows everyone listening in on a piece of her life and her story. By doing so she hopes one day she can look out into a sea of people and hear them singing her words back to her, then and only then she’ll feel like she’s done her job. So as always, root for the Underdog, especially this one and go find out when she’ll be playing near you. You better hurry while you still can stand this close.