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Conversations with the Inspiring Lily Taylor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lily Taylor.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lily. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I spent the 80s in Cambridge and Lincoln, MA, the 90s in Dallas, TX, the early aughts in Santa Fe, NM, the last of my twenties in San Francisco, CA, and the first part of my thirties in Denton, TX. I’ve been in Dallas the last 4 years with my husband, new media artist and educator, Sean Miller. We met in college, and our life path has been one of performances, exhibits, teaching, and learning. We live in the cedars, he teaches and shows work regularly, and I work in Oak Cliff at Top Ten Records, I also host a radio show on KUZU LP called #bandwidthtx kuzu.fm, I perform and record, and consult creatives about how to get more organized, as well as teach voice lessons.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The year I graduated from college, studying music at College of Santa Fe, my mother died. I didn’t sing for two years. I just couldn’t. I felt like I had literally lost my voice- how to speak up for myself, how to speak about myself, and how to express myself through music. During this time I relied heavily on the community around me. A collective of dear friends helped host events at a warehouse in town, and I began to help organizing shows. I learned how to promote events, how to run a soundboard, how to run a box office, how to host a traveling artist, rather than being the performer, myself. After moving to San Francisco, and starting to perform regularly, it was these skills that helped me launch a name for myself and my music. I was also able to find work as a theater manager at a non-profit arts organization.

While working in California, the struggle became how to hustle for good paying gigs, being strategic about where I performed when, who to talk to (and how to talk) at the end of the night to get paid, how to secure the next booking, etc…

After moving to Denton, the struggle was all about credibility and battling sexism. I had experienced a fair amount in California, but nothing like it is in Texas. There is a different attitude here about women and ideas about what is socially acceptable. I developed little tricks like, always introducing myself to the sound guy before load in, preferably with a firm handshake. I make sure to use the proper names for equipment, and be mindful of the other acts’ equipment set-up needs to make sure my own are taken care of. Seems simple, but this would make big impacts on my shows. In general. I try to keep my communication with promoters and venues prior to the event as professional and informative as possible. For the sexism experienced after performances, I developed personal strategies about how to handle myself at shows, what questions I am willing to answer, and when to walk away based on a red flag policy developed from past experiences. These three tactics help minimize the assumptions and stupid questions that are the unfortunate symptoms of small minded, sexist tendencies.

After I started booking the calendar at Crown and Harp, the sexism I experienced in the Dallas music scene got to a boiling point. It’s taken me over a year to recover spiritually from that experience. All I can do is move forward with my hopes and dreams, and try to stay focused on projects that allow me to develop my own work as well as help others. We have to take care of ourselves first, before we can extend a hand to help someone else.

What should we know about Lily Taylor Music, Top Ten Records, #bandwidthtx on KUZU LP? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am probably best known as a performer, but some people only know me as an arts administrator. It really just depends how we’ve met: hosting an event or selling records at Top Ten Records in Oak Cliff, possibly while building the permanent archive of music by Texan musicians at Top Ten Records, maybe from producing/ hosting #bandwidthtx the second and fourth Tuesdays from 7-8pm CST on KUZU LP in Denton, TX, possibly while helping coordinate the Oak Cliff Film Festival, or maybe we’ve worked on voice lessons together, or met at a studio session, or show. Maybe I booked your band, or you booked mine! Of everything that I am involved with, my journey in life is anchored by my vocal practice. No matter what projects I am involved with, it’s singing that is my main craft, my main form of expression and creativity. Singing is how I connect to spirit.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
The most important pieces of advice I would give to a young professional is three fold: one, aim high, but manage your expectations, two, stay as organized as possible to communicate effectively, and three, be open to redefining your successes. These three elements will help ground you and allow you to “hold your own” in those moments that people try to inaccurately define you, use you, or disrespect you.

Its tough world out there, everyone has struggles, some way more than others. Understanding contexts of any given situation can help you manage preconceived expectations and avoid conflict. Being organized helps everyone involved in any part of a creative project, from inception to presentation, and will help in the communication of your ideas and needs in order to make those ideas possible. Working in the creative field means that there are no road maps. With the conclusion of a project, you can look back and understand how many twists and turns happen in the decision making process. The end result is sometimes nothing like the initial ideas. Flexible definitions about what is success is necessary to be able to enjoy a job well done, and also learn how to make thing better for future projects.

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Image Credit:

Brent Elrod, Sean Miller, Gary N. Audirsch, Rick Vesny, Cara Lohman, Evan Henry, Sean Miller, Melissa Hennings

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