Her True Colors: A Q&A with Award-Winning Musician Doreen Taylor
Last week, award-winning songstress Doreen Taylor released her new single, “Colors of the USA,” which she wrote and produced to benefit NPCA’s work to protect national parks; 50% of all proceeds from the song will go directly to NPCA.
Doreen began her remarkable career in music at an early age when she realized the power and strength of her voice. Her 2012 country/rock solo debut Magic earned her a name as one of the hottest up-and-coming musical stars, and several music videos from the album, “Last call (for Alcohol),” “Heartbeat,” and “Summertime,” all landed on the Top 100 Country Official Music Videos of the Week chart—at the same time. A patriot and a passionate advocate for national parks, Doreen has been a proud supporter of numerous local and national charities.
We asked her about her love for the parks and her process and inspiration for “Colors of the USA.”
Q: What inspired you to use your musical talents to benefit NPCA?
A: I am a proud American who believes in our nation’s glory. Very rarely do I find things in life that just “make sense,” and this collaboration made complete sense to me. I have never been prouder of anything I have ever done creatively than I am of this new song and what it stands for. The fact that 50% of the proceeds from each download will be donated to NPCA to help protect our national parks makes it that much more special.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your process for writing this song, such as where the idea came from and how you developed it?
A: I wanted to write about my experiences as a child—my family would load into the car and we would drive across the country visiting park after park. I may have not understood all the history then, I just knew how wonderful those places made me feel. To this day, I remember what it felt like at age seven, standing in front of the Lower Falls in Yellowstone as a rainbow appeared and a single bird flew overhead. It was one of the most touching and memorable moments of my life, and that was my inspiration for the song.
My song was over a year in the making, but the music and lyrics popped into my head almost immediately. Initially, I figured it wasn’t supposed to be that easy. I worked and reworked different musical ideas over the next few months, but always kept coming back to that original hook. Finally, I stopped fighting it and the song just poured out of me.
There was a very moving moment as I sat at the piano writing the song where tears filled my eyes and I was overcome with powerful emotion. I knew something very special was happening and that this had become more than just a song—it had become a mission. As I started working with my team and all the amazing people who helped to record the song, it continued to evolve and take on a life of its own. Before we all knew it, we had a finished piece that blew us away. I know that every artist is proud of the music they create, but this is really something different for me now. I want this song to be a true testament to the grandeur of our country and the countless treasures it holds. I want this song to be relevant not only today, but 30 years from now.
Q: There is such a rich tradition of musicians using their gifts to try to change the world. How do you think artists can play a role in a social cause like environmental advocacy?
A: Music is one of the most effective platforms we have to reach as many people as possible in the most impactful way. It inspires and touches lives on many different sensory levels. It can evoke the deepest of emotions and influence others to take action. Think of the best movie you have seen recently, and then think of the soundtrack behind the action. Good music will take an ordinary feeling and make it extraordinary. That is why I truly hope that “Colors of the USA” will inspire others. The greatest vehicle we have for change is within ourselves.
Q: Is becoming a musician something you always aspired to, or is it a passion you developed over time?
I truly believe that musical ability and passion is something you are born with. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved music. I have always felt like it was part of my identity. I would gravitate toward any toy that could make sound, and I loved the feeling of being able to create various notes out of dead air that would resemble music. As I got older, that passion became more and more intense. By studying, working hard, and cultivating the gifts that I have been given, I came to the realization that my life was meant for this and that there is nothing in this world I would rather be doing. Music isn’t just what I do … it’s who I am. I have said on more than one occasion, I didn’t pick music. Music picked me.
Q: I understand you have a master’s degree in opera performance and have had leading roles at opera companies around the country. How did you make the transition from opera to country music?
I received my undergraduate degree in vocal performance from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford and then continued my graduate studies as a Master of Music in Opera Performance at Temple University in Philadelphia. After completing school, I was quickly hired in various opera companies throughout the country, including the prestigious Des Moines Metro Opera Company. Although success in the opera world came right away, my heart always loved mainstream music. I grew up in a small farm town outside of Buffalo, New York, and country/rock music was popular and spoke to me at an early age. Unfortunately, there are no country music classes or rock degrees at any of the accredited universities I applied for, but I wanted to really learn about music. To do that, I went down the classical route, and opera was the closest fit. Despite the accomplishments in opera, I really wanted to write my own music and lyrics instead of performing other pieces by other artists. I took a leap of faith and decided to do my first country/rock album (Magic) and I have never looked back. I finally found my voice and have never been happier.
Q: Do you have a favorite park?
A: That’s really a hard question. Yellowstone is the one that has had the most impact on me, but I’ve also been amazed standing at the foot of the Grand Tetons, seeing the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains, watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon—the list goes on and on. I also can’t forget the emotions I felt standing at Mount Rushmore, the Liberty Bell, or the Iwo Jima and Vietnam Veterans Memorials. Our country is filled with such incredible treasures and each one needs to be appreciated. In preparing to write “Colors of the USA,” I spent countless hours researching all 401 of our national parks so that I was able to write a song that was worthy of such amazing places. All 401 parks are truly special. They have all become my favorites.
Q: What’s next for you, creatively? Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
A: Right now, the sky’s the limit! I am presently ridiculously busy promoting “Colors of the USA” and helping to spread the word and create awareness for not only the national parks and their upcoming centennial, but also for NPCA’s work to protect them for future generations. I am preparing for the official East Coast single release party in Philadelphia on April 22 and the West Coast release party, which will be a private event in Los Angeles on May 15. It’s very exciting since I will be performing the song live for the first time to the general public and introducing a whole new audience to the cause. After that, I plan to get back into the studio to write and record my next album, which will be the follow-up to my solo debut, Magic. I may have some film and television opportunities in my future, too.
Mainly, my focus is always about creating good music and continuing to touch as many people as I can with that music along the way. Wherever that path leads is A-OK with me.
Learn more about Doreen, see a video for “Colors of the USA,” and download the new song at the Colors of the USA website.