Parx & Recreation: Time Off With Pop Auteur Tayla Parx

Parx & Recreation: Time Off With Pop Auteur Tayla Parx

"I was hurt but I found strength in vulnerability..."

48 hours ago Tayla Parx was in the United States. 24 hours ago she was in London’s Abbey Road studios. 12 hours ago she was helped her crew load in to Alexandra Palace.

Time moves fast in her universe. She’s continually working, continually writing – speaking to Clash over the phone during a rare break in her schedule, she’s remarkable focussed. Each sentence is concise, delivered with precision, yet she’s also a source of boundless energy, a relentless thirst for new ideas.

Tonight she’s supporting Anderson .Paak, someone who she’s worked with before. Alongside live dates – they toured across North America together – they also hussled their way into the studio with Christina Aguilera. It’s just one of an incredible series of studio sessions for this pop auteur – she’s also written chart smashing singles for Ariana Grande, Panic! At The Disco, Khalid, and more.

“I learn something new and unique with every artist that I work with,” she insists, “but it’s more that being a young black girl in the industry I used to be placed in so many boxes as an artist and a writer and a person. I was basically told: you can’t do rock, you can’t do country!”

“At first it was an age thing, at first I wanted to write for artists that had lived a life I hadn’t yet lived. At first I was too young, then I was too urban. So it’s like: OK, what if we prove a point that all of the things people thought I was too young for or too urban for, let’s just prove that wrong. So whoever else is coming next can take it to the next level.”

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But maybe Tayla will be the person to reach this next level. Not content with being a potent background force, her new album ‘We Need To Talk’ is out now, an outstanding package that pulls together an effervescent array of pop tropes while skewering this with her own vivid personality, her own sharply defined take on where pop should go next.

“I think the biggest difference between writing for other people and writing for myself,” she says, before taking a slight pause; “Is that when I’m writing for other people I put my own body, my own history out of the picture. I’m completely method acting and I am becoming you – I want to think how you think, I want to feel how you feel. And if I’m doing my job right as a songwriter then I won’t be giving you pieces of me because my job in this moment is to make you the greatest version of you.”

“It’s been really cool to release my own music finally because people are listening to projects that I’ve written for and saying: oh, I can kind of hear Tayla’s influence on these other records now that I can hear her as an artist. It’s still different, but you can hear the influence.”

She’s driven forward by a relentless perfectionist streak, both stubborn and utterly inspired. “Everything I do in life I want to be the best I can at it,” Tayla says. “No matter what I’m doing. Now we’re focussing on the artistry I want to re-define gender, I want to re-define genre, all of these different things that I can as an artist now I’m not following anybody’s rules but my own.”

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Tayla Parx is a form believer in pop as a multi-dimensional art form – so when she releases something, she’s already thought about the production, and the songwriting, and the lyrics; but she’s also considering the press shots, the videos, the interviews she’s going to give. It’s a full universe, one she’s built for herself to inhabit. 

“Any time I drop a song or a project you’ll always see me take the effort to make it an experience,” she tells Clash. “Any time I do it, it’s Tayla Made. And therefore, it takes thought. Whether that’s Tayla Made for Tayla Parx or Tayla Made for some other artist, whatever I do it needs to be thought out. I’m a Virgo, this is in my personality. It’s in my personality to want to be as close to perfect as it can be.”

“We’re going into another side of the story now, and we’re fitting in a year and a half of my life into 15 tracks. And my fans will know what kind of car I drive, they know where I shop, and what cities I have been visiting based off of my lyrics. Based off of the influences that you hear within that album. And I also try to make sure that the same thing goes for the visuals.”

Always able to see the bigger picture, Tayla Parx still works from moment to moment. If something feels right then she’s on it – even booking an afternoon in Abbey Road on the spur of the moment, simply because she could hear something coming into focus.

“I literally recorded the album in two places – a studio in Los Angeles, and one in New York. And now that was the last random song that we just happened to be like: you know what, it has to go on the album so I guess we’re recording it today! I mean, they surprised me. Abbey Road is such a monumental studio, it has so much history, and shoot… I love the song, I’ve been playing it for literally 20 hours now so apparently I felt the magic.”

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There’s certainly magic running through ‘We Need To Talk’. Guests include Cautious Clay and Duckwrth, with Tayla Parx painstakingly assembling each element. It’s cross-genre and post-genre, it works outwith the boundaries purely because Tayla has the experience to know exactly where they are.

“I think this is the perfect time for an artist like me to be undeniably, and unapologetically them,” she insists. “I think that I’m coming at a perfect time where I can just be real, and see the reaction to it. Like, I’ve been very much the driver of my career for the past few years, I’ve managed myself all this time.”

“It’s like, OK – from saying I would like to deal with Rebook and I can make that happen, to the people who are going to shoot my videos, to the people who I’m going to do my album with, and executive producing my project, I’ve always been the type of person to have a very clear vision of what I want.”

“And also not being so stuck on one thing that I can’t change and evolve when I work with people. It’s a collaborative effort – no matter what I do. Even if I’m the main driver of it, it’s the people around me who trust me when I say a crazy idea. They don’t tell me it’s impossible, they tell me it’s possible… but we need to work at it. It’s been so fun to work with people who get that vision.”

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It’s a shared vision, for sure, but Tayla’s music is also a highly personal experience. The new album has been a period of growth for the American artist, both technically as a songwriter and as a person. “When we wrote some of this I didn’t even realise yet that I cared as much as I did,” she laughs. “Until I listened back to it, three months from when I wrote it, and I was like: I was writing my life at the same time it was happening. Whether I wanted to admit it or not!”

“And that’s also the cool thing about my music and my album and getting to know myself because it is literally me analysing myself that I’ve done for all these other artists. It’s been exciting, and such an incredible journey, to do the same for myself.”

So what did she discover?

“I think by the end of the album I can admit I was hurt, which you didn’t get on my other records,” Tayla reveals. “I was hurt but I found strength in vulnerability on this album. And that was important to me, I found strength in my version of feminism, my version of masculinity, my ideas of gender and genre. And I was able to be just free enough to do that with this album.” 

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'We Need To Talk' is out now.

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