Gary, Indiana native Taylor Iman is quickly making a name for herself with her unique brand of pop sultry soul.
The dynamic actress, dancer and singer began her career performing in local theatre productions while in high school. After being accepted into the prestigious Disney Dreamer Academy, Taylor went on to perform in a number of productions, including The Wiz, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera.
She has graced the stage of the world famous Apollo Theatre, appeared on The Steve Harvey Show, and was a special invited guest performer for renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien’s PowHERful Foundation gala. Additionally, she has opened for a number of pop mainstays such as Mario and Jordin Sparks.
N’DIGO recently sat down with the heavily buzzed about singer to discuss her career, her connection to the legendary Michael Jackson, and what to expect from her upcoming performance at the intimate showcase, Songs & Stories Chicago.
N’DIGO: In your own words, who is Taylor Iman?
Taylor Iman: I’m sultry, soulful, and refreshing. My goal is to make people FEEL the music/art. I present a timeless sound that has both old school and new school influences. I get to be a chameleon in that way. Taylor is a singer, actress, dancer, activist, motivational speaker, and philanthropist.
Who were your musical influences? Who were the artists that made you want to pursue music?
Of course, big artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Janet, Jill and Beyoncé. Michael Jackson, Janet and Beyoncé inspire me to keep pushing physically and get my performance muscles strong. After watching them, I knew anyone may be able to out-sing me, but they will never be able to outperform me.
I was able to study and train with intensity and perfect my skills. Stevie inspires the songwriting aspect of my music. He is an absolute musical genius. And Jill inspires my poetic lyrics, as she is a poetic songstress herself. But truth is there was a spark that was lit within me when I saw my first live Broadway performance when I knew, “This is it; performance is my purpose.” I knew they felt what I feel when I`m onstage.
Speaking of Michael Jackson…you once got a chance to perform for/with him? What was that experience like?
Well, Michael Jackson is obviously an icon. The experience still leaves me speechless. I was a child when I had the chance to perform with the legendary MJ. It was beautiful and unforgettable. The love and work he put in…WHEW! MJ is an icon for a reason. He was a hard worker who always was committed to each moment.
As a classic triple threat that can sing, dance, and act, do you have a favorite of the three?
Yes, and no. These talents all serve me in different ways. Singing is like breathing to me. I just have to do it. I enjoy the mental work out of acting, and there`s just a certain freedom in dancing.
Tell us about your upcoming EP, Motion Picture.
Because it`s my first project, I gave myself permission to do some discovery here of sorts. I’m experimenting and pulling from different experiences and influences, from funk to jazz to deep soul. One thing I`ve heard consistently is, “Wow, and this is only your first project?!”
So I think I`m off to a pretty good start, but there’s much more to come. It is a merger of various different sounds, but they all work together cohesively. In short, Motion Picture is a collection of my own compositions that are daring, sultry, and multifaceted.
What can fans expect from your upcoming performance at the Songs & Stories show?
Fans will get the opportunity to hear about my journey, from being a trained singer in theater to a singer-songwriter now presenting my own work. This will be a much different show than previous performances. It`s honestly exciting to me when you hear only a voice and piano.
Do you have a specific formula that you use or routine you follow as far as creating music?
My “formula” is to freestyle ’til it fits and if you have a catchy chorus it`s most likely a hit. Creation is not something that I can always time. I can be inspired by just going on a simple walk down the street, to actually sitting in the studio listening to an instrumental.
In the studio, my environment is full of incense aromas and soft lighting and music tracks playing for me to catch the vibe. I also have various producers that can take some suggestions from me and will create musical arrangements for me.
What are three of your all-time favorite albums?
That’s a hard one, I don’t think I could choose honestly. I have so many favorite artists and composers that it’s difficult to separate genres, let alone individual projects. But okay, here’s three at this very moment:
Jill Scott – Beautifully Human – this album is filled with emotionally charged poetic lyricism that is sensual and soulful, helping me to be inspired to embrace my own femininity.
Stevie Wonder – Songs In the Key of Life – I can listen to Stevie Wonder all day long. His songs are easily inspired by life’s intimate and purposeful moments and therefore are the perfect soundtracks to this journey we call life.
Anderson Paak – Malibu – He is a dope artist and you can hear the old school flavor with the new school twist he brings. He is one of my favorites and a constant on my playlists. I would love to collaborate with him in the future.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
On stage I have this high energy, like I go into this other place, but people are always surprised to see how chill and silly I can be. I do impersonations all the time of different performers. At the same time, I can chill out and be observant and laid back. They are also surprised that I can do my own hair, including braids and faux locs. I’ve been doing my own braids since I was a child.
Best advice for aspiring artists?
The best advice I could give to an aspiring artist is to know exactly what it is you want before someone else makes that decision for you. Artist development is important, so you have to do the work and learn to separate it from your personal life. Educate yourself on whatever you don’t know because we live in the information age where we can find out information easily. You have more power than you know.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
Because I started music later than my peers, my mantra used to be, “You don’t have to start to be great, but you do have to start to become great.” It got me through any hesitation imaginable. But these days, my favorite quote has been, “Study the greats and become greater.” That’s from Michael Jackson.
What’s next for Taylor Iman?
After the release of the Motion Picture EP in August, we`re going straight into production for the full-length album. Keeping the momentum going, as well as working more in other talents. I`m excited to be collaborating with artists, writers, and producers from all over the world. Oh, and of course, after you release a project, it’s only right to go on tour. We will also be exploring more avenues in artistic forms of activism and youth empowerment.
Catch Taylor live when she takes the stage to perform at the Songs & Stories Chicago showcase on Wednesday July 24th at Davenport’s Piano Bar in WIcker Park.
Connect with Taylor on all social media: @MissTaylorIman