SHARING HER MUSIC - ALEXIS TAYLOR IS MAKING HER MARK IN NASHVILLE
If you’ve never heard the name Alexis Taylor, hold on. The Huntsville-born singer-songwriter, who now makes her home in Nashville, is performing on country music stages throughout the United States and abroad. She was raised in a musical home – her parents, Christina and Michael Degazio, are both musicians – and country music was always on the radio.
“Music was always such a huge part of my life that I feel like there was never any question of what I wanted to do,” she says.
Still, she encountered a few challenges along the way. Her mom wanted her to play the piano but she could never sit still for long enough. And in grade school, when she was a student at Tawingo College, a teacher introduced her class to the guitar but her hands were too small to really do too much, she says. It wasn’t until the eighth grade that she began playing in earnest, teaching herself chords and trying to write lyrics to accompany the music.
“I’ve always been really independent. I kind of just tried to do it on my own – I was very stubborn, I guess.”
Then at Huntsville High School (HHS), she found a mentor in teacher Louis Tusz.
“He was such a huge encouragement and such a huge help,” recalls Taylor. “High school was not a fun time for me. I got pretty badly bullied and being a musician, writing and working on my music so much, didn’t really help. But he always made the music room a safe spot for me to go to, and he really encouraged me to believe in myself and keep working and keep practicing.
“As a teenager, you have the idea that your parents are supposed to support you and believe in you, but to have someone who wasn’t my family say, ‘you know what, you have what it takes, keep working at it,’ it was a very pivotal thing in my life.”
As her ability grew, she took every opportunity to play that she could. She performed in the HHS Caf Jams – concerts staged in the school’s cafeteria – and she sang with her parents at church, or at Deerhurst and Hidden Valley Resort.
But her earlier stubbornness in teaching herself to play would turn out to be a road block, albeit a short-lived one.
At 18, Taylor went to university in Virginia. She had applied to the school’s music program but failed the music theory test. “I’ve always been someone who could play music by ear. I would listen to the songs and I would be able to play them without having to read notes,” she says. It was a disappointing turn of events and she thought then that maybe music wasn’t what she was meant to be doing after all.
Taylor spent the next two years majoring in elementary education, but one day she realized how much she missed the music and thought, “I’ve got to get out of here, I have to be doing music, that’s what I truly want to be doing.” She talked her best friend into driving to Nashville, a trip that solidified her decision.
“I was only 20, so I couldn’t get into any of the bars but standing on the main strip of Broadway in Nashville, where every single bar has a different musician or a different band playing, it was like ‘wow, this is perfect, this is where I want to be’,” she says. She moved to Nashville at 22, three-and-a-half years ago, and hasn’t looked back.
“I’m so lucky to play on the same stages as some of the people down here – the amount of talent that is in this town is incredible. Coming from a small town, it’s really cool to be a part of a huge network of musicians and so many people who are all trying to reach the same goal,” she says. “You learn to build each other up.”
Though she’s humble about it, she can count herself among that talent. And if she needed any confirmation, she got it in the form of a nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2018 Tennessee Music Awards, not long after she had released her first single Blame It On The Whiskey. At the awards ceremony in Jackson, TN, she learned that she had won.
“I had just finished a weekend of five shows in three days. I was tired. And when they called my name, my friend starts nudging me, ‘Alexis, that’s you. You just won!’ As I was walking to the stage I was like, ‘really, are you being serious?’ And the guy who announced it was like, ‘yeah, I’m not joking’. It was a surreal moment.”
Taylor likes to tell stories with her music, sharing life experiences with her audience. It’s one of the things that makes her songs so relatable and she works hard at it.
“A lot of times songwriting can be very frustrating. I know in my mind what I want to say but trying to translate that to make it clear to my audience can be difficult at times,” she says. When she gets stuck, she often calls on her mom to help her work through it. “It really helps to have people in your corner that know music really well and can help you grow in that process of becoming a better writer.”
Taylor is working toward recording a full-length album, a slow process as she is performer, booking agent, marketer and songwriter all in one.
“When you’re seeing me performing, that’s only a portion of what the music industry is about. You don’t see the six hours I spent on my kitchen floor trying to come up with one line of a song,” she says. There are the calls to radio stations trying to book interviews, or the time spent trying to increase plays on iTunes and Spotify. “It’s nonstop and very time-consuming, but worth it.”
Taylor will be releasing a new single titled Bend the Truth in the next few months. And she continues to play as many shows as she can, splitting her time between the U.S. and Canada. One day, she’d like to return to Europe – back in 2016 she opened for singer-songwriter Doug Seegers on his Scandinavian tour, a trip she called “the experience of a lifetime.”
“I love to be on the road as much as possible,” says Taylor, “getting to meet new people and getting to share my music with anyone who wants to listen.”