Grammy Award Winning Producer Troy Taylor: Talks Reviving Real R&B, Friendship With Aretha Franklin & Finding Longevity In The Music Business
Grammy Award winning producer Troy Taylor is bringing back authentic R&B in a major way. Having recently worked on Jacquees‘ new King Of R&B album, and Elijah Blake’s Holiday Love EP, this hitmaker is imprinting his original sound on the careers of some of music’s brightest rising stars. In February of 2020, he will celebrate being in the music business for 30 years, as he continues to elevate his career for new heights.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Troy Taylor for a candid interview below to see what life is like as a hitmaker. As he openly discusses reviving REAL R&B, having a friendship with Aretha Franklin and finding longevity in the music business, it becomes clear that his passion for creating music will never die. Check it out below.
Troy Taylor Interview
Respect: As you were signed to Motown Records as an artist when you first started off in the industry, what prompted your transition to focusing more on the production/writing side of music?
Troy Taylor: While I was working on my album for Motown, I started working with these kids who were ages 15 to 17, I was around 22. When I started working with them to make a long story short, a year later they come out and blew up all the way up around the world. I started thinking do I really want to be an artist because I really enjoyed the success that these kids had and I knew I didn’t want to be super political and feed into the politics of being an artist. I am too real for that. When I say real, I mean if you want me to be politically correct I am not that guy. I am not going to do all that shucking and jiving and all of the stuff it takes to be an artist and I knew that.
So I went to the A&R Timmy Regisford and Jheryl Busby the president and I told them I didn’t want to be an artist anymore and that I wanted to be a producer and writer. I had done some work with their artists, but these kids went on to be Boyz II Men so after that I was done. I was like I would rather be behind the scenes because I could still sing, I could still write and I could still do all of the things I love without doing the front stuff. So that is why I decided not to become an artist.
Respect: What does it mean to be a Grammy Award winning hitmaker having won grammy awards for your work with Aretha Franklin and Boyz II Men?
Troy Taylor: Of course you know a Grammy award is the most major award you can win as a musician, arranger, producer, writer and artist, so for me it was really surreal to be part of that academy. It also makes me feel like I need to do more. Some people may be satisfied but not me because I can do more and have too. I can’t get comfortable. It kind of pushed me at the same time, as well as being happy and excited for it it. It truly made me feel like I have to go harder.
Respect: What sparked you founding your Songbook Ent production company?
Troy Taylor: When I first started off in the industry, my first 12 years of my career I was apart of a production collective. I decided to leave in 2002 and that is when I created Songbook. The concept is coming from Talking Book which is one of Stevie Wonder’s albums. I feel like it displays songs and production all in one.
Respect: How did you go about signing Trey Songz and how did that change your life/career?
Troy Taylor: Ironically Trey was with this collective first and when I left, he had to stay with them even though I wasn’t there. That is until he got kicked out. He got kicked out of the company and he was excited because that meant that he could work more with me and that’s what he did. Trey Songz became more so the artist I never ended up being in the sense of great R&B music. That is what I wanted, simply to create great R&B music. It is one thing to make hits for people, but it is another story to create a star from scratch. It is not easy at all.
Respect: As you have worked with many legends such as Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston and The Isley Brothers, what are some of your fondest memories from working with the greats?
Troy Taylor: With Aretha Franklin since she has such big personality and known to be very diva, I think what made us work well together is the fact that I studied her career and her music. I knew that she was a musician, a dope writer and dope singer. So it was like I knew she had an idea of what she wanted to do, so I would set it up to let her do what she does and then I would go in after that. Most producers try to produce her when you cannot do that. You simply have to just let her do what she does.
Then you critique it, fix it, and do everything that needs to be done. She liked the fact that I did that with her. Upon doing 1 song it ended up being 3, and for the first time I asked her to listen to Trey Songz’ album because he was about to come out soon and I asked her for her advice on the music. The founder of Atlantic Records who signed her blessed Trey and told him that he was a star early. He then told Aretha Franklin, which helped her to listen to Trey’s music. When she listened to him I asked her if she could give him some advice. At the beginning of his album you can hear her giving Trey some advice and that was huge.
But that showed how cool Aretha and I were. Every now and then she would call me running ideas that she had in mind. It was really shocking because Its like is Aretha Franklin really calling me like what? I had no idea. I didn’t even want to work with Aretha Franklin because some people are so big I just like to let them be them and stay a fan. So working with her was amazing. I have one particular interview that she did in 2003 and she mentioned me. I didn’t even know about it. Years later someone said I like the interview when Aretha Franklin mentioned your name. I was like what interview?? They sent it to me and I was like wow. The queen Aretha Franklin has spoken, you all can’t tell me nothing.
Respect: How have you been able to find longevity in this music business?
Troy Taylor: God. It is always good to remember the giver more so than the gift. People focus so much on the gift that they forget the giver. Me, I always remember the giver and why he gave me the gift. It has never been about me. It has always been about other people and me helping other people to understand their gift. I help them learn how to work their gift and use their gift musically. I have been blessed to be able to continue to go no matter how hard, wicked, deceitful, or evil this industry can be. I have always been able to maintain and focus my energy mentally and not get caught up in the other stuff.
Thinking about before social media and now with social media, you can really get lost in why you want to do it or why you are doing it. I never got wrapped up in that. I stayed with the love of music and never let anybody, anything, any situation or hard time make me not love it anymore. Really I was able to stay on it and in it and going, just from the love of why I wanted to do it in the first place. I cannot let anyone change that thought you know what I mean.
Respect: As you have been in the game for 20 years, what do you find my rewarding about the line of work that you do?
Troy Taylor: It will be 30 years on February 11th 2020
Respect: As you have co-executive produced Elijah Blake’s new Holiday Love album, what in the nature. Of you all relationship?
I met him when he was 14 going on 15. We are both Geminis and just clicked really well. But talent is one thing and learning how to use it is another thing. He came to visit me in Atlanta after I had moved there from Texas, and that is when I was able to figure him out and see what his need was and where he needed to be. At that time he was Red Styles he wasn’t Elijah Blake yet. He was an artist that wrote and knew how to record himself, which is one of the requirements at TTU.
You have to know how to record yourself. He knew how to record himself, write, arrange and do harmonies so upon him graduating and moving to LA, we just kept in touch. He is a great person outside of being a great artist. His personality and my personality work really well together, so we always stayed close no matter what he was doing.
He always knew he had my support and would get me whenever. This project was an honor to do because he came to Atlanta and stayed at the house. We actually worked on it in 2017. He didn’t put it out then and I tried to get him to put it out in 18, and he wouldn’t put it out. Now we finally have it out! It is really dope to have a body of work attached to our relationship.
Respect: What was it like working with Jacquees on his latest R&b album King Of R&B?
Troy Taylor: My goal for Troy Taylor as the 0G in the music game, is to get myself into the new era of R&B. That way I am able to change it, without standing on the outside and talking and being bitter. I knew I had to get up with the young up and coming R&B artists and insert my OGism. With Jacquees being the most active consistent young R&B artist, I knew I had to get to him. Once I got to him, I knew I could do the R&B those kids grew up on, if I had someone young doing it. I knew that if I could get that same music on Jacquees it would spark a whole new generate to R&B again. And since not to many of the producers that are out can actually do real R&B, it would put me back on top so to speak.
Respect: What are you currently working on/what is up for next?
Troy Taylor: I am currently working on music with Trey Songz for his forthcoming Trey Songz album. We have some really amazing music on the way. I am also working with a group called Next Town Down and in that group is one of my proteges Trevon Waters. Some of the songs I did for Trey, he co-wrote along with Daniel Breland. Breland (@thepenpointguard) does a lot of the things that I am doing now. He also co-wrote Jacquees songs “Fact Or Fiction” and “Good Lovin” and worked on YK Osiris latest project.
I also did some work on K. Michelle upcoming R&B album and executive produced my little brother Johnta Austin’s album Love, Sex and Religion. His most recent material is the definition of true R&B as it has been in the making for 10 years. He has finally released a body of work as recording artist, making this release his most impressive material to date. This move has allowing me to be fresh, up to date and current while at the same time fixing and bringing back the essence of Real R&B.
Stay up to date with this living legend by following him on social media @troytaylorttu.