Charese Fruge’ Talks To Natalie Taylor

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on May 26, 2020

It’s truly a remarkable story. Natalie Taylor was literally just signed to Columbia Records last month by Justin Eshak, EVP/Head of A&R. She popped up on the radar when her song “Surrender” began to go viral on TikTok. “We loved the record and were impressed by the way listeners were connecting with it emotionally,” Eshak said. “Listeners were assigning all types of meaning to the song, which for us indicated real staying power and potential success outside the TikTok ecosystem. I set up a Zoom call with Natalie and was impressed by her creative vision and compelling story. I always like when people make music for the sake of creating,” he says. “That’s what happened here. The viral reaction wasn’t orchestrated but it turned out to be a true reaction to a beautiful song with a deeply personal message. It seemed it could provide a soundtrack for the emotional time in which we’re living.”

That couldn’t be truer as all of the latest research indicates that people are looking for comfort and a deep connection with music during these crazy times. Natalie reminds me a lot of Lauren Daigle, not only from a writing stand point, but also from a vocal stand point. She’s incredible and deep and the song feels comfortable and familiar. Her journey so far has been quite the whirlwind, “It couldn’t have been a more zig-zagier line,” says Taylor. “With just about every major step forward in my career, there were a number of steps back prior to today. But, when the step forward happened, it’s like ‘Ohhhh, all of that stuff makes sense now.’ And, it’s always been that way for me. I’ve realized I’m not totally steering this ship, but I try to make sure it always keeps moving,” she says. “Cue to my song going viral during a worldwide pandemic!”

The TikTok moment is how Taylor’s career really took off, and her dreams came true. “TikTok is a world of endless combinations of visuals and music,” she says. “It’s like millions of tiny television shows. Some are inspiring, some are hilarious, and then there are these emotional scenes of love and heartbreak — you literally just scroll through and different songs can take you on every different journey possible!”

Natalie currently lives just outside of Nashville, but her story starts where she was born and raised, in a small town outside of Birmingham, AL. “I would sit on my bedroom floor and listen to Mariah Carey all day trying to copy her riffs…obviously failing, but I still tried! Music has always been my love,” she says. “Fast forward to years later — I met my amazing husband Jon, and he and I started writing the first day we hung out. Eventually, we got into writing music for film and television and that gave me an outlet to share my music with people. I love adding emotion to scenes and watching it play out on the screen. It’s really special.”

One of the most exciting things to happen to Natalie over the course of her career is happening right now. “Honestly, and I promise I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but the most inspiring things I have seen are the TikTok videos using ‘Surrender.’ I have truly not cried happy AND sad tears like that in a long time. It’s so amazing to see how many people in so many different situations are relating to my song. I get messages all the time, and it just blows my mind how much “Surrender” has meant to people.”

She’s telling the truth, as the numbers continue to grow, and the connections continue to happen throughout this pandemic. “Obviously, it’s impossible to not be impacted in some way by the pandemic,” says Taylor. “One thing I feel that myself and my fans are realizing is just how crucial music is. I see so many comments about how people are relying on music to get through each day. Most of us have never experienced anything like this, and to have music guide you through is really amazing.”

Like most parents, Natalie and her husband Jon have been thrown a parenting curve during the pandemic. They have a three year old daughter who doesn’t understand the lockdown. “She sees the park with the caution tape around it, but we’ve worked extra hard to make sure she’s having a good time. I mean, my husband bought an actual dinosaur costume if that tells you anything haha,” says Taylor. “With that said, even though there are amazing things happening right now with my career, my day-to-day would look pretty unglamorous to any fans watching. Just a lot of singing ‘Life Is a Highway’ from the CARS soundtrack haha.”

There have been a few things that have made a definite impact on Natalie and her song writing over the years, both personally and professionally. “I’m really proud of the success we’ve had (she and her husband) at film and television and I’m super thankful to be a part of the Columbia Records family now. I go up in our studio and I look around and I’m like, we’ve made a lot of progress in this little room by just continually working at it,” she says. “Also, being a mom is at the top of my list of accomplishments. My daughter is the best! And I mean, if we’re being honest here, going through labor and beyond might as well earn us the top award of them all! Haha.”

Being in the industry in any capacity puts a person in the spotlight according to Natalie, that’s why it’s important to her to help mentor young women trying to break into the music business. “It’s important to me that I set an example with my own actions and realize that young women are watching me too, especially my daughter,” says Taylor. “For all I know, she may be in the business one day as well, so I personally want to make sure I am true to myself and put out honest music. There is already too much pressure on what women are supposed to be, look like, act like, and I just want to be my true self.” Her advice to those women: “Be yourself. Don’t change for anyone. I know that’s so cliché, but growing up I feel like I always wanted to be someone else…look like someone else…sing like someone else,” she says. “It’s honestly exhausting and such a waste of time. There is no one like YOU. No one. We are literally all created uniquely and have something to offer. Also, there is an audience for EVERYONE. Be yourself, keep moving, and your creation will speak for itself.”

What keeps Natalie up at night? “What my extremely picky daughter is going to eat for breakfast…haha.” What keeps her sane? “Prayer and my husband Jon. He keeps it real when I’m ‘spiraling’ as we call it haha.” And what do we have to look forward to from her? “Definitely more music! Things have been really growing and I’m excited to share more songs. So, you’ll definitely be hearing a lot more of me!”

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