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Welcome to the first episode of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. I am excited to introduce singer songwriter Taylor Halversen as our first guest! In this episode we learn what drove her to create her album and release it this past summer. Later in the interview she gives some great advice for those wanting to develop a talent but let fear get in the way.
Introduction: Taylor Halversen
Taylor is an innovation consultant for the Business Innovation Factory. She works with education, health care and government organizations to help them understand the end user experience. She helps them understand how students and patients are experiencing what they provide, and then to use that information to develop new business models around the user experience. Music is her hobby and passion. She loves her day job and it is another creative outlet for her, but music has always and will always be an important part of her life.
Smile was recorded a couple of years ago, as a “big hairy audacious goal” in one of her college classes, something that she was afraid to do but something that could feasibly be done over the course of the semester. When she told her professor that her goal was to be prepared to record an album, he said “nope, that’s not your goal”. Her goal was changed to actually record an album by the end of the semester, which was rather frightening.
She worked over the course of the semester to get her songs to the point where she felt good recording them, which was hard because she was dealing with anxiety and depression at the time, but recorded the album then then. She was still struggling with her relationship with her creativity and her music, but finally this last year after working to reconnect with her art and music she decided to release it.
“It was an act of getting to a place of healing, and being able to open myself up to being able to put that out into the world.”
The title has a lot of meaning. All of the songs on the album except for Smile and Separate were written before Taylor struggled with depression. Smile was written when she was in the darker space, when she didn’t feel connected.
“That song is kind of, and articulation of how it felt to always appear on the outside like I was happy, and that everything was put together, but that on the inside I was struggling with so much.”
The songs that were written before her depression are very upbeat, you can hear the smile in them, they are very fun. But there is also a question in the album especially in Smile and Separate, of at what point is smiling not exactly what you need. The album title, Smile, talks about the journey of being innocent and someone who smiled all the time to something a little bit harder, and then full circle again because by the time the album was released she was smiling again.
Taylor listens to a lot of Regina Spector, Brandi Carlile, and She and Him. Her sound has a Jazz and upbeat piano influence, as well as a lot of range. She has a very wide range, she can hit a lot of really high notes and has a rich lower section as well.
“I never write a song wanting it to sound a certain way. Writing starts with a powerful feeling that I want to express. Then I just start playing until it expresses itself.” She has never sat down thinking “I’m going to write a song right now”. Instead she waits for those feelings and inspiration to come.
Taylor loves to listen to whole albums and whole songs, there isn’t necessarily a particular lyric that really encapsulates her feelings. She could listen to Brandi Carlile any time any day and it would speak to her soul. The lyrics are so powerful. She has been influential in Taylor’s life since she was 18.
Who Is A Successful Person That Comes to Mind?
Her Grandma and Grandpa Halversen. They weren’t extremely well to do but they built a life together. They had five kids, my Grandpa was a doctor, and they’ve built a wonderful home. Taylor call’s their home the “Halversen Hotel” because people are always there, whether they’re family or not. Every room is usually filled. Her grandparents have an open home, they freely give to others, and they are always looking to include and to build their community.
“To me success is creating a network of people who you share mutual love with. And sharing the resources that you have and working hard to earn those resources but then using them in a way that benefits other people.”
There are many experiences that she loves, and she can basically give you something from every day of my life. “I feel like my whole life has been one blessed experience.”
Discovering and Developing Her Gift for Music
Taylor’s first musical memory was when she was three years old and visiting San Francisco. There was a mic set up for a band in the middle of a square, and she crawled up on the stage and started singing “I Am a Child of God” into the microphone. Her parents put her in performing groups after that.
When she was about 7 or 8 she started taking piano lessons, and took lessons until she was 17. Taylor was also in performing groups until she was 17. In college she started pursuing her own music a bit more and she was also part of some musicals.
The biggest lesson Taylor has learned is about confidence. She knew she had a talent for music, a talent for performing, a good voice, and that she was good at the piano, but when she got in front of people she would just shake. And choke, and her voice wouldn’t come out as well as she would have liked it and then she would get upset about it. People told her that she did a lovely job, but she knew that she could do more.
Something changed in college, she was performing one time and she just looked out into the audience, and no one was paying attention to her. They were all chit chatting with each other and looking at their phones, and it just hit her at that moment… They don’t really care.
“Tomorrow everyone is going to wake up and they aren’t going to be thinking about me. I’m the only one that’s thinking about me.”
At that moment, she relaxed a little bit, and a much different richer sound came out because she was so relaxed. After that tons of people came up and said how much they loved it. After that experience, she found a different mode, which was relaxed performing. Since then she has had much more confidence performing and her voice has been a lot more reliable and she has had a lot more confidence in her singing and playing abilities.
The biggest thing she has learned is that “it really doesn’t matter what other people think.“ People say that all the time, but she had to learn it in my own way, and through my own experience. “People really don’t care about how good it is. You care about how good it is. If you’re just having fun then it will be better than if you are worrying about what other people think.”
Sometimes she won’t practice because she’s afraid… there is a fear of not being what she wants to be.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson
Taylor has also been reading a book called The Artist’s Way, and it’s about unlocking your inner creativity. One of the key things that the author promotes in that book is that you have to be willing to be bad at something to get good at it. To overcome fear, it’s just about showing up. Even if it’s bad.
Taylor did a practice a couple months ago, where she committed to a month where I was going to play the piano every day no matter how she felt, no matter how scared she was. “Even if it was just one scale, I was going to play every single day. Some days I would start off not wanting to play, I would just play a scale. But because that’s how I like to express myself, I just kept desiring to play more and more and then I’d find myself sitting there for a half hour – an hour, just playing.”
It’s just about showing up.
“When you show up you give yourself permission to be creative, to produce things that are beautiful.” But you have to be willing to do it badly first. Because you can’t get good unless you first pass through that valley of doing it poorly.
Taylor had been at a point of stagnation with her music, and not knowing what to do next. After our conversation, she decided she wants to start following her own advice and start showing up to her music, showing up to that practice more and maybe daily in order to unlock some creativity.
“This morning before we talked, I haven’t just played for fun in a while and today I just spent a couple hours just playing for fun. After I had just opened myself up to just playing for a while, I actually wrote a new stanza of lyrics. Which, hasn’t happened in quite some time, I’m talking years.”
Following her own advice and showing up because is a good thing because everything that she wants to express is in there, “it’s just making the time to let myself open up in that way.”
She also wants to start getting herself out of her comfort zone a little more. Since she moved to a different city, it’s hard to find places where she can perform and showcase her music. She’s going to start looking for more opportunities to perform in her new city.
What Brings the Most Joy?
“Joy, my relationship with God. It hasn’t been the easiest past, especially the past few years as I went through my depression it was really hard for me to connect with God. Still, sometimes I have a hard time believing that he’ll be there for me, or that I can open up to him. But whenever I do, whenever I get over that hump of fear, whenever I get over that fear of disconnection – I always feel joy, and I always feel connected. So, why do I even question that that’s going to be the outcome when it has been every single time? I’m human and I fear.”
“My connection with God definitely brings me the most joy in my life.”