Taylor Grace: My mom. She is probably one of the biggest country fans in the world. The second I was old enough to listen to music, I was listening to what she was listening to. That’s what was playing in the car on the radio: Sugarland, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw. She was taking me to concerts, and I was introduced really young. I fell in love with everything that was country music.
AJ: What was your first concert?
TG: Sugarland! I was four or five.
AJ: You started writing at six years old, but now that you’re writing more seriously, how do you see those artists in the music you’re creating?
TG: They’ve all impacted my sound and my style. When I first started writing, I was writing just to write songs and now that I’m aware of what my sound needs to be, I’m able to use their songs and their lyrics to inspire me. I’ve always been able to write actual songs. Even at 6, I was writing two verses, a chorus and a bridge. A song. As I got more aware of the music, I was as able to guide myself in the right direction while listening to [these artists] to be able to know what I wanted to sound like.
AJ: When did you first become aware that it’s possible to write songs and sing as a career?
TG: When I was 6, I thought that all singers wrote their own songs. That was just my mindset. So when I said I wanted to be a singer, I knew I wanted to write too. I think my family knew the first time I wrote a song that I could do it. But for me, the reality really hit once my dad passed away and I wrote a song about it, because that was the first time I had ever used my feelings [when writing a song]. That was a wake up call. I believed that I could do this. “Far From Perfect,” I wrote it the first time I was 13. After I wrote that song, I realized with even the reaction I was getting then, that this was something I could do for the rest of my life and be happy with it.
AJ: You said you graduated high school, but you’re 16. Did you graduate early?
TG: With everything that happened for me to write this song, the next year was even worse. I spent the majority of my freshman year of high school getting extremely bullied, so the day after my last day of ninth grade, I said, ‘I’m not going back.’ And I homeschooled. I knew that I wanted to finish as quickly as possible. I was already ahead, because I was one of the smart ones, and so I took it by the reins and did everything as fast as I could because I could do it. There was no need for me to wait if I could do it. I did [schoolwork] at midnight, I did it when I was babysitting, and I finished a year and a half early.
AJ: As for “Far From Perfect,” you mentioned that you re-wrote it, so what made you revisit the song and come back to it?
TG: When I wrote it at 13, I was really writing it to help me, and to help me feel better about what I was feeling towards myself. That year was really about me being my own worst enemy and society being my own worst enemy. People don’t act that way unless they’re taught that someone isn't good enough in some way. So that was all the negative.
I rewrote it just a couple months ago. Now I’m definitely in a position where I have found myself. Before, when I wrote it, I was very lost and struggling with depression and now I’m really happy. I wanted to be able to put my positive twist on it and not make it a sad song. Now I’m putting out a song that actually I believe and because I wanted to be able to use my stories and my struggles to help people, which is why I write in the first place.
AJ: I’ve never heard people talking about size and beauty expectations in songs the way you do in the verses of this song. Meghan Trainor attempted with “All About That Bass,” but I liked the way you were so literal about the stereotypes in society, especially in country music when this is a topic not often talked about.
TG: There were a million songs that I could have put out as my first single that are more lyrically mature, or fit more of the country singer stereotype or whatnot. But along with the love songs I write, the songs about relationships or about life, I always want to put out songs that people are afraid to. I want to say what others don’t want to say. And I want to be that person because there’s not a lot of people like that. I want to be the person I needed when I was going through all of this.
AJ: What was the process of recording “Far From Perfect?”
TG: I actually recorded this song three times. I’ve rewritten it, things have happened, not gone the way I’ve wanted them to. But this last time, because I was so used to being in a studio, it was very easy to make it what I wanted it to be. And I have the greatest people ever working with me. It was very easy for it to be me, and not what anyone else wanted it to be.
AJ: When you went to record the song, did you have any specific influences or sounds in mind, style wise?
TG: I walked in and I said, “I want this as far away from pop country as possible. I want it to have a very southern, Alabama sound. I want this to sound like me.” We brought out the mandolin, and the electric, the tambourine, all that kind of stuff. It definitely has some Sugarland influences. I definitely knew what I wanted, but it became so much more than I ever thought it could be.
AJ: What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of 2018?
TG: I want someone to sing my songs. I don’t care who it is, how big they are, how small they are. I want to be able to write and pitch my songs to somebody and have them sing it, or to write with somebody and have them sing that song. It’s not about the money or anything like that. Just to have somebody sing a song that I was a part of is a life goal for me definitely.
*This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Purchase “Far From Perfect” here.