Opera alumna goes country

Doreen Taylor aims to give back to the community with her music.

As a self-described country rocker, Doreen Taylor has earned enough cowgirl cred to call out Taylor Swift on her latest album, “Red.”

“Let’s call a spade a spade – her last album is not country,” Taylor said. “Just say you want to cross over to pop music. Be proud of what you’re doing. I always put the disclaimer out right away – I am not traditional country.”

With a master’s in Opera Performance from Temple, Taylor, 29, infuses all the different styles from her eclectic background to produce her own sound.

Spending her undergrad at the University of Hartford, Taylor transitioned from the green landscape to the concrete jungle of North Philadelphia.

And she admits that we can all thank her former significant other.

“I had a boyfriend living close to [Main] Campus, so I needed a way to get closer to Philly,” Taylor said.

“In Hartford, [Conn.], you admire the nature preserves and guess whose car costs more,” Taylor said. “At Temple, I would be walking across the parking lot from rehearsal alone at midnight. If my parents could, they would still be giving me the silent treatment.”

Despite her parents’ reservations, Taylor believes coming to Temple was the best decision of her life.

“The boy is gone, but the degree stayed,” Taylor said.

Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., Taylor, who won the 2012 Suggested Artist Songwriting Award from SongoftheYear.com, always loved music.

“I picked up instruments and had this freaky gift of knowing how to play them,” Taylor said. “I played violin but never felt it was a part of me quite like singing. You can control what’s happening inside your body rather than some piece of wood sitting on your shoulder.”

Although performing was tugging at her heartstrings, Taylor’s original goal was to become a doctor.

“I’m actually a nerd. I graduated in the Top 8 [students] in my class,” she said. “People would say, ‘You don’t want to be a musician, you want to make money.’ Well, I figured I can do both, and if you don’t think music is tough, walk in my stilettos and see how your feet feel.”

With roles in “Ragtime,” “Show Boat” and “Oklahoma,” Taylor’s education has certainly not gone to waste.

However, she confirmed the old adage that it isn’t what you know but who you know. Taylor also mentioned the opportunities Temple’s theater program gave her.

“My dream role was to play Christine in ‘Phantom of the Opera,’” Taylor said.

“Working with my producer, Dugg McDonough, and the late John Douglas in Temple’s theater program, I had the opportunity to sing opposite the legendary Davis Gaines, who played the Phantom thousands of times,” Taylor said. “He fell in love with my voice, introduced me to the casting director, set me up with a one-on-one master class and the rest is history. Being talented is 2 percent, but the rest is paying attention to who is around you and impressing them.”

Migrating from Broadway to country music, Taylor isn’t worried that she’ll blend in with the blonde southern bells parading the Nashville scene.

“You have to pick a genre because mainstream music will pigeonhole you,” Taylor said.

Taylor said her songwriting authenticity is an asset.

“In addition to my experience, I stand out by writing all of my own songs,” Taylor said. “Carrie Underwood has a team that writes her stuff. Sometimes singers will pay a songwriter and then add a word or two and then take all of the credit. Other times, singers just buy songs from you, and you can never reveal that you wrote them or else you’ll be punished by huge laws and fines.”

Taylor said she refuses to even allow other artists cover her songs.

“I don’t think there is enough money for me to give up my song,” Taylor said. “It would be like selling my child. Just take a knife, cut out my soul and say, ‘Here it is.’ It could be the greatest sound ever, but in my heart, no one can live up to what I was feeling when I wrote it.”

One song Taylor would relinquish for a superstar to cover is “Last Call (For Alcohol),” the first song off her new album, “Magic.”

“This is a college campus anthem,” Taylor said. “Everybody at Temple can relate to that moment when they’re closing down the bar at 2 a.m., and you’re looking for somebody to finish the night with. I was always that one who doesn’t hook up but is desperately trying at the end,” Taylor said with a laugh.

Taylor will be performing “Last Call” along with other songs off “Magic,” when she kicks off her 2013 national tour May 23 at World Cafe Live.

All proceeds will benefit the Jaws Youth Playbook organization, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski’s charity, which focuses on improving the overall health and wellness of at-risk youth.

Tickets are available at her website: doreentaylormusic.com.

“I pay a lot of tributes to the Philly area for giving me my break,” Taylor said. “So I forced the tour to start in Philly. I’m not making a dime off this, because I believe in using the gifts I was given to give back to the community.”

John Corrigan can be reached at john.corrigan@temple.edu.

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