It’s all looking good in 2023 for Nashville-based country artist Taylor Hughes. We do love a bit of country here at the magazine, and with “Prayin’ to the Whiskey,” which she released after her debut single, “Good Taste,” she achieved the acclaim she so richly deserved. “Praying to the Whiskey,” made the final top 10 in the “International Song of the Year” in Ireland (by country radio station Downda Road Radio), and she was nominated for “Emerging International Artist of the Year” in the UK . She finished the year strong, earning a nomination for “Country Artist of the Year” at the Southern Fellows and placing in the top 5 (for the second year in a row).
She received five nominations for the 2023 Lexington Music Awards and one fan vote for Country Evolution’s “Artist to Watch in 2023,” winning “Country Artist of the Year” in the process. She recently received two nominations in the 2023 Josie Music Awards for “Rising Star” and “Multi-genre Vocalist of the Year.
Taylor came to our attention here at the magazine through “Praying to the Whiskey.” We were struck by the energy and attitude of the piece. Nashville is a tough, competitive market for country artists to be based in, and the fact that Taylor Hughes is gaining attention and plaudits over the pond as well as at home is testament to her talent and potential. Therefore, with her new single out on June 30th, we were happy to get the opportunity to say hello and talk over the new single and all things Taylor Hughes.
We began talking about the new single “Jesus and Jail,” accompanied by a great fun photo shoot that we have included here!
Taylor- It’s not necessarily Jesus that’s in jail. The idea is Jesus AND jail. I’m unsure if you are aware of the saying, “I live like Johnny Cash, somewhere between Jesus and jail.” It was just something that I loved and always thought was funny. I am a big outlaw country fan. I love Johnny Cash, and I thought it would be a fun idea to take the section Jesus in Jail and create a song around it. I think there are a lot of badass women out there, and they don’t have an anthem. There are a tonne of male artists out there in the outlaw scene. But there are female artists coming through in that scene, and I am one of them. It is something I like to dabble in a bit, and I wanted to create that song saying, “Fellas, make some room, as the girls are here too.”
Of course, we have such a litigious society now that if Jesus did return, he would end up in jail. He would be there trying to help people, mixing with those in need, and then he would touch someone to heal them, and they would scream at unwanted body contact! This is not the era for the second coming (lol).
We then moved onto talking about how the UK country artists we know often comment that they have greater freedom to explore the genre of country without the close eye of the American country fan, who has more set ideas about the sound and look than the UK fan. Did Taylor agree?
Taylor- I think for a long time it may have been that way. There are those who do like to put people into boxes, and there is the stereotypical image that you come to Nashville with cowgirl boots and a hat. I have my hat! But that said, I am more of the “Lainey Wilson” style. But I have my fair share of boots too! Then again, I do see us moving a lot more out of that realm. And for me, I am not a country pop artist; that is not my thing. There is a place and time for all these sub-genres: the Texan, the modern, Americana, and the classic. I am more of an outlaw, but there is more than enough space for everyone. But if you look at the really big upcoming artists now, like Zac Bryan, they don’t really conform to the stereotypical look. I think the market doesn’t necessarily want that cookie-cut-out look, and that is cool for an artist like me with a slightly different sound. I can’t tell you the number of times people come up after shows to say they are not huge fans of country music but are certainly fans of mine! But I do think the general public, when looking at country music, will move to the pop side of it, as that is what they hear on commercial radio. But look at the people who are right now getting to hit big, and we are starting to get country out of any box.
Of course, Taylor is at the very heart of Nashville and the country scene. And it is interesting how US artists (especially those in rock) look to the UK, Abbey Road, the famous studio, road crossings, etc. as places they so desperately want to visit. However, every country artist we have spoken to in the UK is desperate to get to Nashville! How has Nashville influenced Taylor?
Taylor- I am blessed to live here, and I love it! I think I moved to Nashville for the songwriting aspect of it; it is the songwriting hub for country music. We have all the glitz and glamour of the country music capital, but many don’t see the songwriting side of it. I am a full-time touring artist. I travel a lot and am away all weekend. I do longer tours and some smaller ones where I will be back quickly. The thing is, you don’t make money living in Nashville as an artist. In Nashville, everyone is like a hired gun, it is totally different from Texas, for example. If I was in Texas, I would have a band, and that would be it. Here, everyone is focused on their livelihood, they will play this night with one artist, then the next with another. You have to travel, which I love. My favourite part of what I do is touring and meeting new people. What is cool about Nashville is that when I get home, I am songwriting again, creating new ideas. That’s why I love it here. I mean, I am a Kentucky girl through and through, but there is less of a music scene there.
There is plenty of fried chicken, though!
Taylor- Oh yes, plenty of fried chicken and bourbon. There is good food all over Kentucky.
Next, we turned to “Prayin’ to the Whiskey,” which we loved in the magazine. I wrote that it was ‘country music with rocks inside.’ It had a big sound and was packed with attitude. We liked the line, “I’m a sinner, but I meant no harm.” It is a case of Catholicism in the country!
Taylor- That is one I wrote, and it was a fun song to release. I actually wrote it with my Dad, and we wrote it when I first moved to Nashville. We used to write a lot more together, but now we are both so busy that it can be hard to do that. But that was one of those times when we sat down and talked about bourbon whiskey, a big thing in Kentucky, and in our family culture. We also love football—American football, that is. (Although my husband does love British football and listens to podcasts on Manchester United all the time.) But we were talking about college and getting into trouble back in the day. We thought it would be cool to merge religion and lifestyle and mix them. It is a song that says that none of us is perfect; we all have that angel on one side and the devil on the other, and sometimes we will give in more to one than the other. We often sin, but rarely do we mean any harm. And that is a song that came out easily when we wrote it. I set about playing it around Nashville when I moved here, and it was a song people around town knew me for and would ask for it. It is a fan favourite, and I am blessed to have it played all around the world. It was just one that, when we were in the studio recording it, I was so particular about. This was the song people knew me for, so I knew it had to be done right. Also, I wanted it to be special, as it was the one that my Dad was with me writing on. It is edgy, like “Jesus and Jail,” and it has my stamp all over it.
Did all of our readers know (and the American ones will, those outside the States maybe not) that to be a bourbon, the whiskey has to be from Kentucky? Actually that is not 100% right, bourbon can be made outside that state. But to be designated a “Kentucky bourbon,” the spirit has to be both distilled and aged in Kentucky. See…we give education here as well !
There is also a clear funk sound to Taylor Hughes music. If you listen to “Good Taste,” you get this strong, funky groove and a dance feel that should have them all line dancing in the crowd! It also has this great line, “a good taste in music, but a bad taste in men.”
Taylor- It is a bit different. That one has a little more honky-tonk, a bit more outlaw. We thought that would be a great first release, as it is more traditional than “Prayin’ to the Whiskey.” It is a lot of fun, and it pays tribute to Cash and all of these greats. What we hear today, I hope, recognises those great outlaw artists who came before me. And that line is funny; my husband was like, “What do you mean a bad taste in men?” But it was obviously a man I dated before I met him! It is important to qualify that phrase!
Next up, we wondered how Taylor was planning to write now; was she perhaps looking towards an EP? Or is she more focused on the release of singles? Some artists now embrace the immediacy of singles and look only at the downloading market.
Taylor- I am more in the middle. I am old-school, so putting out an album would be a goal for me. When my favourite artists release an album, I listen to it from front to back! This is because each song will tie into the others. I think there are still a lot of people out there who appreciate the album as a body of work, so it is something I look towards. But as an independent artist, I do have to look at costs and what I can afford to do right now. People also want instant gratification now, so there is pressure to release every two months and keep your name current. There is beauty in that, as long as you keep the audience’s attention. So right now I am in the single realm, where I release a single every so often, but these ideas I will build on to maybe get an EP. I have my Spotify, but I still like to go out and get the physical CD. I was recently buying a new car, and when I bought the car, I saw they no longer had the CD, and that shocked me as I loved to play my CDs in the car!
We really agree here; it is so sad to have no CD’s in the car any more. This is a backward step! And we wondered about being an independent artist in Nashville; that has to be tricky.
Taylor- Sure. I came here with those golden dreams that I still have. There is that initial desire, or idea, that you need to be signed to a label, but then you start to go down different routes, and although I am not opposed to signing with a label, it would have to be the right time and fit. I can control my image and sound now. It is a lot of work on my own, but my biggest goal now is getting out and building that fan base. If I get a label, it will be because they want me, not because I need them.
Taylor- I am getting into the festival scene, which is really exciting. I am headlining a festival in Kentucky this weekend, so that is really great. But only one of the players I am playing with has played with me before, and he played with me once last month in Missouri. I had a few guys there, but they are all booked, apart from the guitarist. So maybe down the line I will get a set group around me, but right now it is who is available and who wants to play.
We may see Taylor on this side of the pond one day!
Taylor – It is actually semi in the works. I have some fans and radio stations asking when I will make it over. I have never been out of the country like that yet, so maybe in 2024!
And that concludes this great chat with the wonderful Taylor Hughes. The single will be there to download on the 3oth, but, for now, try some of the great tracks we talk about here!
The link to “Prayin to the Whiskey” is here.
“High on Something” is linked here
“Good Taste” is linked here.
You can continue to follow Taylor on her website, https://www.taylorhughesmusic.com/
On her Amazon page, https://www.amazon.com/music/player/artists/B00DXJQLA8/taylor-hughes
On Instagram https://www.instagram.com/taylorhughesmusic/
And on Twitter, https://twitter.com/TayHughes_Music
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C. Chambers
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