Eleanor Bogart-Stuart staff writer
Max Yera staff writer
The striking blond hair, a plush fur coat and an instrument in his hands should be the reason that junior Taylor Briggs stands out from the crowd. But Briggs is more than the sum of these parts: he’s a young pop star in the making.
Briggs has been walking the road to stardom since the day he was born, thanks to to the skills of his musician father, Tim. Briggs began playing guitar more formally at the age of eight when he joined School of Rock. School of Rock is an organization dedicated to teaching adolescents music skills and performance. Unlike some of his peers, Taylor was staunch in his passion for the guitar.
“He’s always taken the music so seriously. [His mother and I] told him that if we were gonna pay for School of Rock lessons then he had to practice. We said that to him because a lot of kids weren’t serious about it and they think of it as more of a club,” Taylor’s father, Tim Briggs, said.
School of Rock also opened up a way for Taylor to improve his live performance and his guitar skills.
“From about age eight to 14, [School of Rock] was a pathway for me to continue on with guitar because my dad could only show me so much before it got frustrating because, you know, he’s my dad,” Taylor said with a chuckle.
But School of Rock wasn’t the only factor in Taylor’s talent. Taylor’s dad used to be a member of the country band Alabama. Tim has been a major influence on Taylor and his music, although, as he puts it, “Taylor is his own person.”
“I’ve been very careful to not have my fingerprints on him. He’s his own person. But, he has the good fortune of having a father who was a professional musician who played with the group Alabama for many years,” Tim said.
It was Tim’s experience, along with School of Rock, that truly helped transform Taylor into a skilled guitar player.However, the days of merely “fumbling around with a guitar,” as Taylor put it, “are now over as his musical outlook has developed more professionally since the advent of his high school years.
“Around three or four years ago, I started taking it more seriously. I started taking professional vocal lessons and I’m starting dance lessons, so we’ll see how that goes,” he laughed. “I’m just trying to do as much as I can and become more well-rounded.”
Before such vocal or dance lessons, Taylor believed that the first step in taking his musical career to a more professional level was by creating his own band, a trio turned quartet by the name of California.
The band consisted of Taylor as lead singer on guitar, along with friends Michael Moore on drums, Stephan Kim on bass and, later, Marcello Terrasi on keyboard.
“I always enjoyed playing piano and Taylor gave me the opportunity to play with him as a band. Playing with him and the others is always loads of fun,” Terrasi said. “Taylor at times can be a little bossy in rehearsal, but I think it helped us get things done and it truly showed his skills in leadership.”
Being in a cover band frustrated Taylor due to the lack of dedication among his bandmates.
“They just weren’t really dedicated to it, so [I figured] I’m just going to try to do my own thing. I’m going to try to get a label myself,” Taylor said. “Instead of forcing people to play with me, I’m just trying to get as much of my work out there, and people that are interested will come.”
Following this venture into bandhood, Taylor has spent his last two summers at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he has completed the school’s five week summer program for young musicians around the country. Though frustrating and difficult, Taylor has attributed his far more professional outlook on music today to his experience in Boston.
“When I went to Boston, believe me, I just wanted to cut my throat from too much jazz. Look, it kills you but it’s good for you and it took me a while to realize that,” he explained. “When I went back this summer I thought of it more as an adult. Even though I didn’t want to do it, I knew how much it would help me.”
Taylor has also attributed his experience at Berklee to his evolved musical style, as he, being once a fan of grunge of heavy metal, now considers his music a cross between pop and alternative with potential of incorporating R&B and hip-hop.
“You know pretty much anything that’s on the radio is what I listen to,” Taylor said. “It’s good reference for me because it’s also what I’m trying to compete with with my music. It’s like whatever’s on top 40 pop is what I’d like to make a song better than, you know? But who knows if that’ll ever happen.”
It’s this competitive nature within Taylor that seems to be the driving force behind his music. As his father puts it, “He wants to be successful.”
“Of course, Taylor listens to music all the time. But he’s not just doing it for fun. He’s studying, and he’s following the trends, and he listens to the top bands and looks at charts. He wants to be successful,” Tim explained. “You can write songs for yourself or you can write things to be commercial. We want to write hit songs. That’s our philosophy.”
This analytical side of Taylor’s view of music has also affected the way he looks at his own schoolwork.
“I’m never just like, ‘Oh get me out of here’ because every little thing helps. You know even the little grammatical patterns in French class. I’m always like ‘Huh, never realized that’ and that just opens me up a little bit,” Taylor said. “I just imagine like a big wall and the more you chip away at it, the more you find underneath.”
Taylor’s focus in both school and music was another useful trait that was instilled by his father.
“He’s got a great work ethic. He doesn’t settle. Our real motto is, it’s either right or it’s wrong, and there’s no in between,” Tim said.
And whether it’s “right” will be first put to test once Taylor puts his own album, a compilation of 22 songs that he has written and composed since the beginning of high school, out on iTunes by the end of this school year. Taylor currently puts his completed tracks from the on Soundcloud.
“Hopefully five years from now I can say ‘That’s what I did and that’s what got me here,’ but you know even if that doesn’t happen I could be like, ‘You know at least I tried’ and ‘I had a good time trying,’” Taylor said.