A Montreal pop star: NJ Taylor

Singer-songwriter and Concordia alumna new acoustic EP

Montreal pop star and Concordia alumna, NJ Taylor, is hitting up radio charts and taking on the pop music scene with her upbeat dance hits. She just released an acoustic version of her 2015 self-titled EP album on Oct 21.Her track “Pop Army” held a spot on the UK’s Music Week Commercial Pop Club Chart Top 30 for two weeks, starting at #17 and climbing to #13. She was a nominee for the International Music and Entertainment Association (IMEA) as pop artist of the year, pop album of the year and pop song of the year with her hit track “Pop Army”—which is also currently nominated for the Hollywood Music in Media Award.

Taylor grew up in the West Island part of a musical family. “My mother was a pianist. She was my biggest inspiration growing up,” Taylor said. “Music was always playing at my house. My brother also played the piano.” At the age of four, Taylor enrolled in violin lessons at Montreal’s renowned school of music, Vincent-d’Indy. “Classical music was the first genre that I played. I played violin for nine years,” said Taylor. Growing up, she knew music was her destiny. “I always knew I was an artist. It was just a matter of making the decision for real,” she said.

Taylor graduated from Concordia with a major in Italian and a minor in Spanish. She said it was difficult for her to put her music dreams on hold and study something other than music. “My plan B became plan A,” she said. “Once I left music behind, I didn’t think it was feasible to leave it and come back.” Taylor said, however, that what she learned at Concordia has helped her a lot in her music career. “If I didn’t have a degree, I wouldn’t have these aptitudes, like learning to be organized,” she said. “You need that for any business and that’s not something you can learn on the streets.”

NJ Taylor releases new acoustic EP. Photo by: Antoine La Rochelle.

Her ambition and determination have proven that, while talent is important, making it in the pop music industry mostly requires a lot of hard work. “It’s a business that, if you don’t do it 24/7 and don’t dedicate all your time to it, it’s really hard to stand out,” said Taylor. When she decided to return to music after her studies, she put herself out there, networking within and outside of Montreal. “You need to build relationships that could lead to a collaboration,” she said.

It was a long process for Taylor to release her first EP album, but she wanted to make sure she could compete with major pop artists. She said her aim is to make it on the radio, since it will expand her fan base and increase her opportunities to perform live. However, to be on the radio, you need to think like big labels do, she said. “That’s why the process was so long because I was concentrating on the visuals, the artist development and on the website,” she explained. “It’s not just the music, there is so much more around it.” The effort seems to have been worth it, with NJ Taylor getting airtime on Canadian radio stations and having Music Plus premiere her “Pop Army” music video.

The newly-released acoustic version of her EP was inspired by Justin Bieber’s release of an acoustic version of his entire hit album, Believe.“Myself and my engineer, we got really inspired by that,” Taylor said. “It allows me to show my fans a different facet of who I am and what I do.” She said her acoustic album allowed her to reach out to a different audience, and it opened the door for her to perform at different venues.

For this acoustic album, Taylor teamed up with guitarist Pierre-Luc Rioux, who has had sessions with Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, and is working closely with David Guetta. Taylor said she was honoured to work with Rioux. As for the creative process of songwriting, Taylor worked with her co-writer, Adien Lewis, who is based in Los Angeles, and her co-producer Ghislain Brind’Amour, who has also worked with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj. While her songs are pop and dance-based, the lyrics have great depth. In her track “Little Girl,” Taylor voices her struggles with being bullied while growing up. “When you go through a horrible time in your life, it becomes part of who you are,” she said. “I want to go to schools and talk about this. I think this song can show people that I went through this and that I am okay now.”

Taylor said she is greatly inspired by 90s pop music and artists and songwriters such as Michael Jackson, Max Martin and Taylor Swift. “Max Martin is the greatest pop producer of our time. He is a god of pop music,” she said.

As part of the launch of her acoustic EP, NJ Taylor will be giving a free live show on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. at the Chapters bookstore in Pointe-Claire. She will also be having a pay-what-you-can show online on Saturday, Nov. 5 on at 2 p.m.

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