When Heather Taylor won the Brown Bag Songwriting Competition finals on Nov. 18, it took a day or two for the good news to sink in.
Actually, Taylor — a singer-songwriter, octave mandolin player (and Xpress staffer) — had taken home the prize in week eight of the contest, leading up to the finale. It was that win that moved her onto the final round where she and nine other contestants each sang two songs in front of a panel of judges (radio personality Heather Anders, producer Eric Sarafin and engineer Julian Dreyer). The final three were chosen to each perform a final song: Taylor played “Would You Love?”
“That’s a song that asks people to question your wake, what you leave behind,” she says. “If you were driving a boat, would you be leaving behind something that’s making everybody else fall off course, or would you be smooth sailing?”
Taylor’s two other song choices, for the first round of the finals, were “Color of the Blues” and “Star Stuff.” “Picking them was kind of tough — I had to go for my favorite ones,” she says. Her final choice, “Would You Love,” is one with a message she wants to spread, and she likes audience participation.
“Entertaining and performing is kind of unnatural, the way we do it,” she says. “I want to demystify it and help people sing along.”
Hopefully, the Brown Bag win will help that to happen. Taylor’s prize package includes eight hours of studio time at Echo Mountain, with which she plans to record a live album. That record will help to bolster a crowdfunding campaign for a future studio recording, getting Taylor’s songs out to her new hometown.
A native of New York state, Taylor moved to Asheville a year ago from Rochester. There, her father is a composer. Taylor is a classically trained flutist, but after college she realized her passion was more aligned with being a singer-songwriter. “What I like about writing the songs is a journey — bringing people through a subject,” she says. “Either expanding on one emotion or bringing something full circle.”
Taylor performs with her partner, slide guitarist and Dobro player Sean Jerome. The two will likely open a show at Asheville Music Hall (a gig is part of the prize package), and Taylor is looking to further establish herself on the local music scene. Brown Bag has been a nice introduction.
In order to compete, musicians had to sign up for each week’s Wednesday round by noon on Monday. Taylor had missed the sign up for week seven and was running late on Monday of week eight. “I thought I’d already lost it, but there was still one spot left, waiting for me,” she remembers. “Little magical things like that, that really aren’t magic at all, but feel like it — [they’re] confidence-boosting. Like, ‘Yay, I belong here!’”