Taylor Dayne: Talking Straight From the Heart

Photo Credit: Peter Baratti

A musical powerhouse with a voice that is strong, yet soulful, Taylor Dayne is a force to be reckoned with. Her career has spanned the past 30 years, and with 75 million records sold worldwide, she is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. She has not slowed down since.

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Taylor’s rise to fame in 1987 with the hit song, “Tell It to My Heart” won over fans as well as the legendary Clive Davis, who signed her to Arista Records. From that point on, life as she knew it would never be the same.

“Life completely changed,” says Taylor, “like at the speed of sound!”

And while it might have felt like the musical superstar achieved overnight success, it was, in fact, just the opposite. Performing tirelessly for years in various nightclubs throughout NYC, Taylor focused on her own music when the sun came up. She was committed to making her dream a reality.

Despite a tough childhood, both mentally and physically, Taylor’s resilience, determination, and a strong will to succeed led the mother of two where she is today.

“You can take three people and put them through the same experience and they’re not all going to come out the same way,” she explains.

Major surgery at just 5 years old and months spent in the hospital changed her in more ways than one. It was there she discovered her voice and the power it held; fixated on her vision to become a “rock star,” a young Taylor never looked back.

With a career that has spanned three decades, and includes 17 Top 20 singles and multiple number one hits, Taylor continues making music. This past summer she released another hit single, “Please.” “I feel like my time is here again,” she exclaims.

Taylor’s journey from aspiring singer to global star is not only fascinating, it is extremely inspiring. In a candid conversation, the singer-songwriter opened up to BELLA about the struggles she’s faced and gave us a look into her life, both on and off the stage.

Very early on you knew you not only wanted to sing, but were going to be famous doing what you loved. From that moment, was there ever a time you questioned your path?

No, it was always full speed ahead. This was what I knew, and in my heart there was this quiet determination. My parents were doing their thing, having their own quiet and big storms, and I said to myself, I have this voice and I’m going to go in my room, sing with the radio, and I’m going to do this.

In your book, “Tell It to My Heart–How I Lost My S#*T, Conquered My Fear, and Found My “Voice,” you go into greater detail about the difficulties you faced as a child. If you hadn’t gone through all you did, do you think you’d still be where you are today?

I would never be able to sit here today, and I wouldn’t have the resilience to do anything I have achieved. Everyone has his or her own mental strength—I came out of it a much stronger person. It broke me, but it didn’t kill me. It led me on the journey I took, and I am definitely a more beautiful, loving mother and stronger human because of my childhood.

What inspired you to write a book and open yourself up so publicly?

It started with a TED talk years earlier with my ghostwriter, Linda Sivertsen. It was my 30-year anniversary, and I went to a writing retreat. I was ready to do something, and these are the moments when you look into yourself and say, as an artist, what are you ready to challenge yourself on? You have to challenge yourself otherwise you’re not growing, and if you’re not growing, then what are you doing? Are you really an artist?

I reached out to Sivertsen online, said I would love to meet and work together, and from there we went on this magical journey together. She said to me, ‘Honey, I don’t know what you know about writing books,’ and I said, ‘Barely anything,’ and she says, ‘Well, it’s a year-long process.’ I went into this journey with her and she told me I was going to do a TED Talk first; it was as frightening as it could be, but it was the impetus for the book. I wasn’t sure where the book was going but it grew into what it was. Did I know I was going to go there? I can honestly say no, but once there, I went!

Early on you battled with agoraphobia, which is an extreme fear of open or crowded spaces, along with anxiety and panic attacks. How were you able to work past the fears instead of allowing them to take over?

I got through them years ago and never looked back. I talk about agoraphobia and the anxiety in the book. It took me two years; it was incapacitating. It was to the point where you could have kept me in my own home. I didn’t know or understand the anxiety, the panic; it became so bad it kept me from college. I said, if I truly want to be a star, I’d have to be able to travel and be alone. So I went as far as sleeping in a separate bed from my boyfriend; we took separate cars when we went out. I had to learn the basics of how to be, and I worked on it. I was in therapy. You have to go slow and learn how to wean yourself off and how to feel safe. And you must understand it is only a learned response; you’re not going to die from the anxiety. I don’t know how I did it, but I did.

Would you say now you are at a place of peacefulness?

You just reminded me of how scared, lonely, and beaten I felt because I was so alone and terrified of everybody around. I am no longer terrified, and I’m at my own peace now. I wonder what it is with high anxiety…I don’t know if it’s because the anxiety lives in the home or lives within ourselves. I don’t know who gives themselves the most pressure. I know for me it was my household that was filled with anxiety.

This past year has been difficult for everyone, and from March to May you hosted “At Home” Sunday concerts to bring people together through your music. While you were bringing joy to your fans, what did the experience bring to you?

I loved it! It was difficult for me to stop connecting; I was not used to that after 30 years; to stop and pump the brakes felt weird and I needed to continue. It was wonderful to continue that process,but in May, I looked around and thought, I’m not going back out there, am I? It was Mother’s Day and I needed to go to the beach, I needed to hide away for a bit and embrace this shit for a while.

It’s been a really transforming year. Those months were beautiful on one level. I was trying to keep it together, trying to figure out my way, and it was great having the fans there. My Sundays were always family day and this gave me a place to be grounded and certain, and then it became uncertain and I needed to ground myself.

You became a mom to twins through surrogacy, another personal topic you talk candidly about in your book. And you have raised them as a single parent. Living apart from family, who has been a part of your tribe?

It’s been mostly friends and nannies. There’s been no family out here for me, and it’s everything I created. This is the beauty of what my parents taught me—to create family around you, [to] grow them. It has been a miraculous journey.

What do your kids think of Taylor Dayne circa 1987? Have they seen and listened to all of your work?

They’re 18 now, but secretly they’ve looked at all my work.

What’s up next for you? Can fans expect more music?

I’ve been working on new music and another single should hopefully be out in November. There’s stuff going on all the time. Keep your eyes open!

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