La Salle Prep grad wins two awards in Great American Song Contest
For the first time in the history of the Great American Song Contest, a young man has won in two separate categories — his name is Kit Taylor and he has strong ties to Clackamas County.
Three weeks ago, Taylor was notified that his song "Winter in the Village" won the top prize in the instrumental category, and "Persephone" was chosen for outstanding achievement in the pop category.
Taylor was told that it was "highly unusual for a songwriter to place different songs in two separate categories of (the) contest."
He added, "That will certainly be going on my resume. Overall, this is my eighth songwriting win or finalist nomination since 2008."
Taylor noted that every time he wins a songwriting award he is happy for about five minutes, and then he gets frustrated for a week because he hasn't won a Grammy.
"I don't know if that's bad, or if it's a competitive streak necessary for success."
La Salle Prep
Taylor can partly trace that competitive urge back to his days at La Salle Prep in unincorporated Milwaukie.
When he was 12, Taylor's parents moved the family from Colton to Oregon City. He and his sister, Mandy, first attended St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Milwaukie and then moved on to La Salle, where he graduated in 1999.
"Everyone was very supportive of my musical gifts and goals, but I connected most strongly with a teacher named Andrew Kuffner, who is now the president and principal of La Salle," Taylor said.
"It's an incredible school and everyone did a great job of getting the most out of every student. I had opportunities to perform original songs at talent shows (and) be a part of band and choir."
At the time, Taylor loved pop music and dreamed of being in a boy band. But he realized that most of the auditions for bands like that were taking place in Orlando, Florida, and many of those pop stars were discovered on the Disney Channel's "Mickey Mouse Club."
Realistically those options weren't open to Taylor, and ultimately he and his parents decided it would be best for him to go to Clackamas Community College.
CCC's campus in Oregon City is where Taylor found his stride, he said, noting that he had an excellent GPA, based on the fact that 90 percent of his classes were music related.
A few things happened at CCC that he can trace directly to some of the success he's seeing now. "I met perhaps the most influential and charismatic music teacher I've ever had, Professor Lonnie Cline. He demanded perfection, and got the most out of every student, while still approaching teaching with a kindness and empathy needed to connect with someone like me," Taylor said.
"Along with Lonnie, there were countless other great teachers there. Janet Martin, my piano instructor, who let me show her an original song each week as a reward for a good lesson. Judy Hylton, music theory, Tom Wakeling, Gary Larson and Jason Womack, (who is) one of the most talented jazz arrangers I've ever met," Taylor said.
"For the first time in my life, I was truly challenged musically. I still excelled, but I was learning new things, and feeling my intelligence expand and my brain grow even quicker at evaluating problems and working through them," Taylor said.
"There is a misconception that because it's a community college, Clackamas isn't one of the top schools around. I'm here to tell you it certainly is. I would put our jazz choir up against any major university in the country."
Clackamas also is where Taylor first met Bob Stark, who has become a friend and mentor, and who has engineered and either produced or co-produced every album Taylor has ever been a part of.
Taylor's first band was called Intervison; all the members first met at CCC and they went on to record three albums, sell out the Aladdin Theater multiple times and tour with Lifehouse and the Neville Brothers.
In addition to Taylor, Intervision featured Paul Creighton, lead singer; Tony Stovin, guitar/vocals; Jon Barber, drums; and Mike Glidden, bass. The group no longer performs together, as "all of us are doing our own individual things now," Taylor said.
"It's safe to say my life wouldn't be what it is today without my experiences at La Salle or at Clackamas Community College," Taylor said.
As for the songwriting process, Taylor explained that he gets ideas all the time, even in his dreams, but he always infuses his own experiences and vision into the songs.
"I recently started writing a song called 'Circle of Time,' based on a line of dialogue from the show 'True Detective," and I have a song I'm working on called 'The Book of Human,' based on a scene from "Westworld,'" Taylor said. "I take a lot of inspiration from well-crafted TV and movies, as well as other songs themselves."
His song "Strip It All Away" is for his father who died in 2016, Taylor said.
"I actually dreamt the song. In my dream, I was singing it onstage with my dad in the audience. I only had to change one lyric that made sense in the dream but not in real life after waking up."
Taylor noted that the piano is the main vehicle for his compositions, but to make sure he continues to think outside the box he often will try many different instruments using software.
"There can be a danger of always writing the same type of song if you always use the same instrument, so I try to branch out," he said.
One of Taylor's dreams is to be signed to the Disney label, partly because he has been told that his songs sound like Disney music, which he takes as a compliment.
"When I hear anyone make fun of Disney music as 'cheesy' or 'easy to write,' I cringe," Taylor said.
"I would dare them to sit down and write a song as well-crafted as 'A Whole New World' or 'Beauty and the Beast.' Those are modern day concertos," he said.
"Disney just encapsulates such a wide variety of great music: pop, soul, adult contemporary and show tunes. Virtually every song I write, along the way I picture how it could be used in conjunction with Disney."
Taylor's former publicist had a Disney connection, and was able to land a sit-down meeting with a high-level executive at Disney Music Publishing.
"She pitched him my album, so they have it somewhere in the Disney ether. I haven't heard anything yet, but my phone number is out there," Taylor said.
Taylor's list of artists who inspire him is long and varied, and includes Michael Bolton, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake. He also loves James Bond movies, and it's another dream to be commissioned to write or co-write a Bond movie theme song.
For now, though, Taylor is doing his best to take things one day at a time.
"That's not easy because I'm a worrier, and not very patient. All I know is that I live and breathe music, and I want to achieve great things," he said.
"When I won these last two awards, I created a graphic with the headline 'How many song contest wins does it take to get noticed?' Then I tagged Concord Music Publishing, Downtown Music Publishing, Disney Music and several other companies I would love to work for."
He hasn't received any phone calls yet, but he knows that he needs to figure out what niche his music will occupy.
"Success seems to be a combination of a lot of hard work and a little luck, so I'm waiting for the two to cross paths," Taylor said. "I will continue to do what I do: Make music, work hard and reach out to different individuals.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm on a deserted island, waving my arms screaming 'Here I am!'"
Two of Kit Taylor's songs recently won awards in the Great American Song Contest: "Winter in the Village" won in the instrumental category, and "Persephone" won in the pop song division.
"Winter in the Village" was never intended to be a submission for awards contests, Taylor said, adding that the piece was the result of a collaboration between Taylor and Bob Stark, one of his mentors.
The two were working on a catalogue of extremely high quality instrumentals to pitch to ad agencies and music-licensing companies.
"I sat down and just started playing, and the main section of 'Winter in the Village' is what came out. I really thought we had captured something special with that piano section, so on a whim I submitted it to a song contest, not expecting anything," Taylor said.
He noted that he chose "Persephone" for the title of his pop song submission because Persephone is known as the Queen of the Underworld in Greek mythology.
"She is known for being something of a temptress, attracting the attention of many gods," Taylor said.
The song is about a girl who abandoned Taylor a few weeks after his father's death.
"We had been friends since age 12. She disappeared, blocked me on social media, blocked my number and hasn't talked to me in three years," Taylor said.
"My brain is still trying to comprehend how someone could do that to another human being and look themselves in the mirror. (But) as I've gotten older I've learned how to empathize a little more, and to remember that everyone has their own demons and struggles," he said.
"I wrote the lyrics based on some of the famous myths. Lyrics like 'You're a myth with a name unspoken' come from stories of gods being afraid to speak Persephone's name for fear of reprisal," Taylor said.
Another lyric, "If you can hear me girl, I forgive you," fits into the theme of empathy.
Taylor did not sing "Persephone," but asked Joey Diggs Jr. to do the vocals.
The Los Angeles-based singer was formerly with the boy band Midnight Red, who toured with the Backstreet Boys in their early days.
"I heard him sing online, hired him and flew down to Los Angeles to record the lead vocal of that song. Joey is a top-notch singer and musician," Taylor said.
Visit kittaylor.net for more information and to buy copies of Taylor's CDs or 12-inch vinyl records. His music also is available on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Pandora and Amazon for digital downloads or streaming. Music execs or artists looking for songs to cut can find his reel at kittaylor.net/songwriting-reel.