Taylor Tumlinson Makes a Strong Return with New, Self-Titled Album

It’s often said good things are worth the wait. In the case of Taylor Tumlinson and her new, self-titled album, the wait was worth it for Tumlinson and herfans alike, as she turned in a tight seven-song effort chock full of fiery, up-tempo Texas country tunes and tender ballads that sees the Texas native turning in an early album of the year contender.

With the release of the album’s first single, “Hold Your Horses,” coming 11 years since her last offering, Tumlinson reignited a flame and cemented herself as one of the brightest rising artists in Texas. Five more single releases prior to her album’s release followed, which in all, capture the growth Tumlinson has undergone in that decade-plus.

We chatted with Tumlinson about her early love for music, all about her album and its successes, hitting the road and more!

Pro Country: Your parents were both music fans in their own right, and your dad was a musician himself. Who were some of the artists they introduced you to early in your life that made you fall in love with music?

Taylor Tumlinson: Oh yes! Both of them are big music fans. My mom was more into 70s-90s rock. I remember being in my car seat listening to Fleetwood Mac, Counting Crows, Boston, Rush, Matchbox Twenty, R.E.M and everything in between with her. My dad enjoyed all genres, but he was definitely my country music influence. I remember waking up on a Saturday morning to the stereo blaring country music and the smell of pancakes and bacon. He got me hooked on Merle Haggard, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Keith Whitley; just good country music. 

PC: Your bio mentions that you began playing guitar, singing and writing songs very early in your life. What was it about music and expressing yourself in that way that connected with you so early in your life?

TT: Honestly, watching my dad go from singing and playing on the couch at home to performing on stage was just so cool to me. I don’t even remember not wanting to do that. My dad would accompany me when I sang in talent shows and such, and I remember thinking, “how cool would it be if I could do it all myself?!” My dad helped me with a few chords, but I taught myself the rest. After I learned to play, songwriting just followed. I wrote my first song around 12 years-old. I can’t say it was anything worth listening to, but I just went for it. I felt so happy doing it. It was a unique hobby for a “kid,” and it made me happy knowing I could do exactly what my dad did!

PC: At what point did that early interest in music translate into wanting to, and realizing you actually could, pursue music as a career?

TT: At first, it was just jumping on stage with my dad and performing in talent shows. Then, I started playing “gigs” at restaurants/sports bar and making money. I was getting a lot of super inspiring feedback and building a “fanbase.” This made me realize I truly could pursue my dream. Then, after winning the Colgate Country Showdown for the state of Texas, recording my first CD, selling them like crazy, and getting radio play, it was a done deal for me.

PC: After you graduated from college, you moved to Nashville and spent many years there playing and writing songs. Over the course of your time in Nashville, what was the biggest thing you learned and took away from your time of being surrounded by so much collective talent?

TT: I learned SO much in Nashville. I don’t think there was one main takeaway, but a handful of them: 1. Success doesn’t show up on your doorstep. The grind is almost more important than any talent.  2. No “write” (a song) is a “bad” write. Each write is a chance to grow in creativity, learn from whoever else you’re writing with, and truly figure out what you want to say and who you are as an artist. Also to never stop writing alone. Just like anything else, you get better, stronger and more confident with practice. 3. Find the people that your creativity blossoms with, who you believe in and who believe in you, and stick with them. 4. Stay true to who you are as an artist and never stop doing what you love.

PC: You moved back to Texas three years ago. What drew you back to The Lone Star State? Why did you feel that was the right move?

TT: Texas is home. It always has been and always will be. I knew when I left for Nashville that I’d end up back in Texas someday. When I started dating my now husband, who’s also from Texas, it kind of confirmed that for me. We knew we’d settle back in the Lone Star State at some point. I truly love the Texas music scene, and being closer to family is never a bad thing. I can’t, however, say that I don’t miss Nashville. I miss that city, the opportunities and the creativity all the time! I’m grateful to be able to visit, write via Zoom and still pursue music in my home state. Texas has it’s own breed of music and insanely talented musicians.

PC: Your 2021 single, “Hold Your Horses,” served as your first release since two singles 11 years prior. As release day for “Hold Your Horses” was approaching, how excited were you to be releasing music again?

TT: Oh my gosh I couldn’t even sleep I was so excited. I waited for a long time as I knew I wanted to put together an album that truly showed how much I had grown as an artist rather than just rushing whatever music I could put out. I wrote SO much, and co-wrote with whoever would give me the time of day. I found my people, stuck with them, and co-wrote at least three times a week, while also maintaining a full-time job. I knew when we finished a song if it would make the album or not. I could feel it, I was proud of it, and I knew it was something I wanted others to feel. That’s what it’s about!

PC: Over the last two years, you have released many of the songs that comprise your debut, self-titled album as singles before the album release. What made you feel that release strategy was right for you, and what drew you to release “Hold Your Horses” as the first single from the project?

TT: Honestly, I released “Hold Your Horses” first because it felt like the right preview to the rest of the project. It comes in strong with that steel riff, and the mid-tempo, toe-tapping 90s country approach to this particular storyline was just fun to me. It was one of my favorites to listen to in the early stages of recording. As far as the release strategy, I wouldn’t even call it that. I didn’t intend to release so many singles in the process. My producer sent them to me individually as they were completed, and I just felt like each one needed it’s moment to shine. I allowed each song to have it’s moment rather than one drop.

PC: “Bigger Than Texas” was the second single you released from your album, which was followed by an acoustic version of the song, which has since earned well over 200,000 streams on Spotify alone. What do you think it was about the song that allowed it to connect with listeners the way it did, and what was it like to tangibly to see the success and support it received?

TT: “Bigger Than Texas” is hands down my favorite song I’ve ever written, and the one I’m most proud of. I think it’s absolutely the vulnerability of the song that helped it to earn its success. I remember during the writing process I would go from thinking, “Geeze, I don’t want people to even know I’m going through this breakup” to “the point of music is to feel something. Let them in.” Not to mention, I wanted the person that this song is about to think, “oh wow. That’s 110% about me.” It’s raw. When a songwriter/artist is raw and let’s listeners in, it’s appealing to people. So I went a step further and made it even more raw with an acoustic version. The guys at Rosewood Studio in Tyler couldn’t have done a better job of bringing that rawness forward. They are incredible. 

I’ve had so many strangers reach out to me telling me how this song has helped them in some way, and that is the biggest compliment I could receive. As listeners, we cope with music. As a writer, I cope with music, too. That’s just the point of music. “Bigger Than Texas” is the song I see people singing along to, the most requested, most streamed, etc. It just feels good because it’s the song I’m most proud of. I’m not afraid to tell the story anymore and be vulnerable (one, because it had a happy ending [laughs]), but two, because it makes it more relatable, real and beautiful. 

PC: You mentioned on social media that you wrote “Don’t Make Me Fall in Love” several years ago with your husband before forgetting about it. How did you hear the song again and made you feel it would be a good fit for your album?

TT: We didn’t really have a goal in mind when we first wrote this song. He was playing the riff, and we were both really into it as we’re both into honky tonk music. I threw some words in, and he was vibing with the direction I was going; we were really on the same page with the idea. We wrote it really quickly on a whim, and didn’t take it too seriously. When I started discussing the idea of recording with my producer, I started digging through my old voice memos on my phone (as writers, you record a “worktape” on your voice memos after writing so you don’t forget it, or record a demo). I had written so many songs in preparation, so out of curiosity, I went back to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I stumbled across that one, and both of us were like, “why don’t we ever play that?! It’s such a jam!” So we re-wrote it right then and there. I told James, my producer, “I don’t care how long the song is, I want solos and a fun, groovy breakdown.” We just wanted to have fun with that one!

PC: “Not Tonight” was a newly released song with the release of your album. Can you take us in your head and in the room and talk about how the song came together?

TT: Absolutely! This was the first song we wrote when I said I was getting ready to cut an album. I wrote this one with my husband, Ben Woolley, and our friend Scott Barrier. Scott is so much fun to write with because he will literally take any idea you spit out and totally run with it. He’s a huge support to whatever artist he writes with and wants to write whatever the artist is feeling. If I told him I wanted to write a song about a sandwich, he’d be the guy that would be like “Cool. Let’s do it!” All three of us were in the writing room, and I knew I wanted to write a ballad that day; a good ole’ country ballad. We tossed ideas back and forth, and Ben started on the riff like he usually does. This idea really just came to us as a team and was an easy one to write. It just flowed really well. We each pulled some ideas like “glass of goodbye,” “gettin’ out of this house,” “you ain’t worth the hurt,” etc. It sort of turned into a little ballad anthem, if you will. For anyone who’s struggling and just sitting in the stagnant sadness finally smacking themselves in the face and saying “no more,” “I’m not letting them have this hold on me anymore.”

PC: What do you hope listeners take away from your album after listening all the way through?

TT: I just hope that they connect; that they sing along at the top of their lungs, and that they are looking forward to the new music I’m working on.

PC: Along with promoting your album, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?

TT: I plan on diving into more writing, as I DO have some exciting recording plans for 2023! And lot’s of fun shows. I open for Pat Green this year, and I’m really looking forward to that.

*Taylor’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*


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