Meet Pawws, A Former Backing Musician Making Gorgeous Pop Music On Her Own
The classically trained flute player has impressed the blogosphere with affable pop tunes.
Last July, Lucy Taylor -- the U.K. singer-songwriter who plays under the name Pawws -- played a show at Birthdays, a 250-capacity venue in east London that opened in May 2012. At that point, Taylor had already played in front of much bigger audiences, as a backing musician for artists like MGMT and Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke. But the July 23 showcase was to be her first proper solo show, barely a week after her debut single, "Time To Say Goodbye/Slow Love," was released on ASL Records. Taylor was fairly terrified.
"It's very different than playing in front of a massive crowd, which I used to do with Kele a lot," Taylor tells Billboard. "You can see everyone's faces and their reactions to the songs. It's nerve-racking, but really exciting."
Pawws has officially released only a handful of songs, but those tracks were strong enough to turn her first show into a packed affair, and subsequently garner an impressive online reaction. "Slow Love" is seductively simple pop, with Taylor's voice shifting from a coo on the bridge to a defiant cry on the chorus; since its release in early 2013, the song has earned 121,000 plays on Soundcloud. "Time To Say Goodbye" and "Outside" are less immediate but eventually turn addictive, with bouncing synthesizers protecting Taylor's feathery voice from romantic strife. Pawws' music sounds like it could belong on the soundtrack of an 80s teen comedy -- or maybe in something composed by "Drive" mastermind Cliff Martinez -- and landed the singer-songwriter a deal with Three Six Zero, a global management company partnered with Roc Nation, last July.
After serving as Okereke's backing vocalist and keyboardist when the Bloc Party frontman made his solo debut in 2010, Taylor was asked to contribute vocals to Kele's 2011 song "What Did I Do?," from his 2011 EP "The Hunter." A remix of "What Did I Do?" by Sander Van Doorn earned hundreds of thousands of plays on YouTube upon its release in late 2011, and Taylor started getting sent dance instrumentals by various producers online.
"They wanted me to write melodies to dance tracks, and I started doing that," says Taylor. "I realized how much I enjoyed the writing process, and I started coming out with my own things and started gradually, not just doing the melodies, but doing the whole tracks myself at home, using simple software. I put those online, and people seemed to really like them."
Songs like "Slow Love" were posted online under the name Pawws as rough demos, and Taylor started tinkering with the songs upon receiving Internet feedback. "Slow Love/Time To Say Goodbye" was released on ASL, but Pawws remains unattached to a label, saying that there has been "interest from various people, but I think a lot of people are waiting to see what I'm going to put out next, since I've only put up a few songs. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep putting things out on independent labels."
Pawws is recording new material for her debut album in various locations -- last week, she was in west London, working at the studio of producer-songwriter Jimmy Hogarth (Estelle, Amy Winehouse) -- and will perform at U.K. festivals like the Great Escape and Field Day this summer. Taylor remains "really good friends" with Okereke, and is hoping to snag some more studio time with him while crafting her full-length.
"I'm thinking about asking him if he'll want to do something on my record," she says, as if trying to work up the courage to reach out. "He likes my songs, I think, and he's been really supportive."