Taylor Bennett Is Having Fun Being the 'Good Guy'

Taylor Bennett
Joel Barhamand

Taylor Bennett photographed on Aug. 18, 2018 at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York.

The new decade has been off to a promising start for Taylor Bennett. Last Friday (Jan. 31), the Chicago artist paused his intense workout to hop on the phone to excitedly discuss his first single of 2020, “Good Guy,” which was released today (Feb. 4).     

“It’s all about the positive lifestyle changes,” he says. The happiness and satisfaction with both his career and life in general can be felt through his voice, as he goes on about all the beneficial decisions he’s made within the last year. With a healthy mindset that has him in the best mental and physical state he’s ever been in, and baby number two currently on the way, he decided to dedicate his first single of the new year to both positivity and also his desire to pay homage to the artists he grew up listening to. 

“I told my team I want to make sure this is something that reminds you of when you woke up in the morning, and there was VH1 or MTV Jams and Panic! At The Disco was playing -- and it was just this invigorating music that’s there to start your day off,” Bennett tells Billboard about the inspiration behind the new song. To Taylor Bennett fans, the obvious rock influence in “Good Guy” comes at no surprise, considering his last project, THE AMERICAN REJECT certainly did not shy away from such genre-blending. 

Taylor Bennett recently spoke to Billboard about the new song, his most pivotal career moment, and the happiness he feels from his 2019 successes spilling over into the new year. Check out the full conversation and listen to the new song below.

What was the main source of inspiration for “Good Guy”?

I’ve always had alternative vibes, and my last project THE AMERICAN REJECT was based around the rock 'n' roll genre, with insight from an urban perspective. I’m sure you’ve heard -- but especially lately people like Lil Nas X, Tyler the Creator, and others are talking about it -- but I’ve been thinking about “genre boxing.” I’ve always been a musician. I’ve always wanted to make timeless music for weddings and funerals and I never gave a f--k about how people felt about that. I’d rather make a song that you listen to and feel a memory, whether it’s good or bad.

With this song, the idea was that I was ready to sing and I was also ready to replicate a lot of amazing artists that I grew up listening to, like The Smiths, Queen, Mayday Parade, Death Cab for Cutie... the list goes on. Right now in hip-hop -- and this is my perspective not only as an artist, but also as a businessman who is still independent -- rap music is now pop, since it has become a mainstream household fashion. Back in the day when we had people like Jay-Z coming up, it was still genre edging to have a break out.

For me, as a hip-hop artist and as an African American, after you’ve become a pop artist, there’s only so many different places you could go back to that are expected of you. So, I was done with labels. I was done with “this is bad” and “this is good.” I just wanted to be the best artist I could possibly be for my fans. I no longer wanted to have the shadow thought of making music that might not correlate to a certain phase, or to fans I had before, or future fans I’m trying to maintain, or to certain publications I’ve put songs out with before, because they were a different genre. I said, “I’m just gonna go for it.”

Tell me what went down in the studio that led up you and your team cooking up a song that sounds like this.

I remember the exact studio session. I went to the Chicago Recording Company, which is a very famous Chicago studio. I told them we needed to do something different. I played them a bunch of songs I grew up listening to. For example, “Gives You Hell” by The All-American Rejects. We played through some Jack Johnson songs and Beatles songs. I feel like it opened up the mentality for us to work out of the box of what we had already crafted in terms of the image of Taylor Bennett. It was fun. It’s not every time you leave the studio being surprised at what you made. Sometimes it becomes a recipe, but this was a whole different kind of batter.

Your journey has taken many twists and turns. What has been a pivotal career moment for you that keeps you inspired?

In 2017, I came to New York after I released my project, Restoration of an American Idol. When I went to sleep, I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air every night. It started actually scaring me, so I went to the doctor and after they did all these tests on me, the doctor says the only thing they could think of is I may have a blood clot in my lung -- and it’s extremely dangerous, because I could go to sleep and not be able to breathe. I was young, and I’m an independent artist living my dream, and I remember breaking down thinking, “Please do not let this be something that is detrimental to my career.” 

The biggest thing on my mind was how the next morning, I had to go to Sway in the Morning. I had set the whole thing up myself. I met him somewhere, got his number, tracked him down for months, and finally got a date for him to commit. It was a big-ass deal. Now the doctor is telling me I have this blood clot and I need to come back to the hospital -- but it’s 3:00 A.M., and you know Sway starts recording at like 6 A.M. But the doctor basically said they got the tests back, and if I stay at home and go to sleep, I may die.

I remember almost not going because I knew I’d never get this Sway opportunity again, but my manager, Joseph Cabey, convinced me. They wound up keeping me in the hospital for an extremely long amount of time. I called Sway and told him what happened. He told me it was all good and said, “I know you don’t have that much money to fly back and forth. You can come in tomorrow.”

I remember going into Sway the next morning in a great mood and doing the first “11 Fingers of Death” in the history of Sway. It was the longest freestyle off the top of the head, and we even have a picture together in his studio still. We gained a crazy relationship, because that interview was so crazy and emotional. With all that happening to me, it made me talk about so many things that I wouldn’t have talked about -- like fathers that are missing in my life, and friends that I have in jail who are younger than me, and what we could do for them. All these things were going through my head because the night before, I’m thinking this may not even happen for me. But I know for a fact that doing that interview and having that “11 Fingers of Death” is what changed my career. I love Sway so much.

Thinking back to where you were exactly a year ago, how does it feel to see how much progress you’ve made since then?

In January of last year, I had just become a dad. My son was born in November. I was in a great place. A lot of people talk about having kids and how stressful it is, but it’s definitely a lot bigger of an award. I was living in a nice space, I had a decent amount of money, my family was great, and I just remember being really happy. We threw this huge show for my birthday, and so many Chicago artists came out, and I just remember feeling so much love. I was in an amazing place. 

This year, I’m having a second kid and it’s a boy. I’m feeling that same level of love and happiness. But how I’m looking at my progress from a business standpoint, and it’s crazy as well. My 2019 was the most successful moment of my career by far. We did Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Wild ‘N Out, like 20 different festivals, and put out THE AMERICAN REJECT. Chance had my niece, we also did our first song together -- which is on his project -- and I joined his management team. The business complexity Chance has is insane, and to be able to actually work with him to this level is crazy. 

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