Tayla Parx Talks Writing Songs With Janelle Monae & Christina Aguilera After Moving on From Acting
Tayla Parx is at her Los Angeles apartment with her two dogs, a Yorkie named Bella and an Australian Shepherd named Apollo. “They’re my best friends,” says the woman born Taylor Parks. “After working all day with these massive artists, I come home to them and of course they’re not aware of my career or what I do. They’re the thing that brings me back. They also make me not stay in the studio all the time, which I used to do. Now I actually enjoy life.”
Bella and Apollo are haplessly naive to the fact that Parx has carved a successful niche for herself as a genre-hopping songwriter, bouncing from one high profile project to another. So far this year alone, Parx has co-writing credits on Khalid and Normani’s moody hit “Love Lies” and the bulk of the tracks on Janelle Monae's acclaimed Dirty Computer. When Christina Aguilera dropped her Kanye West-produced comeback single “Accelerate” featuring 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign, it was revealed Parx co-wrote that single as well, along with four other tracks on the pop superstar’s upcoming Liberation.
“You have a lot of songwriters who are artists who give away their talent,” explains Parx of the variety of her output. “The art of songwriting is to be able to remove yourself completely from your own thoughts and emotions and really try to tap into somebody else’s.” It’s that mindset that has led Parx to dabble in K-pop with BTS, Latin pop with Prince Royce and top 40 pop with Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato and Meghan Trainor. “I think that’s why I prefer to be challenged to do things outside of my element. I do that so I can push myself as a songwriter. I think that’s also why I was able to make the sound that I ended up with.”
The success of her top tier collaborations are made all the more sweet considering it was only five years ago when Parx felt completely shut out of the music industry. While she first starting out singing as a child, the Houston native took a detour after finding a knack for dancing. At 11, she was introduced to the accomplished actress/dancer/choreographer Debbie Allen who encouraged Parx to pursue acting in addition to her other talents. Emboldened, a young Parx picked up and relocated to Los Angeles with her family, quickly snapping up roles in everything from the big screen adaptation of Hairspray (a dream at the time) to stints on teen sitcoms like Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP.
However, Parx subsequently found herself pigeonholed as an actress, a distinction she frowned upon with music industry goals still front and center. “I didn’t even think of being an actress,” she remembers. “At a certain point, I was like okay, enough’s enough. I wasn’t interested anymore because people only saw me as that.” From there, Parx took bold action and dropped what was a burgeoning career and reconfigured her path.
“When I realized that nobody (in the industry) believed in me as an artist, my dad was like ‘Okay, well see if you can write for yourself,” says Parx, who also began studying entertainment law. “It forced me to learn everything. I began engineering and was one of the few songwriters who actually knew how to record and vocal produce themselves.” After a two-year gap since her last acting gig, Parx began landing her first placements with the likes of Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey. Her first hit also came around then in the form of “Boss” with the aforementioned Fifth Harmony. “All of those people who didn’t see it before, they came back around. Those two years allowed me to see that timing is everything. If I would have given it up when people didn’t want to work with me, I wouldn’t have had this whole other career that came from nowhere. “
Over time, Parx developed her process: writing a song from the ground up in order to build an eventual story. “I don’t know what I’m going to write about when I first start writing; you have to give the song time to develop and grow into what it’s going to become. I don’t ever walk into a studio and say, ‘This is the song we’re going to write.’ You start at the very beginning and allow the song to tell you where to go.” It’s through that process that Parx co wrote “Love Lies” which became a global hit following its release in February. “I think that was the most effortless session I’ve ever had,” says Parx who wrote the track to a beat courtesy producer Charlie Handsome. “I had been wanting to do something with Normani and also wanted to do something with Khalid and they wanted to do something with each other, so we hit each other up. Me and Khalid connected to Charlie, because he has this perfect blend of pop and urban which is something I felt was right for both artists.”
Parx’s pedigree also came in handy when collaborating with Janelle Monae. At the time, the singer had hit a roadblock while crafting her highly anticipated third album. “They had all of these ideas but couldn’t figure out where she wanted to land with them.” According to Parx, it was a tricky project. “She has a very unique sound and a lot of say into what her sound is going to be, but she didn't know exactly what that was going to be at the time.” With that, Parx was up for the challenge and flew to Atlanta. “She’d let me go to the point where she was like, ‘I don’t want to be in the room to distract you because I think you’re so dope.’ So she would leave me in a room, come back a few hours later and that would be it.” In the end, Parx co-wrote four tracks on Dirty Computer including “Pynk” (Monae’s collaboration with Grimes) and “I Got the Juice” (with Pharell).
Similar to Monae, Parx swooped in to help discover the sound for what would become Christina Aguilera’s first album in six years, Liberation. “I knew what I wanted to hear from her as a fan,” she explains. “She also very good at saying exactly what she wanted, and would talk about everything, from where she’s at in love to her experience on The Voice.”
Working out of Aguilera’s house, the pop superstar would come into her home studio after putting her kids to bed. During off time, Parx and Aguilera fostered a friendship which saw them watching Netflix and playing baseball with her kids in the yard during downtime. “The creative process was very give and take, and I really enjoyed it a lot,” says Parx. “ I was like, ‘This is very interesting.’ I love how she’s doing something new and unique without abandoning what makes her Christina Aguilera.”
Looking to the future, Parx teamed with Atlantic Records for a label made in her image, aptly dubbed Tayla Made. She’s also perfecting an album of her own, We Need to Talk, due in September, which will showcase Parx front and center, out of the shadows of songwriting sessions. But with upcoming co-writes on tracks from Sean Paul and Anderson .Paak, that’s not to say she won’t still pen future hits for acts other than herself. “I’ll never stop writing for other artists,” she says, ready to kick back with Apollo and Bella after another long day. “I write too many songs and not all of them are for me.”