CMT named her one of its 2023 Next Women of Country, and her big voice ought to turn plenty of heads as she continues building her career.
Twenty-one-year-old MaRynn Taylor is learning to harness her power as a vocalist and as a human being. Exerting that power is at the center of her new single, “Make You Mine,” a piece that walks a fine line that modern women will find familiar: how to lead a man — to entice him to commit — without coming across as controlling.
“What was super cool is that two dudes understood that, and understood what I was feeling, and wanted to write from that perspective,” Taylor says.
Taylor wrote “Make You Mine” on Sept. 1, 2022, with two fellow Black River staff writers: songwriter-producer Josh Kerr (“Love Me Like You Mean It,” “She Likes It”) and Dan Wilson (not to be confused with the Semisonic bandmember or the former Tree songwriter who penned T.G. Sheppard’s “War Is Hell on the Homefront Too”). Wilson tossed a prospective title, “Make Me,” into the room, and Kerr twisted it into a hook with youthful romance at its heart: “Make me wanna make you mine.” It was a phrase full of assertive possibility.
“That’s just the kind of person I am; I’m going to give my all to whoever I love,” says Taylor. “Sometimes guys are the ones probably being cautious or, you know, afraid of commitment. In ‘Make You Mine,’ she’s into him. I think she’s flirting with him in a way. I feel like ‘make me want to make you mine’ is a strong statement.”
Wilson and Kerr worked up a midtempo groove on guitars in the key of G, one that’s well suited to Taylor’s vocal range. “There’s definitely a dude key and there’s a female key, and they were very much like, ‘Let’s find the right pocket,’” she recalls. “Once we got in G, I feel like that’s kind of my sweet spot where I can get low in my voice, and I can get high in my voice and I can belt.”
The song primarily bounced between the tonic G chord and the fourth chord in the key, a C chord with a major seventh inserted to create a subtle complexity that’s somewhat rare in country. “It just felt a little bit different,” Kerr says. “And I think it just it lent itself to the melody to throw that in there.”
Occasionally, he dropped in a dissonant seventh on the tonic chord, too, as they fashioned the melody to take advantage of her tone, hitting all the money notes at the height of the chorus. “It’s basically an octave jump” from the verse to the chorus, says Wilson. “Not many artists can do that, but she can. She can jump as high as we need her to jump.”
Matching that bright melodic tone, they turned the original “make me” phrase into a repetitive hook. The words “make me” start two different lines in the opening verse, “Make me your sundown ride” and “Make me your porch light,” while “Make me wanna” kicks off seven of the eight lines in the chorus. But “make me” never made it into the second verse even one time.
“That’s one of those intangible things about songwriting, where it feels like too much if we do it again,” Wilson says. “The ear kind of wants a little bit of a break from the that lyrical structure.”
After the second chorus, they dodged the typical bridge and used a down chorus, repeating the hook — “Make me wanna make you mine” — four more times. It helped to drive the title home even more, approximating a chant as the song preps the listener for the final chorus ride.
“I have analyzed over and over songs that I’ve written, and there’s something about a down chorus instead of a bridge that just has worked for me in the past,” notes Kerr. “There’s also a lot of lyrics in the song, specifically in the chorus, so it just felt like it’ll lend more toward being that, you know, ‘hitty’ thing that we were going for.”
Before the day was over, Kerr built a shiny demo, and Taylor applied a confident vocal that would provide the basis for the final version, which counted on the upbeat musical tone at least as much as on the “make me’s” to create its optimistic tone.
“The power behind that song is just the movement in it,” Wilson says. “The chords get out of the way and let MaRynn do her thing over the simple chord structure. The movement and kind of almost foot-stomping of that song feels like you’re driving down a back road with the windows down.”
Kerr produced the master version at Backstage on Music Row, with a studio band playing atop the original demo, including the programmed drums and some of Kerr’s guitar work. Taylor’s demo vocal, recorded the day they wrote “Make You Mine,” had a sense of immediacy, and Kerr planned to use it as a foundation for her final performance. So instead of singing with the band, Taylor was able to participate from the control room, adding some of her own ideas and comments as Kerr instructed the players.
Craig Young solidified the track’s pulse with a bass sound that approximated a mechanical version of the instrument. “He has an octave pedal on his bass, so there’s a ghost sub bass that’s underneath the bass he tracks through,” says Kerr. “It’s just one of those things that really fills out the low end, and with whatever settings — the compression and EQ and stuff that he has on there — it feels synthy. But it is live, which is one of the things I love about Craig.”
Kris Donegan developed a descending guitar part before the down chorus that shares space with a big vocal note from Taylor. When she recorded her final vocal part at Kerr’s studio, Taylor injected two big notes into the track. Kerr combined the best part of that day’s work with the original demo for her master performance, delivered under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I had COVID, and then the week after, I was negative, and Josh [says], ‘Hey, we got to do these vocals. We got to turn the song in,’ ” she recalls. “So those vocals that you’re hearing, a lot of them are me fresh out of COVID.”
In one of the recording’s final touches, mixing engineer Jeff Braun put echo at the end of a line about radio to mimic the sound of an AM broadcast. Black River released “Make You Mine” to country radio via PlayMPE on April 6, and it has earned early attention at KKBQ Houston, WUBL Atlanta and KCYE Las Vegas, among other stations.
“It was so on-brand for me, and especially because I have a ton of friends who are dealing with guys not putting in effort,” says Taylor. “I love having this song for them, having the song for me and for everybody else.