Taylor Dayne Talks Soul, Sound, Santa Fe.
BY BETSY MODEL
For fans of the reality TV show “The Voice,” it’s one of those “gotcha” moments that viewers love.
On more than one occasion, a surprised judge has turned their chair following a particularly soulful, deep-voiced version of a song with an exclamation of “but wait … you’re White!” when the singer’s race or style hasn’t jibed with what’s expected from the song’s delivery.
Taylor Dayne’s been hearing that line — and crossing it — for more than 25 years. .
Much like the female artists mentioned above, it’s a voice that broke onto the scene as if Taylor-made for the dance floor. Dayne’s 1987 breakout tune and No. 1 single “Tell It to My Heart” was quickly followed by two more that topped the charts, “Love Will Lead You Back” and “Prove Your Love to Me.”
Dayne’s powerful, throaty delivery and dance-beat sensibilities caught the attention of the King of Pop, aka Michael Jackson, with whom she toured on the European leg of his sold-out “Bad” tour.
Even as a young girl, Dayne says, she knew she wanted to sing. If music initially was an escape from a violent household, the variety of music she heard on Long Island’s eclectic WABC allowed her to compare the styles of everyone from Karen Carpenter and Hall & Oates to Chaka Khan and Marvin Gaye.
“I grew up in a home with a lot of violence, and my way ‘out’ was to go into my room, close the door and dial in a station on a transistor radio my dad had given me,” Dayne says. “That was a real escape — you know? — and through the lyrics and the songs, I could both relate to the pain and also find the words to express what I was experiencing. I mimicked the singers I listened to, and I suppose a lot of what ultimately became my sound came from that window of time.
“I think the first song I really remember listening to over and over was [Stevie Wonder’s] ‘My Cherie Amour’ — which was pretty tame — but then it was also Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ and ‘Let’s Get it On’ and Aretha and Al Green and … it was this wild mixture,” she reveals. “I just began imitating and mimicking these artists I listened to, and the more pain there was in the words and the tone, the more I related. Ultimately, I related more — and gravitated more — to rhythm and blues.”
The blossoming singer-songwriter’s developing style took advantage of her ability to hit lower notes and infuse her lyrics with passion and a raw, from-the-heart sound that differed from many of the female rockers starting to hit the charts.
For $6,000, Dayne was able to cut a single — “Tell It to My Heart” — and on the strength of that single, the legendary Clive Davis signed her to his label. And he wanted to put out an entire album, pronto. It was an insane time, Dayne recalls, laughing, putting out an entire album from scratch in six months; many of the included songs were demo tracks.
Dayne didn’t linger at Arista, but the next few years were crammed full of success. After her debut, the release of a second album, titled “Can’t Fight Fate,” followed just one year later. Since then, 18 of Dayne’s tunes have hit the Top 10 amid acting gigs in Elton John’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Aida,” starring opposite Warren Beatty in “Love Affair” and a recurring role in both the sci-fi television series “Nightman” and Showtime’s “Rude Awakening.”
Dayne also gave birth to and raised two kids — 13-year-old twins, Levi and Astaria — while writing songs that become Top 40 hits for folks such as Tina Turner and spending time in Santa Fe. According to Dayne, she’s spent a lot of time in Santa Fe over the past 10 years and considered moving to New Mexico, even if only part-time.
Arriving in Santa Fe later this week to play Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino isn’t merely part of her “Greatest Hits” tour schedule, Dayne says; it was a choice.
“Santa Fe’s one of my favorite places I’ve spent many years coming to Santa Fe for Christmases and spending time with close friends who have lived there. I rent a house. I bring the kids. We spend time outdoors. We get together with friends. … It’s tradition,” she says.
“I’m not sure I can really explain why it has had the pull that it has — whether it’s the smell of piñon and cedar, walking Canyon Road, hiking, hot tubs, making the drive up to Taos — but I’ve been coming for many, many moons. I was coming to Santa Fe before Santa Fe became so expensive.”
Dayne won’t be able to extend her time in town following her Nov. 6 concert. She’s got the last leg of the tour beckoning and must prepare to costar in Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider’s “Rock and Roll Christmas Tale.” She also has filmed a pilot for a reality show that, if picked up, would allow her to spend a bit more time at home in Los Angeles with her children.
“I don’t feel like I actually live in Los Angeles at the moment,” she says, “because I’ve been on the road nonstop this year. I’m not going to lie to you: It’s hard. When this opportunity with Dee came up, I had to think long and hard about it. It’s a juggle. But it’s been a good year for me, a year I’m happy with. And I’ve got new music and great stuff just ahead.”
New Mexico resident and former NPR/BBC correspondent Betsy Model has written and produced for more than 40 international outlets, including Forbes, Marketwatch, Playboy, Details, Biography and the International Herald Tribune.