Though Adam Levine said he would “cry like a baby” if he wasn’t selected as his coach, Portland, Oregon native Taylor John Williams chose Gwen Stefani after his Blind Audition performance of “Heartless.”
Williams carries a laid back demeanor that shouldn’t be confused with nonchalance, as during the interview he gave an insightful take on the joys of songwriting and getting the chance to showcase his artistry on The Voice.
Williams’ skills were on display during the Knockouts with his rendition of the standout Gary Jules track “Mad World” (Williams’ studio version of “Mad World” is also excellent). During our interview, the musician talked about his passion for music, being coached by Gwen Stefani and Portland’s DIY music scene.
What is it like having Gwen Stefani as your coach?
The time that we’ve had has been really valuable. Being able to work with anybody who’s been relevant for as long as she has is invaluable. At least for me personally, she’s been really helpful as far as the performance element of what we’ve had to do. She doesn’t try to much to mess up my voice or (deal with) the technical side of singing. It’s mostly been about connecting with the audience and delivering a killer performance. That is what’s gotten her where she is today.
On connecting with an audience, what was it like performing ‘Mad World’ during the Knockouts?
It was the first time on the show that I got to sing a song that really meant something to me. I still have a lot more to learn as far as what I’m doing stage, but just having that song really helped me reach a different level.
With the Live Playoffs upon us, is this a whole new chapter for you as far as the workload you’ve been undertaking?
Definitely a new chapter. The workload is exponentially more challenging and we’re having to learn a lot more. It’s very quick as far as learning new songs and preparing for that big of a stage. It’s a whole different animal but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing. It’s about picking good songs and delivering performances people care about.
Have you been able to experience the music scene in Los Angeles. And what is the music environment like in Portland?
I haven’t really experienced the L.A. music scene other than what I’ve done on The Voice. Portland is a very DIY music scene. It’s a lot of independent musicians, and a lot of people grinding at home trying to produce EPs but it’s very, very cool. It’s a tough place to do anything big in. You kind of have to venture to the bigger cities, but I think it’s a great place to figure out your identity as far as your musicianship and what you want to do with your music.
After The Voice, will you move to Los Angeles or remain in Portland? Or maybe it’s not great to think that far ahead?
Everything couldn’t be more up in the air. I don’t know where this is going to take me and I’m not trying to think that far ahead because there’s a lot to do in the present. Everything about this experience has been very serendipitous. With each step, I try to take it slowly and be cool with wherever it ends up.
Are you surprised with how far you’ve come on The Voice and is it hard to process the success you’ve achieved since you’re doing so much work in the moment?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s something that is difficult to process, but at the same time it’s a positive thing because my inability to grasp the gravity of the situation is what’s helped me move forward. And it’s a reminder that I love music. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to win a show. If that happens, obviously that’s incredible. I don’t think I’m letting the production element get me to caught up in all this.
It must be a thrill getting an audience’s reaction while you’re performing.
Yeah, of course. It’s one of those indescribable things when you have a moment – for me when I feel that the most is when I’m in a smaller venue, maybe 100 people or so. A very intimate crowd and everybody’s kind of hanging on every word. It makes you want to write more.
Just seeing people listen to words that you’ve written and feel something, feel what you feel, is incredible. I want to keep that feeling alive within me for as much of my life as I can – (that’s) the ultimate goal, I guess.
Is songwriting an important part of what you do as a musician?
The music that’s touched me the most and gave me the chills, just as some people talk about melodies that give them the chills, is a really well constructed thought that is (delivered) lyrically.
I don’t know what it is about lyrics that are so fascinating because you can say something very plainly and it doesn’t resonate the same way than if you put it poetically or metaphorically. I don’t know why that’s so much more powerful – but it’s that mystery I love so much about writing.
Well again, thank you so much for your time and good luck on the Live Playoffs.
Alright. Thank you very much.
The Voice LIve Playoffs start tonight on NBC (8 pm et/pt)