If you’re learning violin, you probably know a thing or two about Taylor Davis. Tayor is a talented violinist, arranger, composer, and a YouTube sensation. Her love for video game and film music helped her launch her YouTube channel ViolinTay, which has over 150 videos and one million subscribers!
In addition to her viral YouTube videos, Taylor has released five full-length game, anime, and film-themed albums. Her self-titled original album debuted at #10 on the Billboard Classical Charts.
Following the success of her first headlining U.S. tour, Taylor recently completed a tour Europe. The talented star took some time to chat with us about violin and her love for music, and to share her insight and inspiration for aspiring violinists.
TL: Being a touring violinist is something most people only dream of doing. What do you love about it and what was surprising to you? What advice do you have for anyone who gets nervous during a big or small performance?
TD: I feel so incredibly blessed to be touring now because it’s truly a dream come true to perform the kind of music I love for an audience that loves it just as much. So much of what I’ve done over the past six years with my music has been online via my YouTube channel, and while I love my audience on there, it’s sometimes tough to only interact with them online because you really miss out on that personal element. What I really love about touring is the chance to actually see people out there in the audience while I’m performing, and meeting them after the shows and talking with them because it’s so nice to have that type of personal interaction.
The most surprising thing about touring was how much I enjoy it! I was pretty nervous to start on my first tour last year because I really didn’t know how I was going to like it, but I had such an amazing experience and am so excited that it’s becoming a regular part of my career now.
One of the things that has helped me get over nervousness during a performance sounds so simple but it’s so true, and that is to just make sure that I feel like I’m prepared. If I think I could have practiced more, or there are still a few parts of a piece that I needed to work on more, then I sometimes get nervous during a performance because I’m not fully confident. If I feel like I truly prepared as much as I could, then it’s a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy the performance.
TL: You released your first self-titled original album after working on game, anime, and film albums; how was this different, were you more nervous or excited? The album has been very successful, does this mean more original projects in the future?
TD: I love working on cover songs, but it had always been a dream of mine to release an album of original music. I was definitely nervous since I am mostly known for my covers. I was really proud and excited about the original music but I really didn’t know how my audience was going to react since I hadn’t released much original music to that point.
I had such a supportive group of fans cheering me on through my Pledge Music Campaign that it really inspired me and made me feel a lot more confident about the project. I’m so glad that people are enjoying the album now! When I get back from my European tour, I’m going to immediately start working on another album of original music.
TL: You’ve been studying violin since you were eight, what was your inspiration early on, how did you stay motivated to practice and improve? You’ve said your mom was one of your biggest supporters, why is it important for music students to have a strong support system?
TD: I will be honest, I was incredibly unmotivated to practice and pretty much did everything I possibly could to avoid it when I was younger! I did study with a private teacher, but it was very casual and they were short lessons. My mom is truly the only reason that I am a violinist today, because there were so many times where I wanted to quit, but she was always incredibly supportive and found creative ways to incentivize me to practice.
If I wanted to play video games, I had to at least practice 30 minutes of violin first, so that was a pretty huge motivator for me. haha! Now, I actually really enjoy practicing, but it took me a long time to get to this point. I think it’s important for a music student to have some sort of support system, or a strong role model to look up to for inspiration.
Learning an instrument can sometimes be very discouraging because you have to be so patient and work very hard to continue practicing, and sometimes it feels like you’re not even improving. If you have someone in your life to cheer you on, or someone you look up to who can inspire you to work through those discouraging moments, I think that can make all the difference.
TL: Let’s talk about starting your (wildly popular) YouTube channel ViolinTay. How did you decide to share your videos on YouTube? Were you surprised by the response that you got from fans, how did this help you to continue pursuing your passion for both video game music and violin?
TD: I started my channel almost six years ago after I graduated from college. I never thought that I would have a career in music, but I started to get really sad right before I graduated because I realized that I might not do anything more with music in my adult life, since I fully intended to get a business-type job.
I started thinking of ways that I could keep music in my life, and one day when I was randomly searching for some of my favorite game music on YouTube, I saw a few people had posted videos of themselves playing video game music. I was really shocked to see that people were interested in it because I thought I was one of the only people who liked this type of music. I grew up being a “nerd” and was made fun of a lot for my interests in video games and other nerdy things. I figured I had nothing to lose by putting up a few videos of myself playing video game music and decided to start posting my favorite tracks.
I was surprised to see that people were finding my videos and seemed to be enjoying them. It was really slow at first, and I was working a business day job at the time, but as my channel grew, I gradually started upgrading my equipment and tried to improve the quality of my videos as much as I could afford to.
It’s still hard for me to believe that this is what I’m doing for my career now and that my really low-budget videos I filmed in my parents’ spare room ended up leading to this. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I’d be able to have a career playing my favorite type of music, and that so many other people would be enjoying it with me. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel for where I’m at.
TL: What’s the coolest thing about being on tour and performing live?
I think, like I mentioned before, that personal connection that you feel when you’re performing to a live audience is really amazing. I’m usually always working alone from my home and sometimes it can get very lonely, so being out on tour is a really nice change of pace, not only for interacting with my fans in person, but for also working with my tour team.
My piano player, Salome Scheidegger, has become one of my best friends and we had so much fun together on the first tour, and my tour manager is a wonderful person and so much fun to hang out with. Even though I’m a solo artist, I definitely feel like I’m a part of a team when I’m out on the road, and I love that feeling.
TL: You worked on an awesome Star Wars violin medley and even made a really cool video! What was that like for you? The video must have been an intense but unforgettable experience!
TD: Yes, I’m really proud of that music video! The director, Landon Donoho, is someone who I’ve been working with for years and he’s incredibly talented and fun to work with. We talked about the video concept before I had created the arrangement, and we had the idea to do the light side vs. dark side type feel, so I really tried to create that feeling in the music as well.
Landon also suggested that I try out some body paint for this one, and I was a little scared about that at first since I’ve never done anything like that, but I’m so glad that we did that because I think that really ended up making the video really special. The makeup artist did an amazing job!
I also really wanted to take the music in a different direction from my normal arrangements because I always like trying new things and experimenting, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s definitely a different style and I won’t always arrange new pieces like that, but it was so much fun to try something new!
TL: Between your YouTube channel, the albums you’ve worked on, and touring and playing music, you’ve been able to combine two of your biggest passions and achieve your dreams! What advice would you give someone about trusting the process and keeping the faith while chasing a dream?
TD: I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind, that I think is difficult for some artists to understand, is that you really need to think of yourself as both an artist and a business. I think there’s sadly a negative feeling sometimes towards the business aspect of any sort of creative career and a lot of artists either think they’re “selling out” to engage in it, or they simply don’t want to deal with it because they only want to be creative and not worry about everything else it takes to build a career in this industry.
In my opinion, and what has certainly been true in my own career, it’s absolutely crucial to be comfortable and confident with both the creative and business side of things. It’s almost crazy to think that you can solely be an artist nowadays and that someone will randomly discover you and offer to handle everything else for you to turn your art into a sustainable career, that just realistically doesn’t happen.
I didn’t sign with a management team until last April (that was 5 years after I started my channel), and while they help me now with tour planning and general advice/resources, I still very much manage all of my video projects, albums, website, and social media myself. I think it’s really important for an artist to stay involved in those aspects because you won’t find yourself in a position where you’ll get taken advantage of, and if you’re the one ultimately calling all the shots, it’s a lot easier to stay true to yourself and your vision.
There are plenty of days where I end up not being able to work on music and have to handle tasks that I don’t enjoy and that aren’t fun or creative, but they’re necessary to continue sustaining and growing my career. I’m still not at the point where I can afford to delegate all that kind of work to other people, and having to still do that kind of work definitely makes me feel grateful for the days where I can just be creative and work on some new music or spend a lot of time with my violin. For me, it actually feels like a nice balance.
Again, a huge thank you to Taylor Davis for taking the time to chat with us! To learn more about Taylor and keep up to date with her latest projects, bookmark her website and subscribe to her YouTube channel!
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