L.A.-based band ArtPeace On Songwriting, The State Of The Music Industry

What are you most nervous about in your transition from being behind the scenes, writing for other artists, to now being front and center?

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I have been most nervous about being front and center for sure, but thank goodness there’s you. The spotlight is too big for one. “Table for two, please.”

What was it like working with Kanye West?

Working with Kanye was a-freaking-mazing. At the time I was signed to Atlantic Records and my A&R rep was actually his manager, so it was easy enough to get him to do a song for me. Back then he wasn’t the enormous iconic figure that we know today, but I knew that he was going be bigger than the universe because his spirit was mighty. He was very clear about his plan and one thing that I will never forget is how adamant he was about spreading hope with “Jesus Walks.” He was very intentional, infectiously artistic and had the eye of ten thousand tigers kind of focus. He was always supportive, super funny and would always hit me up when he came to town to demo something just to say what’s up. He’s nothing like what people think. I will always support him … my friends know not to play with me when it comes to Kanye.

Aside from ArtPeace, what are you working on?

Raphael Saadiq and I are long time collaborators and he is wrapping up his next album now. I am so excited for the world to hear it … he is such a visionary and music needs him right now, they don’t even know it … but when they hear it, they will know. I am also constantly writing new songs for film and TV and working on scoring a film score opportunity (pun certainly intended) with our friend, producer and co-executive producer, Darien Dorsey. Oh … just found out that my 22-year Sister Tanecia is an amazing singer so I will be working on her project as well.

Speaking as your 21 year old self, what would be your advice to aspiring writers? And now that you’re a seasoned veteran would that advice change?

Dear Taura – You are 21. Stop being so serious, yo! Take the pain and write it, don’t sulk in it. Don’t buy those denim Girbaud overall’s, you have enough clothes, buy yourself and instrument and master it. Also, stop changing with the industry. MAKE IT FOLLOW YOU! In the interim, go to college on your down time … Oh and in three years, don’t get married. Run the other direction.

Love always,

Your future self

P.S. You are worthy

What are the top three lessons you’ve learned during your tenure as a professional songwriter?

It’s hard to separate my professional lessons from life lessons, because they kind of go hand in hand, but I have to say that I have finally learned to trust the little voice inside because I didn’t use to. One-hundred percent of the things that I regret could have been avoided had I listened to my deeper voice. The second thing is my mantra, Believe-Become! We all become what we believe, be it good or bad. Sometimes I didn’t get a song placed because I didn’t believe I could. I am not saying that I am perfect at it now, but if practice makes perfect, I am well on my way!  Become an optimist and watch your view change. The third lesson is PROTECT YOUR SPACE. I mean your personal space, physical, your apartment, car…where ever you are is your space and you must protect it. It’s hard to practice number two if you have someone in your space who is constantly pouring salt into fresh wounds and slicing open old ones. Know your circle and know it well. Having a manager with bad energy and a horrible reputation is actually more damaging than not having one at all, same thing with a spouse, friend or co-writer. Protect you physical space and your soul space. I seal mine with a prayer.

Who is your new favorite up and coming singer/songwriter?

My favorite up and coming singer-songwriter is Moses Sumney. His pen must be dipped in honey, butter and gold … then topped with organic granola, alamode, LOL! He really is awesome. His songs are beautifully written and his melodies haunt me like the ghost of someone I use to know in another space in time. I so get him.

I know you have a few mentors. Can you give us a glimpse into that relationship and why mentors are important?

Mentors are important to me because I am very bored when I am not learning something. I am a sponge…always have been. I was the kid that didn’t want to go outside with the other kids. Instead I was sitting near the adults with my big eyes reacting to their every word and nothing has changed. My mentors are older, wiser and make LA feel like home. Leon and Carol Ware have been in my life for more than a decade now … they are my mentors and my family. He’s a legendary songwriter and she’s a legendary music publisher and I couldn’t begin to try to explain how much I have learned from them. While we were both working on the film, Black Nativity I met Laura Karpman and Emmy award winning composer and we instantly connected and she, her wife Nora and their son became my family too. Our common interests connected us and then they helped me to stay on my toes. No one has helped me to stay on my toes more than Raphael Saadiq who has freely shared his experiences with me so that I can avoid the same mistakes or share similar victories. It really takes a village.

What’s your favorite song of all time and why?

“Be Grateful” by Walter Hawkins is one of my favorites of all time. You can’t ask a mother to pick her favorite child.

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