Born in South Carolina, she moved to Los Angeles and hit the scene there as a session vocalist, quickly finding success thanks to her expressive, yet impressively tactful voice. With that wind in her sails, she had a stint on season nine of American Idol and ultimately landed a gig singing backup for Katy Perry… which she did for four years.
Touring all around the world alongside Perry, Layton sharpened her chops, laying the bed of proverbial soil to plant the seeds of her own artistry in… and after making the move to Nashville in 2018, those seeds started to sprout.
On her own and thrust into the deep end of Music City’s namesake industry, Layton grounded herself in her faith and quickly found a bold and impassioned voice as a Christian contemporary artist, delivering uplifting songs that celebrate the breadth of life. In the three years since her debut single, she’s already built up a rich catalog of strikingly authentic, radio-ready compositions.
This past June, Layton made an exciting new addition to her canon of songs—she released Look What You’ve Done, a three-song EP born out of her continual growth as a person and artist.
Sitting down with American Songwriter recently, she spoke about her journey as a whole—outlining her projection from aspiring vocalist to full-fledged artist with something inspiring to say, she illustrated how her humility and faith have led her along the way. Read the conversation below:
American Songwriter: What was it like touring with Katy Perry? What did you learn from that experience?
Tasha Layton: It was such a wild ride! I never imagined I would end up singing on such a massive world tour. Katy is so gracious to those who work for her, and it was such a positive experience. I saw so much of the world and crossed almost everything off my bucket list during those years. I learned a great deal about touring, production, and the music industry, so when I transitioned into my own music full time, I certainly didn’t have as many learning curves as I would have if I hadn’t worked with her for so long.
AS: You’ve been a professional vocalist for some time, but it wasn’t until you moved to Nashville that you began to really define your artistry—what was moving there like?
TL: It was a completely different experience in some ways. As a session singer, background vocalist, and performer on Idol, I wasn’t really required to know who I was as an artist. When I moved to Nashville though, I not only needed to know who I was, but I needed to be confident in what I wanted to communicate through my music. There was a period of transition for me, and while I believe a person who is growing is always evolving to some extent, I’ve solidified much of what I stand for now.
AS: What was the process of finding that sense of artistry?
TL: I’ve simply tried to be as true to who God made me to be as possible. My mother always told me growing up, “Tasha, be who you are supposed to be, and you’ll do exactly what you’re supposed to do.” She was referencing character and integrity, and I think that was the best advice she could’ve ever given me. As far as the ins and outs of being an artist in the music industry, I’ve been careful to allow doors to open on their own instead of striving or trying to break down doors. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a team of people with experience in the areas I’m not as well-versed in. That has freed me up to enjoy the things I’m called to do and am good at doing, and to watch those around me flourish in the things they’re called to and capable of.
AS: What was your COVID experience like?
TL: I had a baby in February of 2020, so my maternity leave rolled right into quarantine. While I was initially disappointed to see so many of my events cancelled, I’m thankful I had so much time at home with my children. I could never get that precious time otherwise. We spent a lot of time with my family in South Carolina and it was a wonderful season, despite the challenges of the pandemic worldwide.
AS: When did you start working on Look What You’ve Done? What was the EP-making process like?
TL: I wrote these songs in 2019/2020. They came together as part of an effort to release several EPs within the year rather than a full-length release. We tried to combine a balance of more up-tempo songs and ballads on each one.
“Look What You’ve Done,” the song, is essentially my life’s testimony in a song. For so many years I thought, “God, have I done something to deserve this pain and disappointment in life? Are You holding out on me? Why does everyone else seem to have it easier?” I thought I was too broken for good things to happen in my life; I thought I wasn’t good enough for certain hopes to be fulfilled. Looking back, I see God was just breaking ground in my life and digging up things that needed to be healed before I could move forward and live freely to the fullest. The song takes the finger of shame that we point at ourselves—or that other people might point at us—and turns it around, saying, “It’s not about what I have done or failed to do… it’s about what God has done for me.”
AS: What’s it like working with your husband and co-writer, Keith Everette Smith?
TL: When we are thriving in our marriage, it’s wonderful. Ha! When we are going through growing pains, it can be challenging. Any aspect of our marriage could come into play when we’re working together at any time. Overall, I absolutely love working with him. We balance each other out with our strengths, and it never gets old.
AS: How do you feel now? What’s next for you?
TL: I feel so great! I’ve never felt like I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing more than I do right now. The next project is a Christmas EP and then another EP at the beginning of the year. The Christmas EP was inspired by my love of many genres and styles, so it’s a fun variety show of standards, worship, jazz, and pop. I would love for people to feel the hope that comes through faith, but also the nostalgia of the holidays along with the joy of Christmas.
Tasha Layton’s EP Look What You’ve Done is out now, as well as her Christmas EP This Is Christmas, which you can listen to above—watch the music video for “Look What You’ve Done” below: