On “Never Have I Ever,” powerhouse vocalist Taylor Tote turns the idea of being alone into a happy and joyous sing-along radio-friendly pop single that screams freedom and empowerment.
As often happens in songwriting, an offhand remark led to the song’s creation. The song title itself was born from the excitement the New Jersey singer felt after finishing another song, an emotional duet ballad.
“I came up with the idea for ‘Never Have I Ever’ right as (co-writer) Nick Ryan and I were finishing up our previous single, ‘Evergreen.’ I kept thinking, ‘never have I ever been so excited to release a song,’ and then I quickly thought, ‘Never have I ever…. what a cool concept for a new song!’ It was that silly and that simple. The reason this song exists is due to the excitement of releasing another song- but of course that’s not actually what the song is about!”
The way you had your coffee in the morning
Never sweet cause the bite was more important
Now you want some sugar in your empty cup
I’m not the one who’s gonna fill you up
Cause I got myself to love
Never have/ Never have I ever/ Felt this way when we were together
I know it’s hard to swallow the truth/ That I’d rather be alone than with you
Never have/ Never have I ever/ Have I ever never felt better
You gotta find something better to do/ Cause never have I ever loved…
“Taking your own happiness into your own hands is more important than relying on someone new to heal you,” Tote tells American Songwriter. “I took a lot of inspiration from my past relationships and being excited about the life I lead for myself and looking forward to someone adding to it- not taking from it. ‘Never Have I Ever’ can relate to feeling great about getting out of a toxic situation, relationship or not, and or even feeling empowered in a situation, relationship or not.”
The initial idea may have been received quickly, but Tote only had the one line, “Never have I ever felt this way when we were together,” for months before she was inspired again.
“I knew what I wanted to say but I didn’t know how to say it. I knew I didn’t want to go the typical route I would’ve in the past- just writing about a new guy making me happier than the last one. That would’ve been the easy way out and couldn’t be further from the truth. I kept thinking, “This has to be about self-love, it just HAS to be. Once I was able to get there, the song wrote itself.”
During the recording sessions with producer Joe Pomarico and co-writer Nick Ryan, which took place at Telegraph Hill Records studio in New York, the now NYC singer-based performer wanted a “sassy” arrangement, and referenced Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” and Malia Civetz’s song “Broke Boy” for style and feel.
“I wanted something that you can groove to in your car or belt out singing like an anthem. When the production really started coming along after we were finally able to get together after the lockdown, the song really came together on its own.”
Along with Dua Lipa, Tote cites “strong, female innovators” including Adele, Amy Winehouse and Stevie Nicks as her major songwriting and vocal influences. “I’m a huge Stevie Nicks fan, I mean who isn’t? Her dedication to her craft is so admirable and I’m so inspired by her writing and style. I’m also majorly influenced by Adele and Amy Winehouse. The honesty and emotion in their writing and performance is something I hope to master one day.”
Songwriting is a personal task for Tote, who only recently started collaborating, a process she’s grown to enjoy with each session. Still, it’s not a ‘write to order’ process for her.
“I’ve always known what I wanted, but articulating it properly has always been a challenge, especially when I’ve always been pulled in so many different directions. My music is my music, it’s a part of me and who I am, how I’m feeling, what I’m going through. I can’t sit down and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to write a heartbreak country ballad in 3/4’ if I’m not feeling that way. It becomes completely untruthful and limits free flow thoughts. It’s based on my emotion and how I’m feeling then. There’s no one thing I am or want to be. My music is honest, emotional, relatable and exactly how I am in real life.”
Tote continues to work on new material and remains optimistic about the message in “Never Have I Ever.” “I hope everyone who listens will be able to belt this song in a way that inspires them to feel stronger and better in any trial they may be going through in their lives.”