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Musician Gianni Taylor on Moving Forward and Never Looking Back

Barrington native Gianni Taylor is a musical artist and songwriter.

Q Barrington Arts and Culture
Barrington native Gianni Taylor is a musical artist and songwriter.

Quintessential Barrington caught up with Gianni Taylor, a Barrington High School alumnus to talk about his growing career as a musical artist and the road he took to get there.

How much time did you spend in Barrington growing up?

My whole life up until my college years. I graduated from BHS in 2010.

Were you in sports at BHS or in middle school?

Yes, I attended Station Middle School, where our basketball team was one of the winningest teams in history. From there, I went to BHS where I was moved up to Varsity as a Freshman and went on to earn a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at the University of Western Illinois.

How did Barrington influence you in your passion for music?

My passion for music was initially developed by seeing the joy on my mother’s face as she cranked up the volume on her speakers when her favorite songs came on. Barrington propelled that passion as I grew older and fonder of sharing my new music discoveries with friends at school. These exchanges of “have you heard this?” in the hallways or locker rooms led to me finding some of my favorite songs and exposed me early to many different styles of music.

I was voted most likely to win a GRAMMY in high school, and at the end of last year, I collaborated with GRAMMY-winning producer, Sweater Beats, to earn my first cut as a songwriter for James Reid’s song “Crazy” which went #1 in the Philippines. [Editor’s note: Great song!]

When did you first start playing music and what instrument?

Funny enough, even though I grew up with a piano in my house, I never really played it. Sure, as years went by, I picked it up a little bit, and currently know the basics of guitar and piano, but in the beginning my love for music came from the writing side. When I was in 2nd grade, I wanted to be an author, so I wrote these children’s books about my dog turning into a superhero when I went off to school, timely changing out of his uniform just before I returned home each day. I had a teacher, Lisa Christianson (or Ms. Holland at the time), who tried to help me get the books published, but I was always too shy to follow through. Fast forward to my 18th birthday, and I got a Mac laptop. The laptop had an app called Garage Band on it, and what started as making random songs with friends after school, turned into me finding a new home to explore my writing and self-expression.

You had a college basketball scholarship and at some point, decided to walk away to pursue your music. Did you have an “ah-ha” moment or tipping point for the change of direction?

I played for the University of Western Illinois which is a Division I team in the Summit League. I loved the school and my teammates, but I had just fallen in love with music and when my coach had told me after signing my scholarship that I wasn’t allowed to create music anymore, I began growing an increasing desire to leave. At the end of the season, after celebrating one of the school’s best seasons in years, I remember raising my hand in a meeting when my coach asked if anyone was having second thoughts about being here. I had no intention of raising my hand when I did, I really hadn’t put enough thought into the situation yet to be doing that. However, I walked around the gym with my coach, and every step I felt more and more confident that no matter what happened, this was the right decision. I left school, dealt with my parents on the way home, and never looked back.

You’ve said that you want to break the music industry barriers that confine artists to one genre. What are the genres you like?

I love making music. All kinds of it. I began as a rapper, hit my first million streams on a Country-Pop song, received my first cut as a songwriter on an Indie song, and am also part of releases in EDM, R&B, Dance, Rock, Pop-Punk, and Alternative. I believe that the times where an artist must be a one-trick pony to “make it make sense to the listener” are over. Also, I believe it’s disrespectful to the listener to assume that they need their content to be oversimplified. I don’t have a single friend who only has one genre in their Spotify libraries, so why should an artist have to only create one genre?

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We made our entire first album start-to-finish in two weeks. It was featured on a billboard in the middle of Times Square, as well as in an article in LA Weekly. Our recent trip to Chicago was to put the finishing touches on our second album, BUDDIEZ 2.

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What is the first song you wrote?

The first song I ever wrote was just me making my own lyrics over the beat to Kanye West’s song “Champion”. I’m sure it’s on an old hard drive somewhere, I’ll have to track that down.

“Lost Angeles” is a great name for a song. How did that song capture what you went through when you moved to LA?

Thank you! The title just came to me after living out there for a while. I’ve always been the type who stays quiet and observes for a bit before feeling comfortable. When I looked around LA, I saw so many people who would either move there lost—and hope to be found—or would move there and become lost along the way. The song is about staying true to why you came, and not allowing yourself to get distracted by temporary things.

Tell us about your collab with Justin.

I’ve known Justin Escalona since high school. When I was performing some of my first shows, he was at the venue, as well. However, not because he was performing, it was because he snuck in to film the artists. We became friends instantly because that’s exactly something I would do to try and create an opportunity for myself. Time went by, and we became roommates in California. At the time, Justin was working on his fashion brand and film channel, and I was working on music. The pandemic hit, and we thought it would be a fun project to film us switching roles, and teaching Justin how to become a singer. Our group is called BUDDIEZ. We filmed the entire process: I would write all the songs and teach him how to sing them, and then he would sing them and film the music videos. We made our entire first album start-to-finish in two weeks. It was featured on a billboard in the middle of Times Square, as well as in an article in LA Weekly. Our recent trip to Chicago was to put the finishing touches on our second album, BUDDIEZ 2.

In January 2022, you were recognized by Forbes in “The 15 Up & Coming Social Media Influencers to Know and Follow in 2022”. Has that changed your life?

I’m still experiencing the changes so it’s hard to fully say, but just being able to work with people now who have GRAMMYs and plaques hanging in their studios, being able to interview for my hometown magazine, having partnership meetings with companies who I’ve been giving my money to for years (LOL), all these things are just so surreal and new to me, but I’m beyond grateful for every moment. I started bringing around a camera with me everywhere just so I can make sure to remember it all.

Creators and artists have to take risks and break rules in a world that wasn’t exactly made for them. What is your experience with risk-taking and how would you coach a fellow artist who is serious about their art?

I’m kind of crazy with my risk taking so I’m not sure that I’m the best one to follow, but I would say to make sure that your passion is speaking louder than your inner critic. It’s OK to fail. The most important thing is just getting started. Not allowing yourself to talk yourself out of something you’re passionate about before even giving it a shot.

What are your goals now?

My goals now are to get one of my songs on Billboard Hot 100, perform in an arena, perform at Lollapalooza, and finish the BUDDIEZ 2 album, as well as my personal one that comes out later this year, and to continue getting better and opening doors for other creatives.

Thank you, Gianni! We wish you lots of luck in your career.

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