Birmingham’s Maria Taylor on new CD and new song, ‘If Only,’ on NBC show ‘This is Us’

Birmingham’s Maria Taylor on new CD and new song, ‘If Only,’ on NBC show ‘This is Us’
Maria Taylor is working on a solo career after being in bands such as Azure Ray. (Photo/contributed)

If you follow the Birmingham music scene at all, chances are you know Maria Taylor.

The Birmingham native, often backed by her brother and sister, Macey and Kate, teamed with fellow Birmingham native Orenda Fink to form bands such as Little Red Rocket and Azure Ray before she and Fink started solo careers.

Now, after a move to Los Angeles with her husband, Ryan Dwyer, and two children, Maria Taylor is poised for the big-time. A new CD, “In the Next Life,” comes out Friday, and one of its singles, “If Only,” a collaboration with Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes),  just was featured prominently on the new NBC drama “This is Us.”

The 40-year-old Taylor answered some questions for Alabama NewsCenter in advance of the new CD’s release.

Alabama NewsCenter: Can you give me a quick music bio?

Taylor: I started a band with my best friend Orenda Fink when I was 15. We continued to form many bands throughout the years, including Little Red Rocket and Azure Ray, before we ventured out into our solo careers. I’ve released so many records over the past 22 years. I believe “In the Next Life” is my 14th record! My brother and sister are both extremely talented musicians and formally trained in ways that I am not. Once I started my solo career, and they were finally out of high school, we toured together a lot. They were some of the best tours ever!

ANC: Your work has included a lot of collaborations. Is that by design, or does it just happen?

Taylor: I’m a people person. I love having friends and family around. I always had the “hang out” house growing up, and now as an adult our house is where all the friends gather. I think sharing my life, every part of it, is inherent in my design. It feels natural to have my family and friends add their personalities and interpretations to my songs … makes them richer.

ANC: Tell me about “In the Next Life.” How would you describe it?

Taylor: “In the Next Life” sums up my past and my present, weaving in and out of the lives within my life.

ANC: Was “In the Next Life” a long time coming? Did you do all the writing?

Taylor: It took a while to write. We uprooted from Birmingham while I was pregnant with our second child and moved to Los Angeles. It was hard to find the time or energy to complete a thought, let alone a song or an album, so I took my time, and I called in help from some of my super friends. One being Brad Armstrong. Brad and I have been great friends since high school at Alabama School of Fine Arts in the ‘90s. Brad is an amazing poet and songwriter. He would help me steer away from the obvious when my tired, “my-baby-doesn’t-sleep” mind couldn’t. But mostly I wrote the songs whenever I could find a moment to myself. I also co-produced the record with my friend Nik Freitas at his home studio, which is just a couple of miles from my house. This made it easy to run over and do little bits at a time.

ANC: What about “This is Us”? How did that come up?

Taylor: I love that show so much. It was a huge honor to be on it. My husband and I were so excited when we found out! I have a licensing company that pitches my music to TV shows, and I have been fortunate to have many of my songs featured on TV and in movies. It’s always exciting, especially when you really love the show. I’ve also had songs on “Grey’s Anatomy,” including an episode named after “Song Beneath the Song,” and another in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” “Dawson’s Creek” or “Felicity” might have been the first license I ever got!

ANC: How is life in California?

Taylor: Well, Alabama will always be home. I was born and raised in Birmingham, and my family is there, but I have always had an affinity for California. I love the diversity and culture it has to offer. Especially as we raise our kids, that’s really important to us. I also love that we drive 20 minutes to get to the beach, an hour to the desert and two hours to snowy mountains. You get it all. And we’re just one flight away from sweet home Alabama.

ANC: What’s next for you?

Taylor: Right now, I’m just planning on a small tour in Germany in February and then hitting more of Europe in the summer. It’s easier to tour in Europe with the whole family. They have funding for the arts over there, and it’s quite a different experience. Starting my own label, Flower Moon Records, with my husband has been a really positive experience. We’re going to release some other music on our label soon. We’re very excited about that!

You can hear Taylor’s song in the “This is Us” snippet below.

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