Backstage chat with dance-pop powerhouse Taylor Dayne

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Taylor Dayne - Photo credit: Peter Barat

By Jackie Moe

Multi-platinum singer Taylor Dayne continues to share her era-defining power vocals around the world after nearly four decades of artist success. 

Dayne will bring her signature pipes to Orange County on March 3, joining forces with Grammy Award-winning singer Sheena Easton at the annual Dana Point Festival of Whales.

Known for such major hits as “Tell It to My Heart,” “Love Will Lead You Back,” “With Every Beat of My Heart,” and “I’ll Always Love You,” Dayne continues to grow in her singer-songwriter-actress career. The New York-born artist has produced twelve Top 20 singles, sold more than 75 million albums and singles, and garnered three Grammy nominations. 

Her first hit, a dance interpretation of the ballad “Tell It to My Heart,” propelled her to stardom in 1987, leading to a contract with Arista. After years of going to school and playing in small-known bands, Dayne skyrocketed to fame as a solo artist in the late 80s, quickly becoming a household name.  

For nearly four decades, you have seen immense success as an artist. When did you feel like you “made it”?

There was this one instance. Well, “Tell It To My Heart” was a single. I was signed for a single option album, and “Tell It To My Heart” was released in Europe first; no images on the twelve-inch single. Germany, that’s when I knew. Well, you don’t really know, because certainly it wasn’t my country, but when you turn up for what’s called an in-store record signing, and there were thousands of people outside, and paparazzi started; it’s just this wave of mania. And that’s when I said something’s changed.

You must have been about 23 or 24 years old then. What advice would you give that young Taylor Dayne just starting out?

Times were so different, but that sense of when you’re so young and something happens; it’s not really overnight, but that kind of wave of fame is a lot to take in. But you’re kind of caught up in the physical world of that – running, chasing, having fun. And yet at the same time, you know, you’re physically a human being and trying to keep up with it. I didn’t have much in place when it came to management, and the record label. It was more of an exciting overnight kind of thing. But, you know, that’s where the business component comes in. And that’s where I say, you really have to get your things in shape there quickly because people take advantage of that easily, quickly. As well as yourself, you can get worn out real quick.

Can you share a bit about those challenges you faced early on?

Well, there was no internet. There were no cell phones, so everything was done in the flesh. Phone calls from airports. I’d spend 30 minutes to an hour just making calls, running at an airport. It’s not like you could be on a call and run meetings. There wasn’t anything virtual. There was nothing. There was no way to interview that way. We faxed. I mean, just think about all the easier communication levels today. I did radio interviews either on a phone somehow, some way in an office. Or I went into the station, which was more than not. That stuff’s not common anymore, and you know, it just wears you out. That part I remember. And sometimes you were in three countries in one day, which is great, but those were challenges. Things are just very different. But we sold a lot of records doing it.

You’ve had so many hits in your career. Is there a particular one that you enjoy performing the most?

Oh, yeah. I mean, performing “Love Will Lead You Back” or “Shelter,” “Tell It to My Heart,” or “Don’t Rush Me.” You know, over the years I’ve done so many different arrangements. Recently, I did a whole new arrangement of songs and I’m loving that. Those are real fun to perform, like “With Every Beat of My Heart.” So fun.

What does it mean to you to perform with Sheena Easton?

Oh, well, she’s just lovely and we have a lot of hits together, between the two of us, and it’s just a lady’s night, you know what I mean? I feel like everybody’s out there to have a good time and knows all the music. And I just feel like it’s really, on my part, a lot of energy, a lot of dance, a lot of pop. And Sheena comes in with all of that and her great vocals.

Is there ever a point where you two sing together?

Not at this point, but we’re discussing it!

You’ve collaborated with so many musicians and recording artists. Who has been your favorite so far?

You know, it really comes down to producers. When there’s producers that you write with and work with that really inspire you at the moment. And that’s kind of a timeliness; you know, there’s some artists that work with somebody collaboratively for the rest of their life. You know, for Ric Wake and I, it was our first three records we collaborated on and I guess by the third record, I was working with Narada Michael Walden. And there was Shep Pettibone when we did “Say A Prayer.” And Shep was on a high with Vogue. Then C+C Music Factory, and that’s when we got “Can’t Get Enough” and “I’m Every Woman.” So it just depends on the producer at the time.

I would say collaborations with all those people were really incredible at different times in my career. Recently, I’ve worked with Gregg Field. Greg Field is very well known, he’s got like nine Grammys, just enormous. And he’s who I did this last recording with over COVID and we’re figuring out what we’re doing with that.

Did you always know that you were going to be a singer growing up?

Oh, yeah. I was that little five-year-old running around and listening to the radio. I was very exposed to music. I grew up in New York and my parents were theatergoers and concertgoers, and I was enthralled with the voices I heard coming over the radio and in the seventies and late sixties, that would’ve been Al Green to Karen Carpenter. All amazing.

Are there any projects that you’re currently working on?

Yeah, so we’ll find a home now for the Gregg Field project. We did an EP; so we did like a six song recording, some of ’em are covers and we’re working on that. And then there was another project I did with some great new singles I released during the pandemic, one of which is called “Please.” So now we’ll get Gregg’s stuff up and running. And working on a collaboration since this is my 35th year anniversary for “Tell It to My Heart.” Yeah, 35 years this year. It’s crazy.

What is your audience going to experience in your live show?

There’s a lot of hits. So between Sheena and myself, I think they should be ready to have a good time. I mean, it’s Dana Point, how can you go wrong? Hopefully the weather’s gonna be warm, sunny, and we’re gonna have a beautiful day at the festival. Be ready for fun, happy and great music.

What would you say is your most treasured moment in your career?

Oh, goodness. That’s a tough one. It’s been so many. I think the most treasured moments are the moments when you’re in the moment. You know, like even just making music with Gregg or when I’m in the studio and you’re just lost in that, or live on stage, you know?

There’s been many, many moments, but when you’re there and you’re really connected with your audience and you’ve let it all go and you’ve put it all out there. That last moment right before I take that breath; maybe it’s the last note of “Love Will Lead You Back”. I can’t explain it to you. The connection and the flow of energy. It’s pretty enormous as you can imagine.

Dana Point Festival of Whales Concert – Taylor Dayne & Sheena Easton

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 4

Where: Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, Dana Point

More info: festivalofwhales.com

About the Dana Point Whale Festival

Famous for the best year-round whale watching, Dana Point Harbor is celebrating whale watching season with the 52nd Annual Dana Point Festival of Whales, March 4 – 5. The Festival, now in partnership with the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, commemorates the annual migration of California gray whales through Dana Point, the “Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World.”

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Jackie Moe is a professional entertainment reporter and editor who lives for live music, spaghetti, beef ribs, long distance running, and good stories. Working as a features reporter for major newspaper publications Orange County Register, Press-Enterprise and Los Angeles Times, and as an editor for a variety of magazines including OC Business Journal, Inland Empire Magazine and Parenting OC, she recognized the need for quality digital coverage for all of the truly fascinating people and events in and around Orange County. She created Backstage SoCal in 2017 to provide unique entertainment content beyond the general calendar items. You may contact her directly on her social media or email: socalnewsjackie@gmail.com

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