If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "Who are some good local bands?" I would have retired long ago. The Charlotte area oozes with talent from every genre with new artists coming out of the woodwork on a seemingly weekly basis.
If you read this week's cover story, you'll see that the country genre looks like it could finally establish solid footing in the Queen City, but it's going to need some personality to help get it there.
Early Ray, Pharr Rhoades and GalFriday are some of the newer names who are gaining traction, but if I had to pick just one artist with the potential of putting Charlotte on the map, I'd suggest Taylor Centers.
The 19-year-old is on a clear path to becoming a household name in short order. Back in January, I caught Centers at the Evening Muse. Her set was comprised of a pop tune here, a rock tune there — and a few country songs. It was those country songs that set her apart. She looked comfortable singing them. The tone of her voice landed perfectly on them. It was clear that she found her comfort zone — but just needed more focus.
I wrote a review of the show and offered Centers some criticism, saying country was clearly the way she should go with her career. She sent me a message on Facebook saying she didn't want to lock herself into a genre too early, but her focus was definitely shifting toward country music.
Fast forward less than six months later and Centers was performing at the Carolina Country Music Fest in June. Her song "Dodged Your Bullet" is a semifinalist in an unsigned songwriter competition. She's currently competing for a spot at the Gulf Coast Jam. And she's been wrapping up her debut six-song EP, Gypsy Heart, and raised more than $7,500 on Kickstarter to help finish it. Add that to writing songs and staying busy with a local show from time to time, too. All of the hard work is paying off.
"Being young — I was pulled in all different directions because I get inspired by every genre," Centers says. "I had to figure out who I am and where I'm supposed to be. When I tried to sing pop, I'd get knots in my stomach and was incredibly nervous. Country is fun for me, so my songwriting and performing is much more enjoyable."
Centers' music has a good balance of rock and pop within her brand of country. Her covers of artists like Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies are wisely chosen, too, fitting well with her own music and giving listeners a sense of her influences.
"As I've been working on my EP, I already know what sound I want for my next album — Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church. I want it to be more gritty," Centers says. "As I progress, I want it to lean more rock and raw like those artists. My name is Taylor — but I'm not like Taylor Swift. If my name was Rachel, I'd never be compared to her. I love pop country, but I'll never put one of her songs in my set or want to be compared to her."
Centers plays some piano and is about to start learning guitar so she can improve not only her songwriting skills, but allow herself to do some solo gigs when necessary.
She's quickly establishing a solid foundation as a songwriter and performer, so keep an eye and ear out for Centers — I'm guessing you're going to hear her name often in the future.