Tayla Parx pens her own future

Musician talks relationship with Ariana Grande, child stardom and ‘We Need to Talk’


Tayla Parx is reclaiming the color pink. 

It's in her hair, it's in her music videos and it’s all over the cover of her upcoming album, “We Need to Talk.”

The popstar is using the color to repaint her career, which started with acting roles at a young age and continues with writing credits throughout Ariana Grande’s most recent album “Thank U, Next.” Parx, a member of Grande’s production super team, has written massive singles like “7 Rings,” Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” Normani and Khalid’s “Love Lies,” and R&B hits like The Internet’s “Special Affair.”

But Parx is ready for listener’s to explore her own work.

The Spectrum caught up with Parx before her Friday album release and upcoming opening slot on Lizzo’s May tour. Parx spoke about her early life, reuniting with Grande after “Victorious” and what she hopes fans take away from her new material.

Q: You grew up in a household where women like your grandma and mother were incredibly supportive despite not always being physically present. Did this have an impact on your career?

Parx: Definitely, I think when you have a great example it only kind of adds to the character that you build over time. So, I looked around me and there were some strong women to my left or my right, growing up that believed in whatever they were trying to accomplish as well as helping me accomplishing whatever I wanted to do. 

Q: When you were in “Hairspray” in 2006, you wrote a diary for Scholastic. You wrote about sharing a hotel with your mom and sister and meeting all these stars for the first time. Can you describe that initial experience at age 12?

Parx: I think partially, I didn't realize how big it was at the time. And because I was like 12 years old, and realizing, ‘Wow, you’re with John Travolta and Queen Latifa,’ and  I was excited about Zac Efron. But as I grew up, I started to realize just how special that was. And obviously as a kid, I realized this is the biggest role that I've done so far in my career. But looking back on it, then realizing that some people are like ‘Wait a minute, Little Inez has also written some of my favorite songs and singing now my favorite songs. It's really cool to watch the connection and to know that it doesn't matter when people find out about the full scope of what you've done throughout your career as long as eventually they find out.

Q: Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on TV or in film and can you compare it to first hearing yourself or a song you penned on the radio?

Parx: I think the main difference between seeing myself on the big screen is being like ‘Wow, that’s my face but extremely big.’ In hearing my voice on the radio or hearing a song I’ve written is I know that those are my lyrics and those are my words that the world versus a kind of a role that you're acting as an actress. There's a reason why there's a different type of modality, because it's your lyrics and your words. It's not words written for you by a writer.

Q: Was there a moment you realized acting wasn’t for you or did you always have the feeling you were destined for a career in music?

Parx: I think it just stuck with me through my entire life. I’ve been singing since I opened my mouth. And I think that as I grew older, I just started to find out that there's all these different sides of the music industry, there’s publishing, the label side is. There’s many different vendors, that became really, really interesting to me. So, over time, I’ve just been diving deeper and deeper into it. I knew that I was going to be doing something involving music, I just didn't know what at first.

Q: I know you met Ariana on “Victorious,” and she was one of the first major artists you worked with in 2014. What brought you back together for “My Everything?”

Parx: So “My Everything” just kind of happened on accident. I was working with Tommy [Brown] and Victoria [Monet] and we just started working together as a fresh friendship. But they started to build, build a relationship while maybe me and Ariana were kind of on two different paths. I knew her as an actress and she knew me as an actress versus being writers and musicians. And her harvesting me as a songwriter, we didn't see each other in their light, until random enough, we were kind of brought back into each other's lives to do “My Everything.” And again, we kind of lost way and reunited yet again for this new project after I did “Love Lies.” So we've always had these moments where we disappear and come back and we’re like ‘Hey, you’re doing this now? Awesome, me too.’

Q:  How many songs in did you realize "Thank U, Next" was going to turn into a full-length record?

Parx: On the third day of hanging out, we had already done, like, six songs. So, it was like, okay, what's what's going on here, and the majority of me made the album. You know, and then after I was just writing, writing things that didn't make the album. And maybe you’ll see later on down the road. But it was such a natural, fun experience and we just allowed it to happen. I guess she was the main one to say, ‘Guys, this is an album. This is really meant to be an album. We’re not just crazy and having fun.’ 

Q: Yeah, of course. And at least like when you Ari and Victoria debuted the song on The Ellen Show, I saw tons of people were hoping for a girl group. But in terms of being there to support your friend during a time like that and having like your friend  take you as like her friend and songwriter bring you to that stage as well. You don't see a lot of artists shining a light on their songwriters and the people who help them make the song. But like having something like that happen, how did it feel for you as somebody who's been in songwriting for all these years?

Parx: Completely incredible. Like you said, it’s rare. It’s rare that you have an artist that is confident enough to say, ‘Hey, it took other people along with my talent to bring this exact moment to life.’ And we can look from left to right and say it wouldn’t have been the same song. And that’s a powerful thing because when you have an artist that believes in the talent of her co-creators and also just her friends, it says a lot them because we have so many artists that wouldn’t be willing to do the same. 

Q: Performing on Ellen must’ve been incredible, but doing voice over for Sims seems unreal. Did you go in with a script and did you have to study Sim language?

Parx: It's definitely different from when I’ve done “The Walking Dead” or something, right? Imagine you have a dictionary for it. You place random words together, but you have to tie them together like improv. And you have a list of hundreds of words in front of you. And it's all in the inflection in your voice. And it helps to record music. Because when somebody talks, they're asking a question, for instance, right? You can tell it is a question by the inflection. At the end of the sentence, if it goes up, or if it goes down, like it's all in the talking and melody.

Q: “We Need to Talk” drops in just a few days and the tracks you’ve released already are dreamy and authentic to you. How different is this record from anything else you’ve put out? 

Parx: With the mixtape, it's different because I think that the music on the mixtape was a lot more aggressive in its way of being kind of crazy and, and left of center and more dance-driven. You know, it was it was different side of me. I've grown a lot in the past year and a half. And also to be able to kind of show the softer side of me, it's really awesome. And then it's different from the things that I've written because I say things in a in a unique way to me, because I tailor every record for artists specifically. So the way that I say something completely different than the way that I would have said something for Ariana or Panic! At The Disco. It always has to be based off of your own personality. So, because we're all completely different people, that's what makes you feel to know like, okay, you're going to hear a love song but it's going to be my my idea of love and my way of saying ‘I love you.’ There’s a million different ways to say it.

Q: It’s tough to get a crowd ready for one of the most energetic performers out today, but you killed the .Paak show in Toronto this February. What do you want crowds to take away from a Tayla show?

Parx: Right now, as an artist, it’s really fun to kind of create my own world… The more I do things like [opening], I just want to make my own stamp on the live performance and be a part of bringing back that part because I think that we have a lot of incredible performers. But I think that there's so much room to go to go to the next level, you know, and I think the fans want to see that they wanted to see that be excited. And they were maybe in the ‘70s… They took the time to really develop a live show. Performing with incredible guys like Anderson, he’s one of those artists who kind of help push forward those those bars.

Q: I’ve also noticed your relationship with the color pink. Your Grammys fit, “Slow Dancing,” and every once in a while, your hair match. Even the cover for the new record has splashes of it. What does pink mean to you?

Parx: It’s so funny because I used to not like the color pink as a kid and I think it was because I identified so much as a tomboy. And I was like, ‘It’s wrong for me to like that color.’ And then I woke up one day, and I was like wait a minute, all those things that have been put in my head about being not feminine enough or too feminine or not masculine or too masculine, are wrong. Because I literally woke up to liking the color pink… and all those things that I never really identified with before. I think the color pink is kind of like me reclaiming it. Reclaiming my idea of femininity, my idea of masculinity, just kind of redefining it and making it mean something else. I can wear pink but I can also have baggy pants on. 

Q: As your new material rolls out, what do you hope fans take away from it? 

Parx: I’m very excited to get to know each other a little bit more. Every song is another avenue to my personality. My mind without any filter. And then I’m excited to just get to know each other more.

Brenton Blanchet is the managing editor and can be reached at Brenton.Blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet  


Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.