When Taylor Kropp left California to pursue a career in music, he asked himself one question: “How bad do you want it?” Since he first laid eyes on the image of a man playing guitar, he’s been consumed by the answer. Raised in the hills of Central California, his family spent Thanksgiving holidays camping in the Mojave Desert. Exploring as young boys do, he spied a man playing guitar, sitting around a campfire. With little to relate it to at the age of seven or eight, that cowboy image burned like a mirage in his memory. The instrument and its music garnered his attention like nothing else. Back home, he didn’t come from a musical family or a community that offered much in the way of inspiration. There was Top 40 Christian Radio and a music store for lessons. “Seek, and ye shall find” was his guiding force. With the unconditional support of his parents, he swam against the current to develop an unnatural talent.
Taylor’s muse would take a bit of searching, as it was not to be found amongst the family’s collection of music or anywhere easily within reach. His dad’s Dwight Yoakam cassette held no appeal at that time. He listened to Stryper as part of the Christian scene, but found little musicianship in that genre. Classic rock wasn’t really present in his upbringing either. Upon discovering The Allman Brothers Band, he found his obsession, specifically, in the guitar playing of Duane Allman. Blues guitar sparked his interest, and he was determined to learn it. Attending a charter school, music was purely an extracurricular activity, so Taylor sought lessons from the guitar teacher at the local music store. It was a lesson in perseverance, practicing with a metronome every day to overcome his terrible sense of timing. His instructions were to keep playing and figure it out, running scales over a jam track in pursuit of that “a ha!” moment.
In the absence of any organized music program at Taylor’s high school, he forged his own path of learning through osmosis, absorbing music in a range of styles. From the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, he’d become an avid fan of blues rock. Skynyrd’s cover of a Merle Haggard song opened a new genre of discovery, connecting him to the Bakersfield sound and its early architects, Haggard and Buck Owens. The importance of this music was two-dimensional, as Taylor began to focus on song structure and the guitar skills of Pete Anderson and Don Rich. He dove into the music of Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, and Tom Petty, blending country, Americana, and roots rock. His junior year in high school, he started taking guitar lessons from blues legend, John Garcia. As teacher and mentor, this man changed his life. Playing with John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and many others, he’d spent a lifetime in the music business. An hour-long lesson would turn into three, with so much practical knowledge and experience to pass on to his student. He introduced Taylor to jazz and the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Through the strings of his guitar, blues and jazz could harmonize, and Taylor was smitten.
As his guitar skills progressed through years of dedicated practice, Taylor began to focus on his vocal ability, or as he refers to it, the lack thereof. He started voice lessons with a vocalist at his church who taught him about pitch and how to match his voice to it. Opportunity for improvement would come with performance, which meant he needed someone to play with. Finding a like-minded musical soul in that environment was far from a sure thing, but he found her in the School of the Blues, where she also took lessons from John Garcia. They shared the same taste in music and decided to start a band, eventually playing high school functions and local bars. Taylor called their sound “Joan Jett meets the Allman Brothers,” a little blues/rock. Their connection through music was the beacon of hope he needed to see beyond the regional to a more opportunity-laden landscape. Where the community saw music as merely a hobby, the support of Taylor’s friends and family encouraged him to follow his dreams. Believing in their son wholeheartedly, his parents never advised him to have a backup plan.
After high school, Taylor immersed himself in the Monterey music scene, playing country music in bars and cutting his live chops with a local band. Eventually, he found the cool side of that scene, but for someone who was looking to make original music and tour, it was a desolate landscape. With no local music industry to support it, opportunities were few, and Taylor found it difficult to learn in that environment. His dream was to write original songs and play music outside of California. To do that, he had to answer the burning question: “How bad do you want it?” Through an online forum on The Gear Page, he sent a message to a guy who’d turned down a country gig. There was a singer in Idaho with an investor who was planning to tour. He’d have to drive there and all but camp on the investor’s floor. The tour circuit was playing bars and casinos. It got him out of California, where he could mix with a different caliber of players. The gig lasted about nine months before it fizzled, but he learned a lot and made an important connection that would facilitate the next step of his journey.
One of the guys Taylor played with on the Idaho gig was living in Nashville. When the tour ended, he had a decision to make about his future. Realistically, it was too expensive to live in California and play music. If he was intent on chasing down his dream, he’d have to relocate to make that happen. His former bandmate suggested he move to Nashville. The time had come for Taylor to take that leap of faith. He wasn’t born a guitar playing prodigy. He’d actually prayed for guitar skills, negotiating for just a bit of natural ability if he put in the work to develop it. The desire to create original music came early in the process. He never wanted to spend hours learning solos or playing cover songs. He practiced to become better so he would have the skills to create songs. Nashville was the place where he could manifest his dreams, and he had a new wife and supportive parents who encouraged the move. Three months ahead of schedule, Taylor and his wife moved to Nashville in March, 2015.
For the California native, Nashville’s music scene was as vast as the Mojave. Opportunities to play with highly skilled musicians were abundant, and within a month, Taylor landed a touring gig in Colorado. Two months later, he was offered a spot playing with singer/songwriter, Kristen Kelly. For his first year in Nashville, he played gigs with her every weekend, encouraged to express himself musically and play from the soul. It’s a gig he still has, two years running. With a growing reputation for his guitar work, he’s played with Tanya Tucker, Josh Dorr, and Sarah Turner. In 2016, his guitar playing was credited in the feature film, Believe. He’s added session and production work to his resume, with a constant desire to learn and grow as a well-rounded musician. His passion to create original music has led to a forthcoming debut album and summer tour as a solo artist.
From the first image that drew Taylor Kropp to music, he’s been a solo artist in the making. A campfire and a cowboy, singing and playing guitar. Music at its most elementary level, yet captivating none the less. Beginning with the rudiments, Taylor learned to play and identify himself musically. Through years of study and developing skills, he brings an authentic voice to his songwriting that translates into vocal melodies. His guitar work is the icing on the cake. The foundation of his music comes from roots rock, with blues, rock, and country elements. What he does with that may be entirely improvisational if you catch one of his live shows. His goal is to create something different every night with his band, encouraging their creativity. With versatility and depth his constant pursuit, Taylor Kropp is an oasis of originality with a guitar-driven soul. Like one of his biggest influences, Eric Clapton, the song is their story, but only the guitar knows how they’ll translate it. Where musicianship meets melody, you’ll find the heart of Taylor’s music.
Listen to Taylor Kropp HERE