Taylor Monét Parks, better known as Tayla Parx, has written songs for some of the biggest names in the music business—Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, John Legend, and more—and earned two Grammy nominations for her songwriting work. In 2018 alone, three songs that she cowrote—“Love Lies,” by Khalid & Normani; “Thank U, Next,” by Ariana Grande; and “High Hopes,” by Panic! at the Disco—were in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. She’s also a popular solo artist, with two full-length albums under her belt. Her latest single, “Rich,” debuted on April 29, and is the first track she’s released as an independent artist. Here, the 28-year-old former child actor, who starred in the 2007 movie musical Hairspray, discusses her approach to songwriting for the world’s top acts, mentoring a new generation, and her return to acting.
Where did your love of music come from?
I’m from Dallas, and when I was growing up, my parents played a lot of melodically intriguing music. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 13 and got really caught up in acting, but that itself served an amazing purpose: I never knew how acting could tie into songwriting until I found out songwriting was a job. I realized the way that I was getting into character for different roles is the same way songwriters approach their craft. I’ve worn a lot of different hats over the years, and each one has played into the others.
What has it been like to work with artists like Jennifer Lopez and Saweetie?
The way that I approach a Panic! at the Disco song is very different than how I approach a Saweetie song, or an Ariana Grande or Anderson Paak song. It’s just about whatever’s going to do the song justice. I want the creative partners to feel comfortable to say to me, “Yo, I want my fans to find out things in this song they wouldn’t find out about me in an interview,” because music should be personal.
What made you decide to shift your focus more toward your own music?
I never shifted my focus completely, and I’m not more of a songwriter than I am an artist. I’m very lucky that I can write, but when I get onstage or make an album, it’s very intentional. And I’m always approaching it as, What does this specific artist need? When it comes to myself, it’s internal. It’s about getting in tune with myself, going back to the basics, and being that kid making music in her bedroom again.
How would you categorize your genre of music?
I would say it’s a reflection of the times. By that, I mean it’s a mixture of a lot of different genres. Years ago, we had an issue with categorizing music. Now nobody cares. There are so many artists whose genre can’t be named. That being said, I’m definitely a mix of alternative pop and R&B.
You’ve started multiple companies, including Parx Studios, 3020 Management, and Parx Publishing. Why was it important for you to do that?
We’re at a time in music where, if you don’t see a company doing what’s best for the creators, you can take action. If I had to go through A, B, and C to get here, I want to make sure the person behind me only has to go through C. I want to be a mentor to the next generation, because the writers and producers I sign now are going to sign their own writers and producers one day, and they’re going to be great businessmen and -women when they do it.
One of your next projects is starring as Donna Summer in the biopic Spinning Gold. What made you decide to return to acting after so many years?
I wouldn’t work as hard back when I was first acting, because I didn’t love it as much as music. Now I appreciate it more than ever. I don’t like to do anything half-assed. If you’re going to do something, be your greatest at it. That’s the way I was raised.
Hair by Rachel Lita.
Photo assistants: Jorge Solorzano, Nick Tooman, Chris Whitaker; retouching: D-Touch; fashion assistant: Antonio Soto; hair assistant: Alison DeMoss; makeup assistant: Christina Roberson; set assistant: Kevin Carniero; tailor: Irina Tshartaryan; production assistant: Asher Gardner; special thanks: the Revery LA.