Taylor Marie steps out of her makeshift performance space in the corner of The Village Grille’s main dining room, where she has just finished her second set, alongside lead guitarist Ryan Shafer.
Taylor Marie makes her way through the maze of people and tables and we step out onto the back patio. Even here, people are walking up to shake Taylor Marie’s hand and tell her that the show is going well.
“You sound so great,” said one of the patio-dwellers.
She seems a little overwhelmed at the moment and the magnitude of the support, but she takes a breath and seems to relax a little. Her music matches her wardrobe as she plays mostly country and Southern rock during her set. She covers everything from Johnny Cash to Miranda Lambert. I tell her how the people at my table said she sounded a little like Lambert, and she laughs.
“Yeah, I hear that a lot,” she said.
She talks about the struggle that she faces in an industry already populated by so many great female country artists. How does she set herself apart? The answer is a bit of an evolution that has its origins in the pages of a poetry journal that her father Jackie Johnson, found years ago.
“He said the poems were good...so he said I should write songs. He bought me my first guitar — a Fender Dreadnought.”
The first lyrics she ever put to music were for a song about her dad. She laughs as she recalls the song.
“It’s so bad,” she said. “I don’t even play it anymore.”
A little later on, Taylor Marie took a trip to Nashville with her mom Bernadette Johnson, and played an open mic at the legacy-rich Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. She was so unhappy with this performance that she stopped playing in public for six months. She kept practicing and writing, though, and last May she emerged from her hiatus and played as the supporting act for a number of local musicians.
Now, one year after she took her first steps into the Covington music scene, she is getting ready to headline a number of shows around the area.
“This is my first time headlining,” she said. “It’s my first show where I’m playing for three hours.
“Since I landed this gig, a lot of other places have called and wanted me to play, so I’ll have a lot of other shows coming up this summer — something almost every weekend.”
Taylor Marie also has been nominated for a Georgia Country Music Award in the category of Female Artist of the Year.
At only 19, the Social Circle native is starting to make a name for herself in the local scene, and it seems that she’s well on her way to finding her “niche.” She is quick to distance herself from comparisons to Taylor Swift, and prefers the country music of an older generation — Loretta Lynne, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette.
“Most people my age have never even heard the songs I cover,” she said.
But in a musical landscape that includes Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars albums that call back to their predecessors in soul and Motown music, respectively, Taylor Marie has similarly captured a retro quality in her music. Her single, “One to Blame” has all of the musical attitude and lyrical character of a classic country tune.
“My dad and grandma always told me to write what I know,” she said.
If “One to Blame” is an example of Taylor Marie following that advice, she’ll have no problem emerging from the pack. The song has already found its way into the rotation on 94.9 The Bull’s Backyard Country program, which airs on Saturdays at 9 p.m.