Today we’re talking to two very different, yet equally captivating NYC musicians, Taylor Tucker (singer-songwriter) and Kat Hamilton of Manic Pixi (alt-rock). Check out the two chatting about their crazy live shows, full band vs acoustic shows, perseverance in the music industry, and more.
Taylor Tucker: You just came out with a record (YAY!)…what does this record mean to you and how is it different from your other records?
Kat Hamilton: Iron Heart is very vulnerable lyrically. Releasing it was like releasing a piece of my soul. It felt like closing a chapter–a New York heartbreak chapter that was important but is thankfully over. I also have a strong connection to the music because we wrote it as a group. I love hearing parts where I’m like, “Marshall is killin’ it!” or “This song would be nothing without Drew’s bass riff.” That is also what makes IH different from Sugar Bomb! I wrote most of SB and it’s a lot of fun, but it was limited, creatively. With everyone getting their hands dirty, the possibilities seem endless. I love that.
KH: What is your favorite song on the Leather Shoes EP and why?
TT: It depends on the day and what mood I’m in! Some days, I’m dancing around by myself or cleaning my apartment to “Leather Shoes” and “Don’t Say It.” Other days I’m walking around the city listening to “Memory.” It all depends. I do have a special connection to “Enough To Me” because it was the first song I ever wrote on an instrument and the lyrics mean very much to me. It was the first thing I had to get off my chest when I started learning instruments and could properly structure a song. So if I had to pick one, that would probably be it.
TT: You are SUPER ANIMATED on stage (it’s awesome). What inspires you to keep that energy going on and off stage?
KH: My entire thought process behind Manic Pixi was to create a stage experience that I felt was lacking in the scene around me. I was getting tired of seeing performers who didn’t care, who acted like they would rather be anywhere else. So no matter how tired/sick/or frustrated I am, I remind myself why I do this. I want the audience to feel like they are a part of the show. That they are important and acknowledged. How do you expect an audience to care if you act like you don’t? This applies to offstage too. I want people to meet me and feel excited about the band. I want them to feel like it’s not an act, but rather an extension of our passion. We all share this sentiment. Have you seen how high Drew can jump? Like HOLY WOW.
KH: I know you have been recently playing with a full band. How does that experience differ for you from your solo acoustic performances?
TT: I LOVE playing with a full band because they bring my songs to life! I love to dance around stage and really engage with the audience so having a kick-ass band allows me to do just that. A majority of my songs are upbeat so it’s very fun to run around the stage and be able to feel free. My acoustic performance is definitely more laid back and intimate, which brings a new flavor to each tune. It brings a totally different dynamic to the upbeat songs. I like acoustic performances because you’re able to hear the lyrics more and really understand what the songs are about.
TT: What was your greatest success and greatest struggle so far in your music career?
KH: Manic Pixi is both. Being a part of a band, a family really, is the hardest work and the highest payoff. When we succeed, nothing feels more empowering. But the struggle of keeping each other going is a lot more than a solo act. You can’t just replace someone when they disagree with you. There are more scheduling conflicts than doing it on your own. I’m proud that I’ve invested the last four years into this band because we have worked insanely hard to overcome obstacles and keep the dream alive.
KH: When you and I talked before our show at Goldsounds, you were very candid with me about your songwriting. What is your songwriting approach? How do you dig in?
TT: It definitely depends. Songwriting feels the best when it comes naturally and spills out of your head like water, which could happen at any point in time. Sometimes I’m walking around and a beat will pop into my head (which I then attempt to record on my phone, which sound hilarious most of the time, but at least it gets the job done). Sometimes I’ll write lyrics down first. Sometimes I’ll be playing the guitar or ukulele and strum a chord that hits me right in the gut and develop the song from there. I write and journal all the time which is very important for me to do. It helps clear my head and organize my thoughts. Even if I feel I have nothing to write about, I literally write down “I feel I have nothing to say today,” and then go from there. Weird! But the trick is to keep writing. You never know what feelings are hiding behind the ones on the surface.
TT: Describe your songwriting process. What subjects influence you the most?
KH: Mine comes in pieces. A verse will pop into my head in the shower or when I’m laying down for bed. But then the chorus will come months later. It’s really rare that I pump out an entire song in one sitting. With Manic Pixi, we have a group approach to songwriting, but we don’t start a song together. Usually one person has some piece of a song that they pitch to the rest of us and we chip away at it. I write about my life. It’s pretty dramatic! There’s the usual relationship/love angle but I also write a lot about being a musician. How I feel about my career, Manic Pixi, and where I’m headed.
KH: You have been getting a ton of reviews on your EP. How do you handle criticism or praise?
TT: The fact that people are praising and/or criticizing my work is insane. People are actually interested enough to write reviews on my music. It’s really crazy and awesome. Each and every review has a little nugget of wisdom, so it’s important for me to read all of them. It’s also important to differentiate between constructive criticism and someone blabbing about their opinion. The reviews are helpful for artist growth and development and help implant ideas into my head for future projects. So, I feel I’m handling the reviews pretty well. I haven’t read anything devastating yet that’s made me want to crawl in a hole.
TT: What venue are you dying to play at in the future?
KH: I want the big show! Irving Plaza, Webster Hall, and any other huge stage I can run across. We also want Warped Tour. That’s a certain tier in our scene. It’s a badge of honor.
KH: What are the plans for the next EP?
TT: I’m so inspired by upbeat New Orleans brass band music, sexy bluesy R&B beats, and of course witty lyricism. I’m heavily focused on beats at the moment (listening to a ton of hip-hop) and honing in on how each instrument makes me feel when it’s incorporated into the song. It’ll be a super cool record with music about heartbreak, empowerment, and loving life.
TT: Developing a music career is definitely a climb. What inspires you to “keep going”? (YOUR TATTOO!)
KH: My boys! They are my family and we inspire each other to pull through. Every time I feel like I’m gonna fall apart, I look at one of them. I also have an amazing support system of talented and kind people. Even beyond that, there’s an inner confidence that what I’m doing is what I’m meant for. Sometimes I forget that there’s that part of me, but when I get on a stage, it all becomes clear.
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Taylor Tucker and Kat Hamilton (Manic Pixi). Photo Credit Earl W. Tucker IV on Taylor Tucker (top) and Laura Murray on Manic Pixi (bottom).