Video games might not always bring the best out of people, if you consider the supposed violence claims and listen to the whiny cries of fragged gamers over Xbox Live, but unbeknownst to the naysayers out there, video games can truly bring out the best in people. Video games can be inspiring and help to reveal the individual talents in all of us. They can inspire a potential writer to have something to write about and share with others. They can encourage people to become artists or costume designers. For violinist Taylor Davis, video games have played a major role in building an exciting musical career embedded with an ever-growing fanbase.
What Taylor brings to her fans and gamers alike are musical renditions from some of the most popular video game soundtracks, with a heavy emphasis on the wonderful violin (she previously performed under the pseudonym ViolinTay). She also covers a variety of songs from anime and film. Her devotion to music extends effortlessly and naturally with some of the most soothing sounds a gamer could expect to hear from a string instrument. Taylor started out small on YouTube, as many people do, but she quickly attracted a herd of fans like insects to a bright light. She performed at last year’s E3 and she recently teamed up with The Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine and composer Chance Thomas to perform in a video featuring the “Theme for Rohan.”
Taylor has been extremely busy with her latest album releases while continuing to produce new videos for YouTube, hardly taking a break during the holidays since she also released a Christmas album. That said, I am very thankful that she graciously accepted to do an interview for Addict of Fiction. Taylor is a very talented musician and it is with great pleasure that I share the interview with you:
*Thank you for taking time away from your music to do this interview. You have certainly made a name for yourself thanks to YouTube. Was this something you expected to happen when you got into it? Are you ever recognized on the street by fans of your videos?
Taylor Davis: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me! I definitely didn’t expect this level of success when I first started out, and it’s very humbling that I’m able to make a career out of doing what I love because of all the generous support I’ve received from my audience. The only time I was recognized was when I played at E3 this summer with fellow YouTube musicians Lara de Wit and Kyle Landry. A few people recognized us from our videos and were asking for pictures and autographs, it was a pretty cool experience!
*What was the first video that you posted and was it your plan from the start to continue making more, or did you have a surprising turnout of initial viewers that influenced you to keep going?
Taylor Davis: I think I posted four videos at once because I didn’t know the best way to upload at that point. One was the “Theme from Schindler’s List,” and the others were from Final Fantasy games. I initially wanted to use my channel as a platform to share the type of music that I love with others who had similar tastes. Once I started gaining steady views, I wanted to find out if I could build enough of an audience that would be interested in eventually purchasing an album so that I could essentially turn all of the time I was dedicating to making videos into something that could make some money for the effort.
*Can you give us a little bit of a background story on where you grew up and how both music and video games became a part of your life?
Taylor Davis: I grew up in an extremely loving home consisting of my mom, dad and older brother, Chase. Chase is responsible for getting me involved in gaming. Since he was hoping for a brother and not a sister when my parents brought me home, he was determined to turn me into the brother he never had! So I’ve been a pretty intense gamer ever since I was young. As far as getting involved in music, I came home one day after seeing a girl play the violin at an elementary school assembly and asked if I could start taking violin lessons, and thankfully my parents both said yes. My mom was definitely the one who really encouraged me to stick with the violin because it’s such a hard instrument, especially in the beginning stages, and there were many times where I wanted to just quit. My dad always called himself a “patron” because he himself is not musical, but he was the one responsible for generously funding my lessons growing up.
*If there was one video of yours that you are most proud of and you would recommend that newcomers to your music see first, which is it?
Taylor Davis: That’s a hard one to choose! By genre I would say the “Zelda Medley” for gamers, “The Last of the Mohicans” theme for movie lovers and the “Les Mis Medley” with Lara for Broadway enthusiasts.
*For your game renditions, how do you go about preparing the background music?
Taylor Davis: For my first album, I would listen to every rendition that I could and then just try and compose something similar in structure but in my own style by ear. I use Logic Pro for my software, and play the different parts on a MIDI keyboard and assign the instrument sample I want for whatever part I’m writing. It was a tedious process because I was simultaneously learning how to use the software but I’m really happy with how everything turned out.
*Do you perform all of your arrangements by ear? You wouldn’t happen to have a secret list of video game music that you’re planning to cover later would you? Maybe you could share a few with us?
Taylor Davis: I do make all of my arrangements by ear. It’s much harder and more time consuming for me to try and write everything out, which is why I don’t offer a lot of sheet music on my website. I’m planning for some more Final Fantasy, as well as something from the game Journey.
*What video games are you playing right now? What are your favorite genres? Are you into online multiplayer?
Taylor Davis: I don’t play too much anymore just because I try to focus any free time on my career right now, or just being with my family. But when I do play, it’s usually League of Legends because I play with my brother and husband *laughs*. The Final Fantasy series is my all time favorite, so I would say that RPGs are my favorite genre. Recently, I played a little AC3 (Assassin’s Creed III), Halo 4, and zombie mode on Call of Duty with some friends over the holidays.
*You have covered many of the most popular RPG soundtracks of all time. Have you ever played Xenogears/Xenosaga or the Lunar series? They are excellent games with wonderful soundtracks worth checking out if you haven’t.
Taylor Davis: I have never played those games but I have actually had quite a few requests for Xenogears music, so it’s something that I have always considered for the future. I generally like to perform songs from games that I have either played or have a strong musical connection with, but I’m always open to whatever moves me.
*Who are your favorite composers in gaming, classical, and/or film?
Taylor Davis: Gaming: Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura, Yasunori Mitsuda. Classical: Rimsky-Korsakov, Gustav Mahler, Henryk Wieniawski. Film: John Williams, James Horner, Hans Zimmer.
*Besides the violin, do you have any other musical talents? Do you sing?
Taylor Davis: I wouldn’t say talents *laughs*, but I can play the piano and sing, but not to the point where I’d feel comfortable making a video featuring myself doing those things!
*What are your hobbies outside of music and gaming?
Taylor Davis: I love working out, mainly weightlifting or CrossFit type workouts. I also like playing tennis, cooking/baking, traveling, photography, and I’m really into anything technology related like building computers, working with different software, etc. Is eating a hobby? *laughs* I’m a big foodie! I love just hanging out with family and friends, I’m very easily entertained as long as I’m with nice people.
*How did the Lord of the Rings Online team get in touch with you for the Rohan video?
Taylor Davis: They reached out to me since they had seen some of my videos and asked if I was interested in working with them on creating a professional video as a promotional piece for the launch of their new expansion and soundtrack “Riders of Rohan.” It was great working with the team, everyone was so nice and it was very neat for me to work with the actual composer, Chance Thomas.
*What plans do you have for the new year? Have you made any resolutions?
Taylor Davis: One of my main goals is to complete an album of original music. I have been composing for a while, but I haven’t released anything through my YouTube, so that’s something I’m looking forward to. Also, I’m looking forward to collaborating with other musicians and professional videographers to create some higher quality videos this year.
*Do you think fans can expect to see you perform in concert on a tour one day? Have you been booked for E3 2013 yet?
Taylor Davis: I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity for a full-on tour, but who knows! It would be wonderful to do some public performances so I could meet some of my fans in person and thank them for their support in helping me pursue my dreams. I do have a performance group that I’m planning to work with later this year, so hopefully I’ll be doing enough performances with them that will allow me to meet fans. I have not been booked for E3 2013, but I’d love to be a part of it again this year!
*Once again thank you for your time, Taylor. I wish you the best in your endeavors. If there is anything you’d like to add, feel free.
Taylor Davis: Thank you so much Jared! I really appreciate being a part of your website. I’d like to add that fellow YouTube musician Lara de Wit and I recently released a video game album titled “Game On: 2 Player Mode.” Lara and I actually decided to work together in person on this, so we flew her out to my house here in the states and spent two weeks working on creating arrangements and recording. We used my little homemade studio and recorded, arranged, and produced everything ourselves. The album is mainly piano and violin and features songs from Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Halo, Assassin’s Creed and more.
Be sure to visit Taylor’s website where you can purchase her music, access her regularly updated YouTube channel and ‘like’ her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter. Purchase “Game On: 2 Player Mode,” a joint album between Taylor and Lara de Wit, through Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.
Please share your kind comments about Taylor Davis below. What are your favorite renditions? Is there any music you would like her to cover? Let us know!
Images provided by courtesy of © 2013 TaylorDavisViolin.
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