Taylor Knighton draws inspiration from all sorts of places. The singer and multi-instrumentalist notes that folk, country and jazz have all influenced her work; meanwhile, the visions she evokes in her lyrics reveal her long-standing interest in storytelling. A number of her songs are inspired by well-loved tales from around the world, and in fact, the album she’s currently working on is fairytale and mythology-themed. She treats these childlike subjects with an air of sophistication: “La Belle Aux Bois Dormant” revisits the Sleeping Beauty narrative, imagining that there’s a language barrier between Sleeping Beauty and the prince at their first meeting. Sung in crystal-clear French and English, it’s a highly original twist on the tale.
Her creative imagination fits perfectly in Asheville’s music scene, which often finds artists blending a number of traditional styles to create a sound truly their own. Asheville has a well-deserved reputation as a great city for music, and Knighton is just beginning to explore its offerings. The Mobile, Alabama native recently moved here after a stint of time in Indiana and Asheville is becoming home, despite facing a few jitters. In Asheville, “you’re trying to get into these venues that have hosted bands you have so much respect for,” she explains. Her intimidation may fall away before too long; though the forthcoming album will be her first, she’s already attracting a fanbase.
Knighton dabbles in banjo and is handy with a ukulele, but her weapon of choice is the mighty six-string. Given a guitar as a gift when she was a teenager, she began playing in her early twenties. Her vocal work well precludes that: “I’ve been singing my whole life,” she says. She performed often in her church choir and “sang all the time” at home, name-checking Bonnie Raitt and the Lisa Loeb song “Stay” as a childhood favorite. However she notes that she “was more interested in being a kid” than in using her talent to compete with others at such a young age.
That free-spiritedness seems to have followed her to adulthood. She cheerfully reveals that her first-ever live performance was to a group of kayakers on the shores of Lake Eerie, a chance encounter while she was traveling alone with her guitar. Meanwhile, one of her favorite musical pastimes in Asheville is playing downtown during balmy evenings. “You can really gain a network by busking,” she says. “I’ve met a lot of people that way.” She also extends her musical community by giving others the spotlight: she hosted two weekly open-mic events while living in Mobile, and likes to offer encouragement to budding musicians. Though she is primarily a solo artist, as her music develops, it’s becoming critical for her to work with other artists. She explains that while she sometimes feels uneasy directing fellow musicians to support her own vision, it’s part of the job.
That said, her songs stand remarkably well on their own. Knighton’s bluesy voice rings with candor and feeling, and her instrumentations are complex without becoming overly complicated. Her love of fairytales is evident through many of her tracks, which remain on the side of playfulness and levity even as lyrics veer into deeper emotional territory. Her work on the album, along with her newfound Asheville-based network, have surely been great outlets for her creative development.
Although she may not be a native, Taylor Knighton’s swoon-worthy tunes feel right at home in Asheville’s music world. So keep your ears open for this budding star—one day you might be lucky enough to say you knew her from the start!