When Okotoks singer-songwriter Loryn Taggart was 11 years old, she found herself the target of schoolyard bullying.
“Being the artist, I was always the odd one out, the one that not a lot of people could understand,” explained Taggart, now 16.
“I was bullied to the point that I was scared to go to school,” she added. “It was really hard for me. It was a really scary time.”
The young musician refused to become a victim, instead choosing to use her negative experience to help others in similar situations. Songwriting became the tool.
Taggart’s love of singing and performing took root at a young age. At five, she taught herself to play a song on piano by ear. By age nine, Taggart was writing her own music.
A self-described jazz, folk and blues singer, Taggart — who plays piano, guitar and most recently took up the ukulele — cites Norah Jones, Leslie Feist, Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald as some of her musical influences.
Later on, it was another emotionally challenging situation that pushed Taggart to further her music career.
During Christmas in 2007, Taggart’s older brother Matthew enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“It was our first Christmas without him,” Taggart explained. “It was hard to go through that.”
To help her family get through the evening, Taggart sat down at the piano to play a song her brother, who is also a musician, had penned.
“As I finished the song, I turned around and saw that my father was crying,” she recalled.
Realizing how deeply music could affect others on an emotional level, Taggart knew she was destined to pursue a career as a musician.
She began performing at talent shows and, at 14, joined a pop-rock band called Driven with some friends at school.
Today, Taggart’s hard work is paying off.
Taggart recorded a demo CD, a copy of which soon landed in the hands of a DJ who happened to be a judge for the Juno Awards and who invited Taggart to Canadian Music Week in Toronto last March.
One night in Toronto, Taggart performed a showcase at the Drake Hotel where rock promoter Johnny Brower, best known for his work with the Beatles, the Doors and Led Zeppelin, heard her music.
After the concert, Brower asked to hear her demo and was immediately impressed with the young musician’s raw talent. The two soon began working together.
By June, Taggart traveled to Los Angeles to record her first single, “Powerless,” and film the accompanying music video.
“(That experience) was life changing,” Taggart said. “As soon as I was (in Los Angeles), I realized that this is it, and it was just the most exciting thing.”
Although major record labels quickly approached Taggart, she decided to create her own label, called Sidewalk Angel Records, to release her music.
“Each one of (the major labels) wanted certain control of my artistry,” Taggart explained. “I’ve always wanted to make sure that if I was going to go into music, I was going to sing what I wanted to, dress how I wanted to, say what I wanted to say and there was nobody who could take control of that.
“I just want to be real,” she said.
What’s next on Taggart’s agenda?
When she’s not clearing room on her mantle for a Juno award (she is currently in the running for a nomination), Taggart can be found in the studio working on her latest single and music video “Dumbfounded.” She also just finished recording her first EP.
This March, she is planning a return appearance at Canadian Music Week, followed by a small venue tour before getting to work on a full-length album.
“It’s very, very exciting,” she said.
But Taggart hasn’t forgotten her past.
Children’s author Annie Winston, who just released a book about teen bullying, appointed Taggart as the book’s ambassador.
The lyrics of “Powerless” also address the issue of teen bullying.
“I’ve come to the point to be open about the fact that I’ve been bullied so that my peers can feel that they don’t have to be ashamed of a past like that,” she said.
“(Bullying) is a tough thing to go through and I just want people around me to see that it doesn’t have to ruin your life,” Taggart said. “You can get out of it.”
“Powerless” is now receiving airplay on radio stations across Canada. It is currently available for download on CDBaby.com and will soon be on iTunes.