For singer, doing good is the happiest song

At home in Mullica Hill, Doreen Taylor writes and sings the songs she hopes will help make her a star - and help charities that are close to her heart.

"I say that I'm a singer-songwriter, even though the stereotype is a girl in a flowery dress with a guitar, singing folk-type music," she says.

"I'm definitely not folk-y."

I must agree, having heard Taylor do a live-in-the-studio take of an uplifting ballad titled, appropriately, "Unstoppable," just minutes before.

"Again?" she asks producer David Pedemonti.

"Yes," he answers. "From the beginning."

I'm listening to Taylor sing at Philadelphia's MilkBoy, where she's recording her as-yet-untitled debut album as an adult contemporary artist.

She recently performed at the annual "Be Great Extravaganza" for the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County. And she's preparing to sing at the June 10 gala of the Eastern Pennsylvania Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

"I honestly believe in paying it forward, and I kind of made a pact with myself to do that with my music," Taylor tells me. "I identify with causes on behalf of people who can't speak for themselves, and children's causes. Doing good makes me happy."

An opera student who became an Atlantic City casino entertainer and, later, a country singer, Taylor says adult contemporary offers a comfortable, commodious, and commercial niche for her lustrous voice.

"I've been all over the map, and this is where I fit - making music I want to hear," Taylor says, taking a break at MilkBoy.

"I want to make my music my way, and have the masses hear it. I don't want to make a CD that lands on a shelf and is only heard by the people who made it."

As online music and social-media platforms proliferate, reaching audiences can be easier.

But it's harder to get heard amid the cacophony of voices competing for attention - particularly because most artists, like Taylor (doreentaylormusic.com), are independent and without a record label.

"I've become very good at wearing many hats," she says. "I create the music, I sing, I market myself. You have to be a businesswoman, almost more than the creative part."

Artists "have to find people who connect with what they're doing," notes Steve Tirpak, an arranger and producer of Taylor's new record.

"Doreen is taking full advantage of social media," adds the West Philadelphia resident.

"She's passionate, she's talented, and she has a lot of drive."

I'll say. Taylor's enthusiasm, personality, and musicality are engaging. And her work ethic is impressive. "This is how I operate best," she says.

On Monday, "Doreen cut a lead-vocal track and did six tracks of backup vocals," says Pedemonti, a music-industry veteran from Bristol, Bucks County.

Growing up in Alden, N.Y., about 30 minutes east of Buffalo, Taylor became aware of her abilities after her third-grade music teacher "identified my voice as something special," she recalls.

She studied the violin, took voice lessons, learned to read and write music, and by the time she was a teenager - and a target of bullying - she was writing her own material.

"I would go into my closet with my mini-keyboard, and it was my own little world. I was like a superhero [with] secret power. It didn't matter if kids were picking on me."

Taylor went on to study opera as an undergraduate at the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music. She also earned a master's degree from Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance.

But she ended up gravitating to popular music "because I wanted to sing in English, and I didn't want to be put in a box," says Taylor.

Her classical training will help "give me a career of longevity," she says, adding that many (if not most) young pop vocalists lack technique and are punishing their voices.

Taylor, who hopes to release the album this summer, says she loves to put her chops to work to benefit organizations such as a "Bullies Keep Out" campaign in Burlington County and the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County.

A video for "My Christmas Wish," a song she wrote to benefit the club, got more than 16,000 hits on YouTube.

"You can see the joy she had, being surrounded by the kids," says Bernadette Shanahan, the club's executive director.

"It means a lot that someone with a talent like hers is interested in helping a small club in Camden. Doreen is a sweetheart."

Because the father of a childhood friend - "they were like a second family," says Taylor - succumbed to lymphoma, she's also pleased to be working with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The feeling is mutual: "We are excited to have her perform at our 2016 Man & Woman of the Year celebration," says the society's senior campaign manager, Sarah Langevin Hopkins.

Taylor will honor two young cancer survivors, a boy named Garrett and a girl named Savannah.

"I'll be singing 'Over the Rainbow,' " she says.

"It has really become my signature song."

kriordan@phillynews.com

856-779-3845@inqkriordan

www.philly.com/blinq

Continue Reading