By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Growing up in Perkins, Monica Taylor was surrounded by music.
“I grew up in a little Baptist church there in Perkins and there was always good southern gospel music,” she said.
A fan of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Bill Monroe, Taylor would visit bluegrass festivals. Even a trip with her father couldn’t be without music.
“He used to rodeo so when we would travel in the truck, anywhere we would go, there was always good country music on the radio,” she said.
Back home, she enjoyed listening to bluegrass and country so much she would write down lyrics.
“I would use the record and lift up the arm and write down the lyrics to songs,” she said.
Taylor got her hands on her first guitar while in the fourth grade. The gift, from her aunt, was a 12-string acoustic. She began to study and learn chords.
“It opened up a whole new world because then you could listen to any song and try to figure out the chords,” she said.
She still remembers her first time belting out a tune to an audience.
“I think the first time I sang in front of other people was with my folks in church and my left leg shook like crazy,” Taylor said. “It was amazing I could get the words out.”
But despite the butterflies, she said she loved it. And that passion continued when Taylor entered high school when she purchased a small public address system and started taking bookings at small gatherings.
After high school, Taylor attended Oklahoma State University, where she met fellow Red Dirt artists, including Brett Franzman, Tom Skinner and members of the Red Dirt Rangers.
“We’d go out to The Farm and jam,” she said. “All of us had little bands and we’d play around town and Tulsa and Oklahoma City.”
The Farm was a physical and cultural hub of Red Dirt music, bringing together artists responsible for the genre, including the legendary Bob Childers.
Taylor, who began writing songs in 1986 because she had stories of her own to tell, would consult Childers and others for suggestions and encouragement.
“I’d work on a song and I’d take it to Bob or I’d take it to any of those people and it would be hard,” she said.
Persistence paid off as Taylor found herself with numerous groups over the years, including The Medicine Show, The Wayfaring Strangers and as one half of The Farm Couple. She also sang harmony on numerous recordings, including one of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s early albums and a Mike McClure song “Wildflower.”
Taylor released her first solo album, titled “Cimarron Valley Girl,” in 2006. Her newest solo record, “Cotton Shirt,” was released in 2010.
“I recorded it in Stillwater and also down at Jimmy Lafave’s studio, Cedar Creek Studios, down in Austin,” she said. “His band played for me in those recording sessions. And he and I did a duet together. I’m really proud of that. ‘Cimarron Valley Girl’ is more of a bluegrass country, but this one is more mature.”
Taylor will be performing at Joseppi’s Italian Restaurant for their last night of live music. She’ll be joined by friends Don Morris and Gene Williams. The music begins at 8 p.m.
“Songs are so special,” Taylor said. “They don’t need to just be sung by the person. Some songs really hit you and you take them and they’re a part of you.”