Pop newcomer Taylor Grey to open Let It Show Thursday at F.M. Kirby Center
Taylor Grey is not your average burgeoning pop-star.
For one thing, the young California-based artist writes the majority of her songs — a practice that is becoming more rare in her genre and industry as a whole — and those she doesn’t author herself are co-written with true collaborators who aren’t brought in to improve her work but to complement it.
In addition, the 20-year-old is not getting her education in the grooming circuit of the pre-packaged, over-produced “hitmakers” that too often dominate the Top 40. She’s not even enrolled in a music or arts school. Grey is working on her degree in neuroscience at Stanford University.
Grey will be the opening act around 6:45 p.m. Thursday during Let It Show at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre. The evening of music also features Jake Miller, Grace VanderWaal, Olivia Holt, MAX and All Time Low, and the main show is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Singing since she was “3 or 4” and heavily involved in musical theater throughout her childhood and adolescence, Grey said she’s known for a long time that music is her first love.
“I feel lucky,” she said during a recent phone interview. “A lot of people at 20 are still trying to find their passion.”
Grey’s mix of uptempo pop and balladry first made an impact in the music industry in 2016 when her EP, “Mind of Mine I & II,” caught the attention of recording artist Jacob Whiteside, who invited her to join his summer tour. Her debut album, “Space Case” was released in June, and her most recent single, “Poison,” dropped on Nov. 28.
“Space Case” shows Grey’s range, featuring beat-forward dance tunes like “Miami” and the title track, alternative pop fusion songs like “Impossible” and “Never Woulda Letcha,” and folk-like ballads in “Wild Bird” and “Open Road.”
“When I was in the process of writing it — it’s a little removed now — I was writing songs to express who I am,” Grey said of “Space Case.” “I wasn’t putting myself in any type of box. I was trying to develop myself and find out who I was.”
“Poison,” a piano-driven dirge, is a bit darker than her previous work, and Grey admits the song is different than anything on her previous LP.
“This song is me,” Grey said. “It simply gets to the heart of insecurities I’ve had in the past.”
The lyrics, she said, address her introverted nature and explore her struggle with it and eventual acceptance of self.
“It’s owning who I am,” Grey said. “You can either like it or not. I’m proud of this piece. That’s a feeling that’s really great.”
Grey said that while she hid behind abstract concepts, using literary techniques, in writing past songs, she’s made her message on “Poison” clear.
“I feel the vulnerability,” she said. “I know people in my life are listening to it.”
In terms of ownership of her writing, Grey is adamant.
“It’s everything to me,” she said. “I don’t let anyone touch the lyrics to my songs unless it’s a collaboration. I write a song as a catharsis and to help me understand my life and relationships. I get closure from songs that I might not get in real life. It’s important to me to keep that authenticity.”
That authenticity radiates from Grey, who said her study of sciences at one of the school’s most esteemed academic institutions is something for which she always aspired.
“I grew up right next to Stanford,” she said. “That was my dream school. I grew up in family … (that) valued education and learning.”
Grey said, to her, pursuing music and other academic goals at the same time always made sense, but she always felt the need to compartmentalize the two affairs.
“They intertwined, but it felt like putting them together, there would be a void in my life,” she said. “I love studying neuroscience and psychology and human biology. I wanted to experience that, because maybe one day, I won’t be doing music. I can’t foresee that, but who knows?”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Let It Show featuring All Time Low, MAX, Olivia Holt, Grace VanderWaal, Jake Miller, and a pre-show performance by Taylor Grey.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Pre-show at 6:45 p.m.; main show begins at 7 p.m. Thursday
Additional information: Tickets cost $25 and $35 and are available through the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.