By David DeRocco
The late 80s and early 90s were a breeding ground for big, mega-selling, larger than life female recording artists who ruled the charts in multiple genres. Madonna, Janet, Whitney, Celine, Mariah, Britney, Alanis and Shania are all names quickly identified by virtue of having released career-defining blockbuster albums and a string of hit singles in the years 1988-1995. And yet, despite having cracked the Billboard Top 10 an incredible 18 times, there’s an artist often quietly overlooked when it comes to compiling ad hoc lists of superstars from the era – Taylor Dayne.
Although she’s sold a combined 75 million singles and albums and charted Top 10 songs in three consecutive decades, Taylor Dayne is an anomaly: like Solange to Beyoncé, Casey Affleck to Ben or Keith Gretzky to Wayne, Taylor is the name you often remember after you’ve thought of the other obvious choices. It’s certainly unthinkable not to include Taylor Dayne – a triple threat as a powerhouse vocalist, songwriter and actress – as one of her generation’s biggest stars. With her obligatory mange of 80s hair, voluptuous lips, sultry eyes and New York attitude, she is also one of the era’s more enduring personalities. Does she think she gets her dues for her success?
“No, but I came through a very very rigid record company,” said Dayne, who performs at the Fallsview Casino’s Avalon Ballroom February 12th. “Arista Records was known for the talent and the artists that came through, like Whitney Houston. But it was more known for the label head wasn’t it? You’ve got (label founder) Clive Davis at the helm there, and Clive Davis likes to put his name in front of a lot of things. That was always the difficulty, trying to be independent, trying to find your image and find strength in that, yet having to make records for (Davis). But don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some really incredible moments in my life to sit and reflect on. There’s always bumps in road of any career and you have to reassess. Look, I’m inducted into the (Long Island Music) Hall of Fame, I’m 27 years deep, and I’m still able to go out there and do what I love. That’s the plus.”
It was a very independent Dayne who, at the young age of 20, quit the rock band in which she was to find her voice pursuing a solo career. With $6,000 in funding from her father, she and her partner cut “Tell It To My Heart,” the smash hit 12-inch dance track that launched her career.
“I was just out of high school a couple of years. I’d been in a couple of bands, including a rock band called Felony. There was always original music around. I just started finding my voice very early. I just said I was done with bands. It just never worked; it was difficult to take five people’s opinions and survive as a united force. “Tell It To My Heart” was a #1 phenom; it was one of those records. We sold a lot of singles before they raced to put a full album album out.”
The song was an instant smash worldwide, peaking in the top five of most major markets worldwide and hitting number one in several others. Six more U.S. top-ten hits followed including “Prove Your Love”, “I’ll Always Love You”, “Don’t Rush Me”, “With Every Beat of My Heart”, “Love Will Lead You Back” and “I’ll Be Your Shelter”. While Dayne has continued to record over the years, she has also branched out into acting for screen and stage; her most recent role landed Dayne in Toronto for three months this past holiday season, starring alongside Dee Snider in the Twisted Sister frontman’s production of A Rock n Roll Christmas Tale. While the role demanded she follow a grueling scheduled, Dayne says it has helped get her physically and mentally ready to taken on her 2016 challenge — making new music.
“The last three months have been peanuts, salt and water, long 16-hour days. There’s no way around it. Dee and I were getting up every morning. I was doing press at six or seven in the morning. There’s rehearsal, fittings, choreography, dance, then the stage; that’s how you roll. I’m a warrior after stuff like that. Now I’m back in warrior camp you know, because this business is not for the weary. I’m in fighting shape, and that gets me back on my game. Now my focus is on creating new music. That’s my challenge, that’s my focus.”
Dayne has lent her voice to many genres of music over her career, earning crossover success on Dance and HOT AC charts and even appearing in the CMT series gone country in 2009. After all that, however, did working with Snider rekindle any passion for returning to her rock roots?
“Look, if you gave me the phone book I’d sing it to you. I can sing it and do things in any genre. I have a lot of control over my voice. For me it’s just the gift and glory of just having it. Rock to me is anything rock and soul; that’s the genre I always went towards. You give me anything from Led Zeppelin and I’ll nail it. If I could be the lead singer for Queen, I’d say bring it! That would be heaven.”
After the three-months spent on stage in Toronto, heaven for Dayne could just as easily mean a good night’s sleep, in part to re-energize but also to give her voice a rest prior to the tour that brings her to Niagara Falls.
“I don’t go clubbing like I used to,” laughs Dayne. “I can’t do three nights in a row like I used to. And frankly, when you do these big projects, like the three months I just did where my days turn into 16 hours, I go home and retire. I keep it strict. I don’t smoke, not much booze. I keep it light and tight. And sleep for me, I tell everyone, sleep! The only way you can preserve is to shut it down. I used to tell that to Sheila E, you can’t talk, you have to shut it down.”
Besides getting her primed and ready for the rigors of the road and the challenge of recording new music, Dayne’s time in Toronto helped her develop an appreciation for Canadian talent. While she confesses to being a life-long fan of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, (“the artist in my soul is Joni” said Dayne), she has also discovered a love for two more of Canada’s finest.
“Right now, over the last few years, Drake and now The Weekend. I just can’t even…amazeballs! They’re amazing. I mean, Drake; just put me in a room with that motherfreaker. The Weekend, so talented. Just listen to them speak. And let’s not talk about your hot actors, those two Ryans. I have a lot of mad respect for Toronto. I had a lot of great times up there. If I had to be locked anywhere, it was a good place.”
Dayne’s got her sites locked on Niagara Falls now, and she promises fans a great night that will include a full retrospective of her career.
“I’m looking forward to Niagara Falls. I look at a concert now as a beginning, a middle and end. It has to have that kind of story. I come out hard, meaning I come out strong. This is marking 27 years in the business, so I’m going to put my hits right there. I’m not trying to hide anything. It’s the Tell It To My Heart Tour. I am working in new material. I always incorporate some newer music. I have to. I have do it for me. And a couple covers. That will get me through 80 minutes!”