The backroads of America tell its truest stories.
The heartbreak and heartbeat of the country thumps the loudest in the cracks between its big cities. A 2021 census in Blanchester, OH registers the village’s population at around 4,230 people. Nolan Taylor isn’t quite sure of the exact number, but he knows it’s awfully small from growing up in this place with his dad and older brother. His father managed plants and factories, yet money was scarce and the winters were brutal. Mom battled addiction and mental struggles, eventually estranging her from the boys. When Nolan could finally afford a left-handed guitar, he started to write and record music of his own, grafting hard-earned wisdom, heart-wrenching memories, and hypnotic melodies to rustic and ruddy acoustic phrasing.
Achieving virality from obscurity and gathering millions of streams, he tells a true story all his own via a series of 2023 singles for Atlantic Records and his forthcoming debut project.
“We’re smalltown poor people,” he sighs. “My brother and my dad are my best friends. We spent much of our life together hopping around from place to place, getting jobs where we could and just surviving. The music is honest. I simply want listeners to feel what I’m feeling.”
As a kid, he found solace in music. He discovered The Grateful Dead through his dad and developed a deep appreciation for Pinegrove. Throughout junior high, he studied classic MTV Unplugged concerts by the likes of Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. Other songwriters such as Joe Purdy and Zac McFadden left an imprint on Nolan. He initially received a banjo from his uncle, diving into bluegrass. Even though he primarily focused on wrestling, working out, football, and basketball, he finally picked up a left-handed guitar in high school. During 2016, he cut his teeth at countless open mic nights. He spent years gigging around West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky, playing anywhere and everywhere.
In 2023, a video of Nolan performing “68” in the woods went viral with 2.6 million YouTube views on the Radio WV YouTube Channel. His understated timbre cut deep with lyrics such as, “Lighting up cigarettes in the seventh grade, that’;s what my mother taught me as she was falling asleep driving down 68,” and “We were all constantly on the move. My whole life I’ve been running from you.”
“I like to be very direct with how I’m feeling,” he admits. “I write best with my major mood changes. If I’m very sad, I will come up with something extremely emotional. If I’m very happy, it’s also emotional. My favorite songs come out of that state.
Speaking of, the single “Wicked Ways” highlights the stark power of his voice. As he strums the guitar, he immediately confesses, “The sky is blue and so am I, I’ve been fighting these demons inside my mind.” It builds towards a proclamation of the kind of love you don’t see in movies—but is built to last.
“It’s a song I wrote about my lady,” he says. “It’s an open-ended story about dealing with depression and being apologetic to each other, but we’re working through it. It’s a love song of trying our best to get through this shit together.”
Ultimately, Nolan might just make you feel like you’ll get through as well. “At the end of the day, I hope you understand how I felt when I was writing these songs,” he leaves off. “It’s wild to me when somebody else feels the same way, but I know a lot of people do.”
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