On July 3, 16-year-old singer/songwriter Taylor Muckel took the stage at downtown Denver's Independence Eve concert just before 5 p.m. While wearing a red, floor-length dress that flowed around her, Muckel's voice rang through Civic Center as she …
On July 3, 16-year-old singer/songwriter Taylor Muckel took the stage at downtown Denver's Independence Eve concert just before 5 p.m. While wearing a red, floor-length dress that flowed around her, Muckel's voice rang through Civic Center as she breezed through her sound check.
First, Muckel sang the national anthem to the applause of early-bird concert-goers who arrived early to save seats. Then, she belted out her own single, "13 Stripes and 50 Stars," a patriotic tune that speaks of the freedom and sacrifice symbolized in the American flag, again earning listeners' applause.
The Independence Eve concert, where thousands attended, would be her biggest performance to date, Muckel said after finishing her sound check— although, it would not be the Castle Pine teen's first taste of success.
Muckel, who's stage name is Taylor Rae, released her first album on June 16, which is available on most digital outlets. The country-music album was recorded in Nashville and features two songs written by Muckel — "Flying Solo" and "I'm Done" — with a host of other accomplishments. Muckel and her team tapped names such as Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and drummer Jared Kneale, who's played with artists such as Hunter Hayes, to collaborate on the project.
The first single from the album, "13 Stripes and 50 Stars," has been played on radio stations across the nation. Muckel heard her voice on the radio for the first time on July 3, she said, describing her journey leading up to the album release as a whirlwind.
But it's a hopeful turn of events for the rising sophomore at Valor Christian High School, who says becoming a country music artist is what she plans to pursue as a career, all while balancing music with school.
“I realized this is what I want to do. This is it,” Muckel said.
She started singing at 4 years old through church. As she grew older, she developed a passion for songwriting, typically starting with a chord progression on her guitar and building from there.
“I write a lot about the same topic over and over and over again until I find the way I want to say it,” Muckel said. “I fell in love with songwriting.”
Some songs are personal. Her song “I'm Done” is written about her own experiences being bullied, she said, but it became her favorite on the album.
“This one, it felt like a resolution,” Muckel said, explaining she no longer writes about being bullied.
“I'm done with your words like weapons and your actions like thieves, robbing me, and I'm done with all your cruelty,” Muckel tells her bullies through the song. “You saw the worst in me. You couldn't see my best qualities.”
She also takes on topics important in the life of a 16-year-old, including boys and friends, she said, although she can pull inspiration from anywhere. She formed the concept for her song “Flying Solo” after watching a lone bird flying through the air, and used the concept to write about leaving a cheating partner.
“Don't you dare come crawling back because I've still got my pride, no doubt about that,” Muckel croons on the track. “Now I'm flying solo.”
Muckel's manager, Paul Jackson, said he found her voice to be unique, describing its strength as similar to the booming voice of Adele, having been adapted to fit the country genre. He also saw in her an ability beyond her years to pen meaningful lyrics.
“For her age, she had a unique ability with language to craft a song,” he said. “Pretty much everything about her will mature and change for the positive. She's just barely 16 years old.”
Jackson is based in Nashville and entered the music industry in the 1970s working with The Oak Ridge Boys. Throughout the years, he has managed music groups and more than 100 artists.
Jackson said many “incredibly talented” singers come to Nashville, so when deciding who to represent he looks for three things in a musician: the ability to sing, the ability to write and something unique to set an artist apart in a competitive industry.
He found those things in Muckel, he said, describing her as “very, very focused” in the studio.
“She's a very smart young lady. She approaches things intellectually,” he said. “It's not uncommon for her to say, 'I can do that better.'”
Their next steps for Muckel's career will be to continue finding performance opportunities and to grow her online presence, he said. For Muckel, she'd love to grab a gig as the opening act for another artist. Her dream tour, if she could pick any tour of the moment, would be Sam Hunt with Maren Morris.
Muckel's mother, Alison, said watching her daughter work on an album among professionals in Nashville was a neat opportunity, and although her journey to releasing an album was a long process, it also happened “very organically.”
“She works really hard at it,” Alison said of Muckel's music. “She's pretty amazing.”