Wandering around Whole Note Music Store in Stockbridge, Georgia, I wait for the arrival of Ryan Taylor. I introduce myself to the management who graciously lets me snap photos of the store before swiftly returning to a transaction. When I approach the young woman at the front counter with questions about store services, she informs me that Whole Note Music Store sells musical equipment, offers rentals and even instructs classes for kids and adults. The store works closely with schools in the community to provide band and orchestra instruments.
After my impromptu Q & A with the staff, I take a seat and before long I see Ryan walk through the door. We greet one another and move to the back of the store where there are a set of couches just outside one of the rooms where one-on-one music lessons are being given. I attended Clayton State University with Ryan. We were classmates at some point – which class we attended together is a bit unclear to us but we smile and nod in the knowledge of our shared experience with the school’s theatre department.
What Is Frontier Music?
Ryan Taylor is the man behind musical collective Frontier Music. When asked to describe Frontier Music, Taylor says, “Frontier Music is an artistic worship expression where Followers of Christ in their late teens and early 20s bring their voices.” Although the target group is teens and 20s, there is no limit on age. According to Taylor, the goal is to gather community with unique sounds to inspire other worship leaders and give the church songs.
To better understand Ryan’s affinity for making music, I asked him to elaborate on his influences. He said as far back as he can remember, music has always been an important part of his life. Ryan’s aunt, a church choir director in Pensacola, Florida who he refers to as one of the most powerful singers he has met, gave Ryan the opportunity to perform at an early age. At the age of 7, he performed “The Family Worship Medley” from the 1993 album, “Kirk Franklin and the Family” before a crowd during church service.
With years as a worship leader under his belt, Ryan references the early years when he began leading worship with no experience. It was during that time that he began to grow and to also realize the process was in his words, “20 percent music, 80 percent heart.”
The inspiration for Frontier Music came to Ryan in 2015 after hearing a voice that told him to take the music beyond a personal thing. He fought with himself for about a year–questioning whether he had the finances and resources to do just that. He eventually came to the decision that he was “all in.” Ryan Taylor and Frontier was born.
Year One: Crowdsourcing an Album
In order to fund this musical project, a Kickstarter campaign was created in March 2016 with the goal of raising $10,000. Ryan admits that there were times that he would doubt the success of the project when he observed other popular musical acts raising less funds than their established goals.
Ryan recorded a video of a performance with other musician friends and over the course of a year, realized that Frontier was bigger than just him. That’s when he says they, “became a family.”
By the end of April 2016, the group was $2,000 short of their goal. Ryan says that at 5:00 p.m. on the last day of the campaign a stranger messaged and donated $2,000. Then between 5:00 p.m.–12 a.m. more people donated. The campaign ended with a total of $12,300 raised. What followed was the production of Frontier Music’s EP Year One.
The original recording of Year One took place at Café on Main in Jonesboro, Georgia during August of 2016. It was a powerful night that resulted in 12 songs being recorded. Upon playback, however, Ryan noticed issues like voices cracking and was unsatisfied with the overall product of the recording. He decided to set a new recording date and this time took a trip to South Carolina for a re-recording in of all places, his friend Joseph WeHunt’s bedroom. He enlisted the talents of musically inclined friends and even people in the local community convincing them to lend their voices to the project. The second recording was a success.
“It didn’t take you five minutes to write that. It took you 20 years. Five minutes to write it down, but 20 years worth of moments.”
Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places
For Ryan, the writing process was not one based on a strict schedule. “It wasn’t like I sat down and said I’d set aside one hour to write. I would be riding down the highway when lyrics would come. I made songs out of snippets. The Welcome Song and Come Holy Spirit were the two that came just like that. I sat down and they came in 5 mins.”
A quote from Ryan’s father may be the best way to describe his writing process: “It didn’t take you five minutes to write that. It took you 20 years. Five minutes to write it down, but 20 years worth of moments.”
I was curious to know what inspires Ryan to create and he gave a clever, albeit surprising answer. “Watching Fixer Upper blesses my entire soul.”
For Ryan Taylor, aesthetic is everything. Leave it to an artist to draw parallels between songwriting and the infectious brand of home improvement Chip & Joanna Gaines are known for. According to Ryan, it comes down to making something out of nothing.
As far as what Ryan Taylor had wished to accomplish with the first Frontier Music EP, he stated his main goal as laying down the foundation of who Frontier Music is: “I didn’t want it to be super polished or overproduced.”
When asked his favorite track on the EP, Ryan chose the song Anchor. “I just think that we’re super inspired by United Pursuit. I wanted to take aspects and make it our own. Malachi, our cellist – I was like, ‘don’t play in tune. Make it as wild as possible.’”
A standout voice on the album that Ryan mentions is that of Katie Soto: “Her vocals are just the bomb-dot-com. She’s only in her early 20s!”
The Future of Frontier Music
Frontier Music has a full-length album in the works which Ryan says they are striving to complete in one take. Ryan also found time to release a solo project since speaking with me in January of 2018. With the solo album, Ryan says he is blending elements of rap, R&B and trap while staying true to the worship leader that is inside of him.
When Ryan isn’t busy producing music, he remains a busy man in other areas. Some of his other gigs include teaching a high school film class and leading worship at Destination Church in McDonough, Georgia.
For those wanting to see members of Frontier Music perform live, the group hosts monthly worship nights at In Christ Church in McDonough. Ryan says the group also has plans to go back to its roots, performing in the intimate atmosphere of friends’ homes.