As one fifth of R&B troupe Day 26, Willie Taylor enjoyed notoriety as one the genre’s more prolific acts-watching their debut album rocket to the top of the Billboard 200 upon its March 2008 release.
Now, four years after joining the group and two weeks since announcing their split, Taylor opens up to That Grape Juice in his most telling interview yet.
The frank chat sees the Harvey, Illinois native explain just why the group came to an end, the role Sean ‘Diddy‘ Combs played in their problems. Taylor also weighs in on fellow crooners Frank Ocean, Raz B and Marques Houston.
A compelling read awaits below…
That Grape Juice : A fortnight ago, Day 26 made headlines when you collectively confirmed your split. What were the events that led to that announcement?
Willie: It came to the point where we couldn’t work through certain things. Together we were an amazing group – vocally, but we all had different things mentally going in our heads.
Usually, when people decide they want to be a group, they’re usually from the same hood or have a similar background.
In Day 26, there were too many different things for us to work through- there were things we didn’t understand about each other, so even though we’d love to do it for the fans, we just couldn’t see it and had to go our separate ways.
That Grape Juice: You rose to fame as a contestant on ‘Making The Band’, but what were you up to before joining the show?
Willie: (Laughs) You know, I used to be in a band called Kwiet Storm for ten years. But then after that I was solo for about a year or so. A year later, I joined Day 26. So I was kind of semi-experienced before getting in the group.
That Grape Juice: In your opinion, what part did Diddy have to play in your problems within the group?
It really had nothing to do with Diddy. The problem was that some members had problems with competition and were actually competing with each other.
Once the contest was over, we were supposed to compete with other groups (on the charts), not each other. But some of the guys couldn’t shake the competition off. So were in a situation where there was rivalry within the group.
That Grape Juice: Crazy. So on a lighter note you star in the comedy ‘A Fool & His Money’. For those who don’t know, how did you land the role?
Willie: It was a great opportunity for me, man. It all came out of nowhere, I was in the studio working and I got a call from the Tyler Perry Company to read some scripts so I flew out to Atlanta and did that.
When I got back, I got a call from David E. Talbert to do the movie. Just like that.
That Grape Juice: Oh wow.
Willie: I know, right? I don’t even know who put it out there that I was interested in working because I was in the studio working- but it gave me life.
That Grape Juice: You recently released the promo cut ‘Instagram Ya Body’ with Jeremih, how did that collaboration come about and can fans expect a video?
Willie: Jeremih’s my little cousin, so it was real simple. ‘Instagram Ya Body’ is about telling a woman how beautiful she is and I know women like to feel wanted and appreciated. It came from a clever way of saying a woman’s so beautiful I wanted to broadcast her beauty to the world.
We’re trying to work on a video now- it might happen, we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
That Grape Juice: Having vested yourself in R&B from the get-go, where do you see R&B going in the next few years?
Willie: I’m hoping R&B makes a comeback. I really want to contribute to that comeback because we have a lot of great R&B acts out there and I think we could all do well if we don’t water it down.
I mean, R&B is so broad but we allow people to put it in a little box. Back in the day we had the Babyface sound or the R.Kelly sound. Unfortunately, now people are only giving one kind of R&B. I don’t see why it can’t be just as Pop, Hip-Hop or any other type of music.
That Grape Juice: A bit of a random one, but would you consider joining Bad Boy records as a solo act?
Willie: Would I sign to Bad Boy? If the contract was right… yeah. But, if it was like before, then no I wouldn’t. It’s all in the paperwork- if it’s right then yeah whatever makes sense. But if it was like it was before then no.
The thing with Day 26 was that they know that if you didn’t do it somebody else would. That’s why I would never get back into a contract like the one we just got out of if we were to get back together. It’s one sided.
They knew they had thousands of people waiting for the opportunity so they gave us a standard contract that you couldn’t even take it to your attorney to get changed.
I mean, we made money doing shows and stuff, but yeah I definitely wouldn’t go back into that situation.
On the flipside, I’m not petty like that- if the fans call for a reunion, I would definitely do it because I’m here to make music. I don’t know what the other guys would even say about that, but I was never a problem in the group-I was there to the end. Right now, I just want to reintroduce the world to Willie Taylor.
That Grape Juice: As an artist, how would you say you have grown since rising to fame?
I’ve always been a creative writer, but I think I’ve grown a lot because of my experiences.
You can’t learn that from a book. I know what I want and I know where I need to be, I don’t think there’s any other artist who can match my work ethic right now, (laughs) I’m “Team No Sleep”. Like, you can be a great singer but if you don’t have a work ethic it really means nothing.
That Grape Juice: Definitely. So what can fans expect from you in the coming months:
Great music, man. I’m releasing a new mix tape ‘The Reintroduction To Willie Taylor’ this September.
I’ve got a 2013 calendar I can’t wait to drop in November and I’m reading a lot of scripts at the moment. I never want to stop working for the fans as long as they’re there to support me.
That Grape Juice: You mentioned scripts, how would you define your dream role?
Hmm. You know If I could play a role like Tyrese did in ‘Baby Boy’ that’d be great because that’s similar to (the aura) I give off naturally.
I’ll tell you this though, people don’t know that I’m 24 hours of comedy so I’d love to be able to show that side. I love to make people laugh. It comes naturally to me – I don’t need to force it.
That Grape Juice: Last month, Frank Ocean shocked the world with a letter posted on his Tumblr page, openly discussing his sexuality. Are you keeping up with that story and if so, what are your thoughts on it?
That’s him. I think that’s his business- it’s cool with me. Evidently, it didn’t affect him in a negative way. More power to him if that’s something he didn’t feel like he wanted to hide anymore.
That Grape Juice: Day 26 credited B2K as one of the group’s that inspired their journey, what are your thoughts on their current situation with regards to accusations made by Raz B against Chris Stokes and Marques Houston?
I saw that video he did and I feel bad for the man. One thing I know is that I don’t like to speak on things I don’t know about, but if it didn’t happen, I feel bad for all of those boys.
I’d kill a man if anyone ever messed with my son. On the flip side of that, if it didn’t happen that’s one of the worst things you could ever put on a man.
That Grape Juice: To conclude and in the grand scheme of things, how would Willie Taylor like to go down when all is said and?
I want to become a household name and now I’m happy to be in a position where I’m the boss of my music.
In a couple of years I’d like to be the Award Winning /Model/ Singer- Actor Willie Taylor. I really just want to touch people’s hearts and I’m just looking forward to y’all hearing my new music.
That Grape Juice: Thanks for talking to us Willie.
Willie : Thank you, I’m a fan of the site so keep doing what you’re doing.
Interview by David Asante (That Grape Juice, London Team)