CUTHBERT — Most of us listen to current Top 10 hits by Miley Cyrus (“Wrecking Ball”), Avicii (“Wake Me Up”), One Direction (“Story of My Life”) and Lady Gaga (“Applause”), and we marvel at the talent of the artists who perform them.
Cuthbert-born country singer/songwriter Cole Taylor listens to those songs a little differently these days, secure in the knowledge that he can call the people responsible for them — the songwriters — his co-workers.
Taylor, who’s been in Nashville for nine months now after forging a musical career in South Georgia, signed a contract Monday that made him the latest member of the hit-making Universal Publishing Group songwriting team.
“My goal was to sign a contract within a year of coming to Nashville,” Taylor said Thursday after an afternoon of deer hunting on his family’s farm in Cuthbert. “It took (Leesburg-born country superstar) Luke (Bryan) three months to sign a deal; it took me nine. It’s a strange feeling to know that the dream I’ve had since I was 16 is now a reality.”
It’s not surprising that the 22-year-old Taylor, who co-wrote the tune “Look at My Truck” for Chase Rice’s hot album “Ready Set Roll,” would invoke fellow Southwest Georgian Bryan’s name when discussing his career. It’s a career path he’s followed almost to a T in his quest to find membership in the so-called “Georgia Mafia” that has ruled the country music charts for most of the past decade.
“The road that Luke took is definitely the path for small-town guys like me,” Taylor said. “Seeing the success that he’s had is something I think we all can shoot for. I’m excited about the publishing deal with Universal, but I kind of look at it as most artists would, as a stepping stone to my ultimate dream.”
And that ultimate dream?
“Man, headlining a stadium tour is what I think we all are shooting for,” Taylor laughs. “To be the guy up there on the big stage … man, that would be the greatest.”
Taylor became a fixture on the area country music scene in the late 2000s, building his music career while studying accounting at Valdosta State University. He self released a pair of well-received albums, 2009’s “That Will Always Be Home to Me,” recorded when he was just 17, and 2011’s “Cab of My Chevy.” Taylor was named Georgia Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the year at the 2012 GeorgiaCountry.com awards.
“Since I’ve been in Nashville, I’ve networked my butt off,” he said. “I had four offers but what Universal offered felt like it was best for me. I met with one of their representatives, just me and my acoustic guitar, and he loved the stuff I did. That led to a meeting with the entire (Universal) staff.
“They’re great at finding a niche for their writers’ music. It’s a little strange now to think that my 9-to-5 will involve going to work each day at Universal’s ‘writing house.’ I’ll have sessions with other staff writers, and we’ll bounce ideas off each other. It’s a different process for me, but it’s one I’m excited about.”
Taylor came home for a little head-clearing after inking the deal with Universal, taking to the Southwest Georgia woods with his dad, who owns a well-known family farm/deer processing/taxidermy business.
“Everyone here at home is excited, and it feels good to step away and clear my head,” Taylor said. “I think there’s always a little ‘right-place, right-time’ luck involved in this business, but I believe if I remain humble, stay true to myself and keep God on my side I’ll be OK.
“I know it sounds weird, but I’ve never thought about failure since I made the decision to come to Nashville. I’ve got the right team on my side now, and I’ve taken another step toward my dream. Life feels pretty good right now.”