A featured role in the 2007 film adaptation of Hairspray set up Taylor Parks for a successful acting career. But what the Dallas native really wanted was to be a singer. In 2012, after gigs on shows like Bones and Victorious (where she first met her now-close friend Ariana Grande, who gave her one of the rings that inspired the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 track “7 Rings”), she rebranded herself as Tayla Parx. Since then, the pink-haired 25-year-old found her lane in songwriting, racking up credits for Christina Aguilera, BTS and Mariah Carey. Now, she’s combining her love of pop and R&B on her debut, We Need to Talk, which dropped April 5 on Atlantic Records and her own Tayla Made imprint. “All these years for other artists, I’ve been carefully creating their story,” she says. “Now, I get to just have fun.”
PANIC! AT THE DISCO, "HIGH HOPES"
At a BMI writing camp in September 2016, Parx experimented on a motivational alt-rock song. The “mama said” refrain is a wink to her mother: “I talk to her 10 times a day,” she says. The track became “High Hopes,” which she gave to Panic! at the Disco after two years of shopping for a vocalist. “Brendon [Urie] took it and made it his own,” she says of the band’s frontman. It became Panic’s highest-charting hit on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 4.
ARIANA GRANDE, THANK U, NEXT
Parx first worked with Grande on the latter’s 2014 LP, My Everything. They reconnected late last year in New York as Grande was reeling from her breakup with Pete Davidson and the death of Mac Miller. “I extended my trip, and we wrote the album that week,” says Parx. She’s most proud of the No. 1 album’s title track, inspired by HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts: “Every chapter was a man she had been with, and the final chapter was ‘Jane.’”
JANELLE MONÁE, DIRTY COMPUTER
When Monáe started working on her futuristic third album, she called up Parx (Alicia Keys had told Monáe that Parx “can write a song in two minutes”). Parx says that Monáe didn’t open up to her easily -- “it took patience and pushing” -- but Parx gained her respect by co-writing standouts like the dainty “Pynk” and self-assured “I Like That.” Parx ended up with four credits on Dirty Computer, which was up for album of the year at the 2019 Grammys.
KHALID & NORMANI, "LOVE LIES"
After working with Normani on Fifth Harmony’s “BO$$” and mentoring Khalid early on in his career, Parx played musical matchmaker. “They wanted to do a song together, so I made it happen,” she says. In the studio, the pair’s candid banter inspired the chorus. “‘Tell me where your love lies’ can mean a lot of things,” says Parx. “We kept it open for interpretation.” The song, Normani’s first solo hit, broke into the Hot 100’s top 10 in 2018.
This article originally appeared in the March 30 issue of Billboard.