SASKTAOON — Originally from Estevan, Canadian actress, singer, dancer, writer and producer Lara Taillon has been finding venues for all her talents to bloom, bringing her success and satisfaction from what she does.
Taillon's electrifying performance recently earned her top honours at The Roxy's Band Wars in Saskatoon. The finals took place earlier in the spring. In an interview with the Mercury, Taillon shared that the experience was great from the beginning to the end.
"I saw this ad for The Roxy's Band Wars in Saskatoon, and that took over my whole life. In an instant," Taillon shared, adding she really wanted to perform and compete in Saskatchewan. "That's where I'm from. That's where my soul is."
Earning her way to the third and final round of competition, Taillon's original tunes and high-energy stage performance beat out the other seven finalists, netting her a three-song professional demo, a $1,000 cash prize, and the headline spot at The Roxy's Nickelback concert afterparty on June 22.
It was an honour to be chosen by judges she admires: Ralph James with the APA Agency, Jason Furman of the Paquin Artists Agency, and The Roxy’s owner Darren Minisofer.
The audience at the Roxy was also very supportive, creating what she views as an unforgettable experience.
Taking the stage with Taillon were Graham Tilsley on bass, Kyle Krysa on drums and Jeremy Brigham on guitar.
"Our set for the finals was four original songs; in total, we performed five in the opening rounds, some I penned a long time ago, and some newer pieces, and I was excited to debut them all at the Band Wars competition," Taillon said. "It's a great feeling to be able to share original works and see the crowd respond with such heart and enthusiasm."
She also confessed she was first "terrified" to perform in front of such strong judges, as, even though she's been performing as a singer in recent years, she wasn't doing her original songs.
"I don't share them really, because they haven't been released yet. My family has heard them and a few of my friends, and the response is so positive. But it was it's different to stand on stage and deliver something from your inside that no one's heard before. It's so personal," Taillon shared.
She said the songs she performed were all very different, born at random times, and each came with a story.
"When I was living in Los Angeles, I went through a particularly rough patch, things were bleak. And L.A. is the kind of city that will kick your […] when you're not looking out, even when you are looking. I could be at a premiere at Mann's Chinese Theatre [also known as Grauman's or TCL Chinese Theatre] for a movie I was in, and the same day getting evicted,” said Taillon.
“And that was L.A. It was emotional, and I remember it being particularly bad, just a rough time. I needed somebody to talk to, and people are busy unless you're beneficial. It's a strange place to live," Taillon shared, recounting the beginning of an original song.
"I ended up writing a song called Tonight. The first song I've written in years and years … And then a melody came into my head. I can still feel being on the floor, because it was just a particularly rough time. I started writing this chorus … and after a while, I got the piano, and I wrote it and recorded it as a voice note on my phone."
She had many people including music producers saying that this pop-rock song was indeed worth recording, which she eventually did. It happened in 2017 and "it lit a fire", Taillon said, opening the way to more unique songs to be born, including the country song Two Drinks Away and a metal power ballad In Your Eyes.
"My guitar player Jeremy Brigham had written this big guitar opus, it's a nine-minute guitar solo that had some real movement to it. I liked the first bit of it and he just said, if you want to write the lyrics to it, go ahead. I did, and it turned out to be the heavy metal power ballad," Taillon said.
None of the songs has been released yet but having those songs ready allowed Taillon to join the Band Wars. Even though at the beginning of the competition she only had three original songs, and she needed five for the finals, she was able to create two more and eventually win the battle.
"It was really emotional," Taillon said.
The Roxy held three rounds of competition open to 80 bands over the course of March and April, and whittled that down to a final offering of eight bands in the final.
Taillon danced all her life, starting as a student at the Drewitz School of Dance and then teaching and choreographing there for many years alongside Lorie-Gay Drewitz-Gallaway. And the first show of her performing career happened in Estevan and was earned thanks to her talents, and above all her dance proficiency.
"It was singing, dancing and acting. I got the role because I was a dancer," Taillon recalled. "It was in Souris Valley Theatre, it was called Prairie Lilies by Ron Ror."
The role included a singing part, which she'd never done before, even though she'd played the piano and was part of a band. Even though she enjoyed performing in the musical, she wasn't confident in her voice until more recent years.
For a long time, Taillon was focused on the film industry. She has shot from Vancouver to Los Angeles in features like Neil Johnson's Starship: Rising and its sequel, as well as television shows like Corner Gas and Model Citizen with Angie Everhart. Taillon's toured Canada in many stage plays, musicals and bands, as well as teaching voice, piano, dance and drama through most of the Prairies.
She's been split between Los Angeles and Calgary for a while and then moved back to Calgary a few years ago due to personal reasons. While in Calgary, she started working in a pub in addition to teaching music, and then she started writing and recording more and brought together her own cover band called SorryNotSorry.
"We started getting some notice right away," Taillon said. "I have some really good players in the band, and together we play really well, so that's given me some confidence, for sure."
Taillon said that while over the past years, she's been working more on developing her voice as a singer and has seen success in that industry, she is still busy acting and teaching music full time.
She appeared as Officer Kerr in the horror movie Ditched, released in 2021, recently had a role in Heartland and parts in other movies and projects, and keeps auditioning every week right from Calgary.
"Since COVID things have really changed. Even when I'm auditioning for a film or television series that shoots in Calgary and it's auditioning in Calgary, I don't go into the room to audition anymore. It's all virtual, so I record myself and send it to the casting director," Taillon explained.
She still has all her family and many friends in Estevan. She appreciates the hometown love and also everything the Energy City and the Prairies taught and gave her.
"You can tell a Prairie kid anywhere, anywhere in the world, ... because there's just something really authentic about them. And Saskatchewan in particular," Taillon said.
"A small city [makes you] more well-rounded. I mean, in the summer, everyone plays baseball, in the wintertime, everyone plays hockey or dances, or they're in gymnastics, or in school, everybody's on a team of some sort because you have to make teams. Everyone has played basketball, or volleyball, or badminton, or they've been in a school band, because, first of all, you have to and secondly, because it's the thing to do. So, I think it makes you so much of a more well-rounded person because you have to do all these things, you can't just slide into a niche and grow there.
"And then there is authenticity … In LA, the fakeness of people and the plastic is [unbelievable], but even in Calgary there's some hustle and there's people trying to be something that they may or may not be. That doesn't fly in Saskatchewan, that doesn't fly in Estevan. Everyone's known you since the time you were born, so what I mean, is, there's an authenticity that is required of you, that you grow up with."
She also said she's received a lot of support from Estevan's family and friends throughout the Band Wars and noted that to do what she does takes a lot of good people like her Calgary agent, band members and others, to whom she is grateful.
Taillon also invited Estevan to come watch her perform in Saskatoon at the Nickelback afterparty.