“Oh, my God! Thank you, Jesus! God is so good! I love God!”
This is Taylor Morgan, recounting the jubilation she felt after planning a successful event. Morgan, who's 30, plans jam sessions. She plans benefit concerts. Sometimes she sings. And she prays. She prays in her car. She prays before she goes to sleep. She prays anywhere and everywhere. Morgan is in constant pursuit of God’s wisdom, no matter where she is or what she is doing. God listens. God helps her. When Morgan didn’t know what to charge for admission to one of her events, she closed her eyes, bowed her head and implored him for his wisdom. And God said, “Seven dollars.” Kind of.
“It’s a feeling I get,” she says of her post-prayer revelations. “He shows me the way.”
It’s always been this way. Morgan grew up in Dallas, where her family and her church instilled within her unwavering faith. She sang in the church choir, acted in church plays and showed an early penchant for showmanship.
“As a kid, she would sing herself to sleep,” her mother, Tracy Goolsby, says. “Somehow she knew the words to every song, even as a 4-year-old.”
Young Taylor’s favorite films were the Bette Midler vehicle The Rose and What’s Love Got to Do with It, wherein Angela Bassett plays Tina Turner. Even when she started to grow up, Morgan maintained a love of 1940s music rare among her peers.
“Music has always been in my bones,” Morgan says.
Indeed, her maternal grandfather passed a love of music along to Goolsby, who in turn introduced Morgan to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. Morgan even adapted some of the diva characteristics of the famed songstresses she and her mother adored.
“I remember one talent show where the other girls weren’t singing the song right,” Goolsby says. “So Taylor grabs the mic and starts singing the song on her own.”
College was the perfect marriage of Morgan’s faith and interests. She enrolled at the staunchly conservative Oklahoma Christian University, where she studied theater and photography. She planned jam sessions on the side, mostly to sate her appetite for music.
“I started small: just some friends, hanging out, vibing at my house. It grew from there.”
The jam sessions became a staple of her college career, and Morgan missed them when she moved back to Dallas in 2013. She had dozens of friends playing in bands and gigging around town, and she, too, was gigging in Deep Ellum. When she wasn’t working various part-time jobs, Morgan took the stage as a soul singer with a love of the classics and a knack for putting her own spin on modern tracks. Victoria Holmes, a booker at 4 the Culture Studio, remembers Morgan covering Drake’s “In My Feelings.”
“She made it slowful and acoustic; she made it her own,” Holmes says of Morgan. “I could listen to that for the rest of my life.”
Gone was the mic-grabbing diva her mom remembers. Maybe it was her faith, even stronger in adulthood than in childhood. Maybe it was seeing all the talent around her, vibrant yet scattered.
“We’re all here to create, so why not do it together?” she remembers thinking. So she did what has always helped her: she prayed.
“If he didn’t want it to get done, it wouldn’t get done. It’s that simple.”
After years of gigging and connecting with fellow musicians, Morgan planned her first official Dallas jam session. The event, called “Welcome to My Sesh,” took place in February 2018 at Mac’s Southside. People turned out in droves. They brought drinks, listened to great music and told Morgan how much they wanted to do it all over again. There was just one slight hiccup: Morgan didn’t make any money. Neither did the performers. The event was free, made possible by people pitching in time and talent.
Morgan was torn. Continuing to work unpaid was unsustainable; charging admission was less than ideal. Ultimately, she tried asking for $10, then $7, then $5.
“She struggles to get people to pay out of pocket,” Holmes acknowledges. “I’ve seen the frustration that causes her. ‘Why do people do me like that?’ she asks. ‘Why don’t they want to see me win?’”
Despite the decline in attendance that came with charging admission, “Welcome to My Sesh” remains popular in Dallas. Morgan has added food trucks, local vendors and live art to the event, and taken the jam session to Houston and Atlanta. Painter Maya Gourguez calls Morgan “the godmother of Dallas jam sessions.” The title has a toll, with Morgan’s career taking a back seat to the ambitions of others. She has been featured on other artists' work, like that of Jason Lyric, but has yet to release any of her own.
“This industry is very brutal,” her mother says. “And Taylor has a kind heart. I think she’s still finding her voice, and I think she’s still learning to raise her voice.”
Morgan admits others have taken advantage of her before.
“I’ve had to learn to set boundaries,” she says. “I’m still learning that. 2020 will be Taylor Time.”
That means releasing her own EP, which she insists is forthcoming. In fact, when we talked, she had recently come from the studio. Still, even when she is there, a part of her wishes she was planning an event for her friends, or throwing a concert to benefit those, like her mom, in need of a kidney transplant.
“I love everybody, man, so it’s hard,” she says. “I’m trying, though. No, I’m not trying. I’m doing.”
Toward the end of our conversation, I tell Morgan about an interview I recently watched with director Martin Scorsese. The famed filmmaker discussed faith and his year of seminary.
“Do you see making films as a spiritual practice in a way?” a fellow director asked him.
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“If you work that way and you have got a gift, then your work is like a prayer,” Scorsese replied. “When you go to work, it's praying.”
“I love that,” Morgan exclaims in response.
She then talks about the pre-show tumult that accompanies most of her events, the days leading up to shows when Morgan begins doubting herself. What if the venue isn’t right? What if people don’t enjoy themselves? As these questions race through her mind, and doubt threatens to overcome her, Morgan does what she has always done. She closes her eyes. She bows her head.
“Lord, give me a sign,” Morgan asks. No, she demands. And she prays.