In the artistically buzzing town of Hastings-on-Hudson, musicians, singers, songwriters, and studio artists are in abundance. But 15-year-old singer/songwriter Caleb (who goes by only his first name) is a surprising talent whose unique sound has emerged from the Westchester woodwork. With 2 million+ views on one of his YouTube videos, this young artist is already well on his way to a musical career that even he did not see coming.
A sophomore at Hastings High School, Caleb enjoys skateboarding, video games, and a regular fix of Netflix. “My favorite show right now is Doctor Who,” he says. Unlike many of his peers, though, he spends most of his free time investing in his passion for music.
Making music has always fascinated Caleb. He started writing songs with friends at the age of 7, by listening to songs on the radio and “editing” the chords and lyrics. Then he started to create on his own. “He calls it ‘building a song,’” says his mother, Diane Flood Taylor, who is also his manager. With musical influences like Elton John, Ed Sheeran, and Bruno Mars, Caleb has a taste for music both old and new.
Flood Taylor notes that music originally served as an emotional outlet for the young musician. One of his first artistic breakthroughs was in response to his grandfather’s death. Caleb wrote the song “I’ll Miss You” in his memory and performed the piece at the funeral, moving 300 people to tears. Flood Taylor remembers that her son “stopped crying when he played.”
After several years of performing at local venues in Hastings, Caleb asked his mother if they could pursue working with a producer. In July 2011, he began collaborating with PJ Bianco, an LA-based producer who has worked with the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato. “The first time we were in the studio, he just came alive,” Flood Taylor says. Bianco helped the then-12-year-old Caleb produce and release his self-titled first album, which was released in January, 2013 and is available on iTunes. Something that had always seemed like a hobby to him was quickly becoming much more.
One of the original songs on the album was written in reaction to the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after his college roommate used a webcam to tape him in an intimate encounter with another man. “When I got home, my mom was on the couch reading an article about Clementi and she was crying,” Caleb says. He locked himself in his room after school and channeled all of his emotion into writing “You Are Not Alone,” his first musical exploration into the negative affects of bullying. As the son of two mothers, Caleb was and is aware of the bullying that can result from prejudice against gay parents, and, though he has never been targeted personally, he was able to empathize with Clementi’s situation.
When Caleb returned to the studio, Bianco encouraged him to delve deeper into the idea of bullying and its consequences through more songwriting. The result was the song “More Time.” As of this writing, the YouTube video for the song has garnered an outstanding 2.35 million hits—and an untold number of new listeners. “I’ve gotten great feedback from fans,” Caleb says. “People now ask for advice about bullying.”
Caleb understands the responsibility and expectations that come along with his success. “I’m not just trying to get feedback,” he explains. “What I put on YouTube is what I have to be confident in.” In addition to refining his artistic point of view, he is also dedicated to fostering the relationships he has with his fans by responding to listeners on all of his social media pages and tracking the activity on his YouTube account.
Balancing life in high school along with a musical career is nothing short of taxing. “The stress is worth it,” he says, “because it’s what I want to do. I am the same person, but I am much more serious about [my] music now.” Over the summer, he set out to work on new songs with Elton John’s London management company Rocket Music Entertainment Group. “I’m going to treat it like a career,” he says. “I have to be serious about it.”
Emily Andrews is a recent college graduate with a degree in English and Dance. Her undergraduate studies have combined two of her greatest passions: writing and the performing arts.