Football season hadn’t started yet for Corey Taylor II. It was late July, though, so his junior season as a running back on the University of Tulsa football team was fast approaching.
The practices in 100-degree weather on sweltering turf before meetings and summer classes seemed like a lot of hassle for a hobby that’s sure to end when Taylor graduates from TU next year with a management degree.
Taylor, a Holland Hall graduate, is best known for his current hobby: playing for his hometown college football team. He led the Golden Hurricane in rushing touchdowns last season and has four this season — three in TU’s last game against Memphis.
But Taylor’s other passion — the one he plans to one day make a career — is music.
“It’s always been like a stress reliever for me,” Taylor said. “It’s a place that I went when I was involved in so many things and I just wanted to relax. That was my way of relaxing. I just found the time because it was like it was my downtime, so any downtime I had, I was just on my guitar.”
Taylor’s already-large frame looks monstrous in this tiny, cluttered corner of his apartment where both of his lives are being introduced to each other. The Tulsa World was invited to Taylor’s apartment to see the mini studio he has constructed in his bedroom.
There wasn’t enough room for another table, so Taylor’s keyboards and laptop are resting on his bed, which is smushed against the table that’s home to the rest of his equipment — two speakers, a tablet and another laptop and keyboard. Headphones and a monitor are hung above the table.
Taylor has been producing music for about four years and can do everything in the process of transforming a thought into a song — from lyrics, to vocals, to instruments, to the things people who listen to music every day don’t even realize their favorite song needs.
The minute details involved in what Taylor does are why he doesn’t talk much about it with those in the Hurricane locker room. Taylor said his freshman roommate would observe him, and while Taylor spent hours changing something on a track, the roommate would tell Taylor he didn’t even hear a difference. The roommate thought it sounded great either way, but the first track had issues that, as Taylor puts it, can’t be heard by the untrained ear.
There’s the issue of not truly being able to show his teammates specifically what he did on another artist’s track, which is primarily what he does right now, and the problem of being known as just a football player.
“I feel like a lot of people kind of in the position that I’m in who has another passion outside of football, they can kind of feel scared, because it’s kind of like you might feel pigeonholed,” Taylor said. “I feel like when you start to step out, and you let people know you also have these other interests, that people will actually support you in it.
“But it’s still a scary thing to step out and see if people will accept you as something different than what they just seen you as on TV or around campus.”
It’s fitting that in the place where Taylor’s two worlds collided a framed picture of Michael Jordan’s famous free-throw line dunk is hung above his bed, to the left of his monitor.
Taylor’s father, who shares the same name, compared his son to Jordan and his final two seasons at North Carolina. Corey Taylor Sr. wants Taylor to ask for more carries, noting how UNC didn’t really let Jordan loose until his last two seasons.
“He’s very humble, though,” Corey Taylor Sr. said. “I’m proud of the man he’s become because he is definitely a renaissance man. He cares about people. And usually when you find a kid that has talent like that, they want to be greedy, they want to be selfish, they’re not about teamwork.
“But this kid is so committed to teamwork and being part of a team that it drives me crazy sometimes because I’m like, ‘Dude, go out there and just do you.’ And he’s like, ‘But this is about the team, Pops.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, where did this kid come from?’ ”
Corey Taylor Sr. thinks incredibly highly of his only son, which is why he suggests TU could have better production if Corey Taylor II had more carries. In 22 years, Taylor has given his parents every reason to believe including Taylor more only means more success.
Taylor grew up playing three sports — football, basketball and baseball. He excelled at all, and Corey Taylor Sr. said they had a family meeting later in Taylor’s high school career to decide which sport he would play in college. Corey Taylor Sr. said his son could have also played college baseball.
The entertainment industry may have been part of Taylor’s life longer than sports, though. It’s a running joke in the Taylor family that no one really knows how to tell people what Corey Taylor Sr. does for a living.
When Taylor II was younger, his dad managed musical talent, even having a studio in their home, which is what helped spark Taylor’s passion for music. Corey Taylor Sr. has also preached, written books and produced films.
Corey Taylor Sr. even has an Emmy and three Telly Awards on his shelf. He was an associate producer for “The Wayman Tisdale Story,” a documentary released in 2011. And for proof Taylor II was there for production, he acted in “The Wayman Tisdale Story,” playing a young Tisdale in two scenes. But that wasn’t Taylor’s first acting gig.
During a stint in which Corey Taylor Sr. was pursuing a career as a model and actor, he took his son with him to an audition in Kansas City, Missouri. Instead of getting the part, the people Taylor Sr. auditioned for adored Taylor II. Soon after, when Taylor was about 12, he auditioned for a local commercial in Tulsa and earned his first acting gig.
Today, Taylor also does video work at his church, just to add another talent to his resume.
“Besides football, the kid’s got star quality,” Corey Taylor Sr. said.
Corey Taylor Sr. encouraged all of his kids to play an instrument so they could be what he calls a triple-threat — excelling in music, athletics and academics. He believed that would all but guarantee them a college scholarship and career.
“(My parents) have always encouraged me and my sisters to be multi-dimensional,” Taylor said. “They don’t want us to just consider ourselves athletes, and use all the gifts that God has given you. And they’ve done a great job of continuing to enforce that idea in us.”
Taylor started with drums in elementary school and continued playing percussion for the Holland Hall band. From there, he started learning whatever instrument his dad was playing at the time. Corey Taylor Sr. said the two would have musical battles with the instrument of choice during that time.
First, Taylor outdueled his dad on drums. So Corey Taylor Sr. decided to move on to bass guitar. Soon after, his son was better at that, too. The same thing happened with the acoustic guitar and whatever instrument followed.
“Every instrument that I picked up, he had more proficiency at the instrument, so I don’t actually deal with music anymore,” Corey Taylor Sr. said.
When Taylor was in high school, Corey Taylor Sr. noticed the keyboards had been disappearing to his son’s room. Before long, Taylor’s younger sister told their parents that Taylor had taught himself how to play keyboards. The family didn’t know Taylor actually could play keyboards until he finally played for them on Christmas.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m like a pro at any,” Taylor said. “But I’m pretty good at drums. I’m also able to play piano and guitar, but that’s mainly just chords and stuff, just knowing my way around so that I can construct a song from it.”
Being a ‘dreamer’
Taylor kept referring to his dad as a “dreamer.”
He described someone who is always willing to try whatever he wanted and never feared failure.
“Whether he’s failed at it or been very successful in it, just that idea of trying to see, because you really don’t know what you can do until you step into it and try,” Taylor said. “He’s always done that. It’s really freed us to be able to feel like we can do those things without the pressure of, like, if I step into this and I don’t succeed, it’s just the worst thing in the world, when it’s not. You just got to figure out who you are through that.”
Corey Taylor Sr. dreams less for himself now and more for his children. That’s why when he meets someone new, he doesn’t think how they could better his situation, but his kid’s, like when he met Micayle “Mack” McKinney, who he introduced to Taylor for a mentorship.
“As I’ve made it in life, I wanted to give my kids all of the opportunities that were not afforded to me,” Corey Taylor Sr. said. “So, basically, if I met a connection that can help them move forward in something they dreamed and desired about, I would give them that connection and create a bridge. And that’s what happened with Mack McKinney.”
Corey Taylor Sr. actually wanted to interview McKinney’s father for the TV show Corey Taylor Sr. produced for OETA, “Oklahoma Up Close.” Similar to Taylor, McKinney grew up around music. His father, Mike, played bass for Michael Jackson. But McKinney had made a name for himself in the music industry as a producer, so friends suggested Corey Taylor Sr. should interview McKinney instead for his show. Eventually, the episode that featured the interview with McKinney won Corey Taylor Sr. a Telly Award.
McKinney was twice nominated for a Grammy for his work on Ne-Yo’s album, “Year of the Gentleman.” He won a Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy’s) for Pop Album of the Year for Victoria Duffield’s “Shut Up and Dance,” on which he co-wrote the single, “They Don’t Know About Us.” Other artists McKinney has produced include Keke Palmer, Jojo, Bow Wow and Marques Houston.
“He’s on a different level, just musically,” Taylor said.
McKinney is helping Taylor reach that level as his mentor. Corey Taylor Sr. connected the two during Taylor’s first year of college, McKinney immediately took Taylor under his wing, and since, the Yoda-Luke Skywalker relationship has only grown.
“That’s probably why we really clicked,” McKinney said. “He’s kind of like me. We just kinda do it, and the accolades and all that, I mean, I forget about them half the time, myself.”
Taylor has flown to Los Angeles to see McKinney in action before. Any time McKinney is in Tulsa for work, he makes sure to visit Taylor — even watching Taylor play when he can. With both having such full schedules, though, it’s usually a phone call when Taylor has a question or idea.
“A bunch of people try to do music, which is all great and good, but for some people it’s just a hobby and they don’t take the time to keep learning,” McKinney said. “But he’s getting pretty serious about it between football and whatnot that he’s doing. I know football and school and stuff like that probably take up a lot of time, but he’s consistent.”
Taylor has the mentor with the expertise and connections, and the father that raised him to be a “dreamer.” One day, Taylor is sure to be a star, but for now, he’s a football player.
“He believes — and I think it’s because of his humility and his faith — that whenever it’s his opportunity and his season, God’s gonna open up doors for him, whether it’s football, music, acting or whatever the case might be,” Corey Taylor Sr. said. “He can do all three, and he can do them very well. He’s into mastering whatever he puts his hands on doing.”