PHILADELPHIA — This isn’t a bad time to be a teenage singer from Pennsylvania with the name Taylor.
That’s what Taylor Bright, a 16-year-old from Mount Airy, Pa., just discovered when she took a serendipitous ride on the vapor trail of her slightly older superstar namesake, Taylor Swift.
With interest generated by a number of original songs she had posted on the Internet, Bright went over to England this month to do a modest school tour, singing three of her songs for grade schoolers in eight cities.
Then a newspaper in Liverpool misread her press release and reported that it was Taylor Swift who would be performing at a local Catholic elementary school. The misinformation was repeated to 44,000 fans over the public address system at a Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Bolton.
The school was deluged with inquiries and Bright’s appearance was canceled due to safety concerns.
But the case of mistaken identity made her an instant sensation, with numerous radio and TV outlets clamoring for interviews.
“I got over 200,000 hits on my Web site,” Bright says. “It shut down temporarily because too many people got on it. We had to expand the capacity.”
The high-spirited homemade video to her song “Striped Socks” was viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube.
The newly minted British pop star then returned home, where she’s just another girl, hanging out with her friends in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, shopping for clothes, taking SAT prep classes, and shouldering the increased academic demands of junior year.
In some ways a typical teen, Bright is also a thoroughly modern success story in the making, a testament to the DIY potential of the Internet.
After gaining extensive theater experience, including a year-long national tour at age 12 as one of the orphans in “Annie,” Bright began writing pop songs in her bedroom.
“First, I write the lyrics,” she says. “I use Garage Band on my Mac and sing into the computer. My brother (Jason, 14) created a fake studio in the basement.”
The first song she recorded was “Striped Socks,” an effervescent ode to a boy, listing his many geeky liabilities but concluding with the reasons she wants him to be her guy. It’s one of six songs she currently has available on iTunes.
In January of last year, she made a video for “Striped Socks” directed by one of her “Annie” castmates. It’s an innocent tribute to crushes.
Soon after she posted it on YouTube, Bright began getting industry inquiries. Even more than most entertainment fields, the music business always has its head on a swivel, looking for the next big thing.
Noted New York DJ Mike Rizzo sent her an e-mail. “He said, ‘Hey, I have a really good idea for your song,’” recalls Bright. Rizzo’s “Striped Socks” remix spent 11 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club chart, cresting at No. 29.
The weekend before last, the young singer flew down to Miami to brainstorm with producer ill Factor (real name, Ivan Corraliza), who has worked with artists from Natasha Bedingfield to Justin Timberlake.
“I had written a track specifically for her to see if she liked it,” Corraliza says. “She wasted no time. As soon as she heard it, she took out a pad of paper and started writing down ideas for the lyrics and music.”
“We’re trying to find a voice for Taylor, a sound,” he continues. “It’s like taking home a whole bunch of swatches from a store to see what would best suit your house before you start decorating.”
Bright has a pretty clear idea of where she’d like to go.
“I listen to a lot of acoustic — Jason Mraz, KT Tunstall, Ingrid Michaelson — so I definitely want to incorporate that into my music,” she says. “But I also love to dance. I think Lady Gaga is amazing. So, sort of a pop-acoustic thing would be pretty cool.”
She hopes to have an album completed by the fall, although she is spurning record-label offers.
“We’re doing it independently,” she says. “We’ll launch it by ourselves using marketing tools from the Internet like YouTube, my Web site, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and iTunes.”
Of course, she’ll have to take breaks to do her math homework. With all she has going on, Taylor has stayed committed to her course load with the help of her parents, Yvette, a health-care executive, and Robert, owner of a construction consulting firm.
Even the recent trip to England was rescheduled to fit Taylor’s school schedule.
“She really didn’t want to miss her midterms,” says Anita Nicholson, assistant principal at Bright’s high school. “Her teachers were willing to make accommodations, to let her take them a week early. But her mom said, ‘We’ll find a way to work it out.’ Taylor always wants to stay at the same pace as her classmates.”
Bright’s burgeoning music career isn’t going to detour her from her studies.
“I’m going to college, no matter what,” she says, citing environmental science and business as likely majors. “I want a separate degree, just to prove to myself that I can do other things. I think it’s really important to be able to do more than one thing.”
Take that, Taylor Swift, you one-trick pony.