Be your authentic self, said Cassie Taylor, even if that means losing people along the way.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in the music industry is that if you’re not authentic, it is not sustainable — you’ll burn out fast. During the pandemic, I lost a lot of friends because I was very vocal about social justice and equity. It’s scary to let go, but that’s OK,” said Taylor, a Kansas City-based musician, storyteller, videographer, feminist, activist and self-proclaimed “Queer-do.”
Click here to listen to Cassie Taylor on Spotify.
A lover of the arts since childhood, Taylor’s music career began at only 8 years old, singing backup for her father, Otis, a blues musician. Starting at 16, Taylor began a 12-year journey of touring internationally with her father; then Girls with Guitars; and eventually her own band. By the end of the 12 years, she was exhausted, she said.
“I was suicidal; I wasn’t in the correct headspace,” Taylor shared. “Nor was I living the true and authentic version of myself. So, I took a break. I had a wonderful child, who is now 8, and about this time last year, I started slowly entertaining the idea of going back to music.”
Now, Taylor is welcoming a new chapter into her life. One filled with authenticity, inclusion, empowerment and a new sound. Taylor’s EP “Desire” is set to be released in the fall.
“It nods to my past self as a musician, but it also has a more electronic vibe, more cinematic,” Taylor explained. “… During my break from music, I had a song [“Spare Some Love”] that got put onto this Bedroom Jams playlist on Spotify and then got picked up for pole dancing and heels [performances]. It’s a bit slower; it’s steamy and sexy — and that’s what I’m drawing into this new era.”
A second single titled “Dead Name” is set to be released in 2024. The track will feature former Kansas City-based artist Cuee, who is a trans rapper.
“Cuee flew back to help me create this song,” Taylor said. “It’s about a trans man and the story of them coming out, getting ostracized by their family, and then essentially running off into the sunset with their lover.”
Kansas City can catch Taylor on stage Sunday, June 25 at People’s Pride Kansas City in the West Bottoms. People’s Pride is organized by a group of queer individuals and features local, queer artists, vendors and performers. The event starts at 3 p.m. Sunday with a parade that begins at 12th Street Post and ends at 9th & State for a free live show as well as art and food vendors.
“Renegade events like this are the places where you find your chosen family,” Taylor said. “There’s something really special about events that are organized as a collective effort. Rosie [O’Brien] with Sass-a-Brass is one of the organizers and performers, so I’m really excited to be a part of this with them.”
Music is a powerful connector for individuals, Taylor said; and through performing, she is able to share and unite with the audience.
“I had a recent show where I discussed being queer and the venue owner wasn’t really happy with that,” Taylor recalled. “I told my agent, who I love and has always stood by me, that I am only going to get queerer and weirder, and she was totally fine with that. … I am not someone who just writes songs and sings them; I’m also someone who genuinely cares about the well being of our community.”
Partnership with Playboy
Along with Taylor’s extensive music career, she has previously worked as a model and producer for several fashion shows. Taylor returned to the runway earlier this month for the West 18th Street Fashion Show title “F*ck Summer!”. Taylor modeled for Red Hare Leather — a Kansas City-based artisan goods leather company owned by Faye Woods.
“Faye is my chosen family, so when they asked me to be a part of the show, I was both excited and terrified,” Taylor said, noting that the designs she modeled were very revealing. “… It’s empowering. I am about to be 37 in a month; and when I was 12, I thought that once you were 30, your life was over. You get married, have a kid, and then you become this invisible person. That’s just not true at all. We don’t have an expiration date. We’re still here; we’re still sexy.”
Click here to read more about Red Hare Leather.
Walking in the West 18th Street Fashion Show was just the beginning of the 72 hours that would completely flip Taylor’s world.
The evening after the fashion show, Taylor met Trixie Mattel — a famous drag queen, TV personality and singer songwriter.
“My friend was opening for Trixie, so I was hanging out backstage. Trixie walked in, looked at me and said ‘That’s an amazing jacket.’ I actually gave it to her,” Taylor said, noting that the jacket was a collage of various Playboy photos.
Taylor posted her photos with Trixie and with the Playboy jacket, which caught the attention of the official Playboy page.
“I had a phone call with someone from the Playboy team and they asked if I wanted to be a Playboy Bunny,” Taylor shared. “I really couldn’t believe it. But within 72 hours the universe really gave me the signs of where I am supposed to be.”
Through the Playboy platform, Taylor has the opportunities to partner with brands, do photoshoots and connect with her community.
“I’m older; I’m a mom, so it’s really awesome to have this control over my sexual identity,” Taylor said. “When I was in music before, I didn’t feel like my sexual identity was my own. I would have promoters tell my agent that I ‘didn’t dress up’, which meant I didn’t wear a short skirt. I would have promoters sexually assault and harass [me], grabbing my butt. Now I am able to take back my sexual identity — it belongs to me. Working with Playboy is very empowering.”
Community is everything
Without her chosen family, Taylor doesn’t think she’d be here today, she shared.
“They are everything to me; they are the people who have lifted me up in the most difficult times of my life,” Taylor said. “One of my best friends who owns Whiskey and Bone Tarrah [Anderson] wanted to get matching Playboy Bunny tattoos to celebrate. I wouldn’t have had that kind of support and acceptance 10 years ago.”
Living in Kansas City for more than a decade, Taylor sees how special the city is because of the people, she noted.
“My engineer [Spencer Hoad] recently moved here from LA, and his studio is Thrifted Sounds; we were having this conversation about why there’s such a renaissance in Kansas City right now in the music and in the arts,” Taylor continued. “It’s because people can afford to live here and not have to work three jobs to pay their rent. We have a lot of this thought energy that we’re able to free up in order to be creative.”
Whether Taylor is working as a singer songwriter, model, videographer or Playboy Bunny, she is reassured that she will always have her community to lean on, she shared.
“My life is really chaotic in a lot of ways, but I always have that constant of chosen family and community,” Taylor said. “In Kansas City, people are really fucking nice — and there’s something about having that energy and support that is really important.”