Taylor Character’s path was set towards working for the US government, via her preliminary stint in the navy. Prior to that she had a bright future ahead of her as an NCAA basketball player, until an injury caused her to pause, rethink and join the military to fund the rest of her college education. “Basketball was all I ever knew. When I got injured again, I was lost,” she says. “I thought it was my ambition, but once I went to that higher level, it didn’t feel the same.”
Cleveland-born Taylor tells DJ Mag about her varied background during a video call from her home studio in LA, where she’s now based. She’s just returned from London — her first time in Europe — where she’s been in back-to-back studio sessions with vocalists. She compares its vibrancy to that of NYC: “I wish I could have stayed there longer!” The same woman lacing up her shoes for the court would never have imagined the scene today — racking up over 100,000 monthly listeners for her music as HoneyLuv, with a gig at DJ Mag’s Miami Music Week Pool Party lined up this month. The dream would still have been there, but she just didn’t yet have the tools to make it a reality.
DJ Mag asks if HoneyLuv was able to develop her passion for music while in the navy. “Kinda, sorta,” she laughs. “On the weekends I would go and DJ at my friend’s party — he’d put on a hip-hop brunch. I had time. It just wasn’t the amount of time that I wanted to fully put myself into it. So that was the hardest part.”
This lack of headspace would have frustrated the relentlessly motivated HoneyLuv. Her first DJ bookings came just months after she got her first decks. After the military, she used her earnings to dive straight into music school and has been producing since early 2021 — but is already on her seventh single, the infectious and empowering roller, ‘Your Tongue’, which was released on Insomniac Records in February. “I was on Ableton and just trying to learn as much as I could. I’ve literally been working every day since that moment and it’s paid off a lot,” she says. “When I listen to music I get chills, I like throwing my hands into the air. That’s basically all I want people to do when they listen to my music. In the studio, I ask, ‘Is this song groovy enough?’ Because that’s really all that matters. Once you’ve got the groove, you’re good to go.”
Initially focusing her DJ sets on hip-hop and R&B, fans might have heard her early selections on Dash Radio, where she was a guest DJ on celebrity trainer Corey Calliet’s show. Later on, she showcased all elements of house in her House Of Honey show on Ill Donuts, featuring interviews that go deep into the genre’s history. “I started DJing to play house music but ended up with hip-hop because I knew the people who threw those types of parties.”
Citing MK as an inspiration, she explains how she found it more difficult to find any producers that weren’t male. Eventually she discovered Peggy Gou and Honey Dijon who reassuringly showed her that there was more diversity in the scene, but still she felt like “there weren’t enough women out there”. And this gave her a push. She remembers the first time she mixed electronic music, “It was on a small set-up I had in my barracks”. While she experimented with the genre in private, HoneyLuv found it difficult to access the public communities and connections within dance music.
We compare her experiences with hip-hop versus house music. “At hip-hop parties, people were sitting down, dancing at their seats,” she says. “Not as much of a party compared to house music, where everyone is all tuned into the DJ. They don’t care about what is going on around them. Hip-hop gives a lot of people a platform, though. If dance music broadened its horizons, that would be a beautiful thing to see.”
The past three years have resulted in numerous grassroots movements with similar aims of equality. HoneyLuv found that sense of connection through the Femme House community, which has hosted panels with the likes of Suzi Analogue in the past, and runs production bootcamps in partnership with Alicia Keys. “It was a good chance for me to chill with people who were into house music,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone at that time who was into it.”
These days HoneyLuv is firmly established, already sharing line-ups with Carl Cox, Seth Troxler and Maya Jane Coles. Her favourite party, however, was at Brooklyn’s Mirage, playing two sold-out nights with Chris Lake. On the festival front, she’s ticked off appearances at Electric Daisy Carnival, with Lightning In A Bottle already confirmed for 2022. But that wasn’t without a lot of hard work and determination. What does she think could be done to open up more doors? “Just diversify line-ups, and do a lot more research,” she says. “There are a lot of us [creative women] out there.”
It’s early on in HoneyLuv’s career, though her list of achievements so far reads otherwise. There’s no doubt that the driven DJ/producer has much more she wants to achieve — but DJ Mag asks what mark she hopes to have left so far. She pauses. “That’s a good question,” she says, before adding confidently: “I hope people see that I went out there and worked for it, and it helps other people think that they could do that too. I just want to continue making room for more people that look like me to be able to get in.”
Looking to the future, HoneyLuv dreams of indulging her love of fashion by attracting a big brand collaboration. This comes as no surprise, after seeing the eye-catching outfits she wears on stage and in her videos — half clubwear, half street. “I like to wear dope clothes, or wear an outfit that one of my friends has created, especially when I perform. Hip-hop artists collaborate with brands all the time. Why can’t house DJs and producers do it as well?”
HoneyLuv is vibrant and fresh. She speaks clearly, but her humbleness shines through. Her mentors are mentioned a lot during our call, embracing collaboration and constant learning. Earlier in the week before our interview, her Instagram stories showed her hopping straight from the studio and right into finishing off her music school, with her last assignment due this month. As soon as her last project is handed in, HoneyLuv is set to embrace the start of a busy spring/summer touring — first stop, Miami Music Week. “I know it will be a good time for me to meet a lot of people. But I also just want to enjoy life again, have a good time and party,” she says. “It’s Miami, so it’s already crazy enough — I can only imagine what it will be like for Music Week. It’s all I keep thinking about.”