carolesdaughter has a lofty goal for the new year: bringing back music videos on MTV. Equipped with the nostalgia-heavy visual for her single “Target Practice,” Thea Taylor is ready to take on any television executives who stand in her way.

While many TikTok stars might not even remember a time when MTV played music videos, Taylor has spent her life developing a taste for only the finest art. Which is why her visual references classics such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. But living as her authentic self came with years of bullying and isolation. Now, as her viral song “Violent” hits over 120 million streams on Spotify, she’s reclaiming the power from her tormentors who definitely peaked in high school.

Read more: Alice Glass and carolesdaughter on taking control of their own stories, tease collab

With a new year ahead, Taylor is looking forward to the release of her own EP and opening for nothing,nowhere.’s spring tour. The up-and-coming artist reflects on overcoming addiction, the importance of Flyleaf and being genuine to yourself.

Your work really blew up on TikTok. How does it feel to know that people can see so much potential in you and the music you’ve put out?

It felt really great. I just felt like I could be a good influence in some ways. I think the appeal is that so many people can relate to me. It feels like there was someone like me missing. I didn’t have any artists I could look up to and be like, “Wow, I want to be just like them.” There just wasn’t someone like that. I couldn’t look up and see anyone that was pierced and tattooed and a strong woman who actually had something to say. 

“Violent,” which references an abusive relationship, and many of your other singles talk about traumatic moments in your life. Can you tell me about the meaning behind your latest song, “Target Practice”?

The song is really special to me because everything I write comes from my own experience. This song is about someone who’s living a double life — going to school and trying to fit in and trying to find your place in the world. But at the same time, it’s almost about knowing that you have a better purpose in life. The whole target practice concept is just essentially bullying or people taking shots at you. It’s like the anthem for the kids that didn’t peak in high school. 

You attended five different schools before dropping out, right? Was it the bullying that eventually led to you leaving school?

I probably attended more than that. Honestly, I just say five because that’s a nice number. I switched schools every couple of months. It was mainly just me leaving to go to treatment or rehab and then coming back and not wanting to go to the same school again. I didn’t keep a lot of friends in high school, and I was just the druggie people only knew for two months.

Was that when you started leaning into the mall-goth subculture?

I’ve always been interested in the world of punk and goth and hardcore. I would consider my style a combination of a lot of subcultures. I was raised Mormon, so I wasn’t allowed to look the way I wanted to look for a really long time. I had to fight tooth and nail to have my septum pierced or dye my hair black.

What was the transition like? Did you go to Hot Topic and buy the band tees and magnetic piercings? 

I pierced my septum when I was 13 and gave myself little stick-and-pokes that my parents flipped over. It was just a natural progression of [being] an angsty teen. My mom would always go through my clothes and throw out stuff she didn’t like. 

What about with this new kind of music after growing up Mormon? Was there any crossover with secular rock like Flyleaf? 

I absolutely loved Flyleaf, but music, in general, has always been the only thing that matters to me. So, I ended up listening to everything. I still love stuff like the Carpenters, and the Bee Gees are one of my favorite bands of all time. I went on Reddit and found music recommendations, and I’ve just checked out pretty much everything. I got really into Björk because of my older sister. I just love art. Music is just such art to me, and the weirder, the better, in a lot of ways.

You’ve talked about people commenting that your aesthetic doesn’t fit your sound and that they expect you to lean more into the hardcore scene. Do you see yourself experimenting with different genres?

I feel like I shouldn’t be put in a box for my style. I can make whatever type of music I want, and I’m still punk. I’m still goth. Just because I don’t make that type of music doesn’t mean I’m not a part of that community. I want to make this cool, weird music, and I do. It’s just mostly on my SoundCloud. But the new music I’m coming out with has very emo vibes. I’m really excited for people to hear it.

Does that mean you’re coming out with an album soon?

I’m coming out with an EP [within the next year], but I’m really excited for that. I feel very strongly about it. I just feel like it’s genuinely me. It’s really hard to navigate the music industry when you’re just thrown into it, but I feel like this EP is from a significant part of my life. I wrote all the songs when I was in treatment for my drug addiction, and it’s just super raw. They’re from the literal bottom of my heart.

You’ve been super vulnerable with all the music you’ve been putting out. Do you have a vision for yourself as you move forward?

I plan to be the most authentic and genuine I can be. I do have a good message to send. I am just such an advocate for recovery in all ways. I’ve struggled with a lot of things. I feel like there are not people out there who want to talk about it in an honest way. Even my name, carolesdaughter, it’s just a tribute to how I never thought I would have an amazing relationship with my parents, but it can happen. Everything can be OK. Music is the thing that saved me. Music is the thing that gave my life purpose. If I didn’t talk about that, if I didn’t share how I felt in the past, that would be stupid of me.

This story appeared in issue #403 with cover star Dominic Fike, available here.