AI Artist Spotlight: Taryn Southern

Taryn Southern is an award-winning artist, filmmaker, and futurist credited with creating the very first solo album composed and produced with artificial intelligence (AI). She is best known for her work that brings together emerging technology and human potential. Her works include producing an award-winning Google virtual reality (VR) series that won the AT&T Film Award and was the first Ethereum token-based song released.

Southern’s first dive into entertainment happened when she competed in the semi-finals of American Idol at age seventeen. Since then, she became a digital and VR content pioneer, specifically focusing on a new methodology for creating music with AI. Her first single, “Break Free,” used background music generated with various AI-based musical composition tools. 

She is known for pushing the limits of AI-aided composition. She released her album I Am AI in 2018, which was entirely generated with four AI programs: Amper Music, IBM’s Watson Beat, Google’s Magenta, and AIVA. 

Southern creates music with AI by working with Amper—artificial intelligence music composition software—to develop a process that she says involved telling the computer the sounds, notes, or instruments she wanted. Her works have attracted more than 750 million views across the internet, and text-to-image AI is another area of growing interest as well.

Her work earned her a spot in the Top 20 Women in VR, three Streamy Award nominations, an AT&T Film Award, a feature on Ford’s national She’s Got Drive campaign, and a The Crypto Award nomination as the Best Female Influencer. Southern is also on the board of the National Academy of Medicine’s Longevity Challenge. 

Selected AI Projects

Southern focuses on AI music, while other AI-focused artists, such as Refik Anadol and Joy Buolamwini, are pioneering other aspects of AI art. Here are a few noteworthy projects completed by Southern:

I AM AI

I Am AI is a pop album featuring eight tracks, each produced entirely with artificial intelligence—making Southern the first ever to do so. The album earned Southern international acclaim. Her first single, “Break Free,” ranked as high as number forty-eight on the Billboard Indicator Chart and number two on the Euro Indie Chart. 

The song is about a woman who wants to break free of biological limitations. For “New World,” another track on the same album, Southern will release a blockchain token allowing hundreds of potential collaborators to split backend royalties from the sales and streams of the track.

With I AM AI, Southern sought to revolutionise the market for aspiring artists, making it possible for artists to create music with backing generated entirely from AI. She believes that AI will change how music is produced, and in twenty years, coding songs will be commonplace.

Virtual Reality

In 2017, Southern received a grant from the Google VR Creator Lab that allowed her to create several pieces of experimental VR content.

She worked with Dani Bittmanm, a prominent name in immersive art, to create Life Support. This award-winning emerging tech VR series is featured in museums and digital art fairs around the world.

I AM HUMAN

Southern premiered I AM HUMAN, a film about brain interface technology, with codirector Elena Gaby. The 2019 film chronicles the emotional journey of a paraplegic, blind retiree, and artist struggling with Parkinson’s—all three real-world pioneers with implantable brain interfaces. The film also pays tribute to scientists and entrepreneurs on the frontlines of pressing technical and ethical boundaries.

I AM HUMAN earned multiple awards, including the Audience Choice for Best Feature at the 2019 Eastern Oregon Film Festival, Best of the Fest at the 2019 El Dorado Film Festival, Best Feature at Other Worlds Austin, and Best Director at the Oslo Film Festival.

A Digital Success Story

Since her early days as a YouTuber, Southern has produced more than 1,500 internet videos, sold series to networks (e.g. MTV, DirecTV, and Maker Studios), acted in television sitcoms, hosted numerous shows on traditional and less traditional platforms, and produced digital campaigns for multinational companies.

Southern is also promoting female voices in new media as an ambassador for The Geena Davis Institute Gender in Media #ShesGotDrive campaign.