Be it a blessing or a curse, the pedigree is what it is for Ben Taylor. The singer/songwriter son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, Ben has been afforded advice and opportunities unlike many artists, but the expectations can be unrealistic. Fortunately, Taylor wears his family name well and is more than willing to discuss the topic. On Monday, April 29, Taylor will perform at Workplay with Steve Moakler opening the 8 p.m. show. Recently, we caught up with Taylor by phone from his home on Martha’s Vineyard.
Brent Thompson: Ben, thanks for your time. We are enjoying your latest release, Listening. If you will, please talk about the evolution of the album.
Ben Taylor: We started making a whole different album about three years ago and a couple of the songs from it were left over. We kept on starting and stopping and remaking it. In the process – as usual – we wrote a bunch of songs in the studio we felt we couldn’t leave off the album, so we recorded them there. It’s the way that album cycles tend to work for me for whatever reason. I’m excited to embrace the future and the idea that I don’t need to be so professional and old-fashioned about producing thematically cohesive album projects that come out once a year. You don’t have to release albums anymore – you can release three EPs a year and that way people don’t forget about you quite so much. I think more of who I am is about to come through in my music.
Brent: How do you feel about the climate in the age of Youtube, iTunes and satellite radio? Is there a give-and-take between accessibility and oversaturation of available content?
Ben: As somebody trying to make ends meet with music, it’s obvious that oversaturation does the same thing as oversaturation in any business – it makes it harder. But the cool thing about it is it’s very easy to distribute yourself. There’s more and more people making music and I think the more music the better. I wish they’d start teaching it more in schools so we’d have even more people. But the technology is a double-edge sword. It gets easier and easier for us as songwriters to get our songs to Australia, but the danger is that the technology makes it easy to spread yourself very wide and very thin.
Brent: The way you’re forging your career compared to the music industry of your parents’ youth must seem like two different businesses.
Ben: Completely different – couldn’t be more different. It’s a different world – a super-saturated marketplace. In the beginning, it was musicians who ran record companies and then it was business and economics graduates who ran record companies. Money has taken the point away from the art and it’s made the point more about the celebrity.
Brent: How do your songs stay fresh to you after you’ve performed them hundreds of times?
Ben: They keep writing themselves. I find the meanings of songs I wrote 10 years ago – I thought I knew what it was about and I didn’t get it. A song will keep on growing if you let it. If a song is a hit, then it has to stop changing. “Fire And Rain” – as soon as that song became a hit, it had to stop growing. There are tons of my father’s songs that weren’t hits and every time he plays them he changes them. It hasn’t been immortalized to where people will be offended if you embellish it.
Brent: I don’t like asking you same the question you’ve had to answer your whole life, but it’s difficult not to ask about your parents and how they’ve impacted you personally and professionally.
Ben: People ask me all the time about X, Y and Z of being James Taylor and Carly Simon’s son. My parents are such incredible people that the idea that I get to be asked that question, I feel lucky.
Brent: You’re gracious to view it in that manner.
Ben: It’s one of the things I would ask me about myself if I didn’t know me. The fact of the matter is that if I’m talking to somebody and I’m interested in them, I’ll ask them about their parents in the first five minutes. It’s one of the things you ask about people if you are a considerate human being. I guess it’s a double-edge sword and I do put a lot of pressure on myself based on how highly I think of both of them, but that’s the best thing in the world. But I wouldn’t have been interested in doing this if I didn’t have such incredibly big shoes to fill.
Tickets to the 18+ show are $12 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com