Dec 12, 2013
08:30 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Ben Taylor Plays Connecticut; Tells Us Carly Simon Grooved on 'Thriller'

Ben Taylor Plays Connecticut; Tells Us Carly Simon Grooved on 'Thriller'

Ben Taylor.

You might assume that singer-songwriter Ben Taylor, 36—son of Carly Simon and James Taylor—is just a chip off the old blocks, but he’s definitely his own man. He performs twice in Connecticut this month, including a return to Norfolk’s Infinity Hall Dec. 20 with Kerri Powers (below) for an 8 p.m. show.

Connecticut Magazine caught up with Taylor in advance of the show. Here's what he had to say:

Whenever I’ve seen you perform, you always seem so at ease. Are you? I think that’s just circumstantial. I think that maybe the root of the music is relaxed, and in a perfect world, that’s why it seems so onstage. I think sometimes I feign being “at ease.” You don’t always have perfect conditions. At times, even though a show sounds alright in the audience, onstage it sounds like someone hired a 10-year-old boy with a megaphone to make cartoon explosion noises behind you.

You recently returned from touring Europe, where word is you did some songwriting.Yeah. I have an album coming out next March or April. I was in the middle of recording—that’s usually the most inspiring time, when you’re in the studio. You sit there recording stuff that you’ve known for years, or played live for a while, and then you write something in the studio that you get so much more excited about that that song is suddenly the only one you want to record. It’s a real challenge to resist that. 

So, your approach is to play a song live for awhile before recording it? The best-case scenario is that you road-test a song for a good year before you get it in the studio, because a lot of the time the song hasn’t finished writing itself.

You’ve released four albums. How has your songwriting evolved? I guess, just as I evolve and change, I keep putting new spins on the songs I write. But however I change, I wind up sounding like a new version of old me. When I look back at songs I’ve written in my youth, I think that they seem a little immature. Just as young snakes bite and use too much venom, young musicians use too many notes. 

You’re known for having done some unusual covers, like Macy Gray’s “I Try” and the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.” In one show, you did Paul McCartney’s “Dear Boy,” which was great—but it’s pretty obscure. His album Ram is one of my favorites of all time. It’s just so refreshing to me, and that song is beautiful—there’s so much momentum in it. McCartney is a little uncharacteristic of the artists I usually cover because I often do stretch to genres that are so unlike myself that I feel I can really do them justice by bringing a new perspective.

Is there any song by another composer that you love so much you feel you could play it in every show and never tire of it? Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” Oh man, that song is just perfect. And he slam-dunks it at the end—the whole song is about his daughter Aisha, and then he gets to the third verse and gives it to “Londie” for having conceived the one who’s so very lovely. I mean, it’s a f***ing slam-dunk.

Every other interviewer talks to you about your parents’ musical influence on you. But when you were a kid, did you ever get to influence them?No, I think they were beyond my guidance by the time I got hold of them. [laughs] Conversely, I remember coming home with music I had bought—or music someone at school had loaned me—and being put on the spot in terms of explaining why I liked it. One time I brought home Duran Duran’s Sev­en and the Ragged Tiger and Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the same time. I was listening to Duran Duran when my mom came into the room and grilled me on it. Then she said, “A lot of that is just pop divisiveness.” So I put on Thriller, and she was like, “Ohh, yeah—Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones!” She grooved to that. 

You’ve said Infinity Hall is the best place on the East Coast to play music. It really is, from the root to the fruit. You get there, people are excited, everybody at the venue is cool, the sound is great. It’s easy to play a show there.

For more information or tickets, see the website of Infinity Music Hall & Bistro.



Ben Taylor Plays Connecticut; Tells Us Carly Simon Grooved on 'Thriller'

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