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Benjamin Taylor adds to parents' legacy
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

If your ear was pressed to FM radio in the late '60s or early '70s, you undoubtedly came across James Taylor and Carly Simon. These equally potent singer-songwriters were pop superstars at a time when music was less synthesized and more lyrically-based, a time when classics such as "You've Got a Friend," "Handy Man," "Anticipation" and "You're So Vain" were mainstream fare, not relegated to adult contemporary. The off-stage romance of these musical giants led to the arrival of Benjamin Taylor, the younger of two children born to the married-then-divorced pair. The junior Taylor began his professional career in 2003 with his well-received debut Famous Among the Barns, quickly followed by a succession of credible efforts that include 2004's EP #1, 2005's Another Run Around the Sun and 2006's Deeper Than Gravity. Often credited as Ben Taylor or the Ben Taylor Band, this up-and-coming performer is a pedigreed folk-pop artist and a former Calvin Klein model, part-time actor (appeared on TV's American Dreams) and political activist. His newest triumph, The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1 (The Killing Bite), is a 10-track collection of sweet, organic, harmonizing, and thoughtful material, like "You're the One for Me" and "She's Gone," and they extend Taylor's range as both a composer and lyricist. The talents of this easy on the pupil, multi- instrumentalist/vocalist will be showcased on Sunday night when he opens for John Hiatt at the Moore Theatre (www.theparamount.com).

I caught up with Taylor this week, en route to San Luis Obispo with a planned pit stop at Whole Foods for a sandwich. In a laidback and deep, sexy voice, here's what the Boston-based musician chatted about in "The Music Lounge."

Albert Rodriguez: What's your reaction to last week's presidential election?

Benjamin Taylor: I think it's about time we had a black man in The White House, I'll tell you that. And not in general, but especially this one; he's everything I ever wanted a president to be.

Rodriguez: The downside of the elections is that Proposition 8 was defeated in California.

Taylor: I know. I can't believe that! I never saw it coming.

Rodriguez: I'm not surprised because it faced strong opposition, but it was disappointing to have it go the other direction.

Taylor: I don't deal with that kind of unbelievable segregation on a day-to-day basis, so I find it completely outrageous.

Rodriguez: Do you think we'll ever see Gay marriage accepted throughout the country?

Taylor: I hope so. It's embarrassing enough that it's not a reality already.

Rodriguez: I watched a replay of the Oprah show with you, your mom and sister this morning. So I have to ask how your mom is doing?

Taylor: My mom is amazing right now. She's living on Martha's Vineyard and she's got a nice boyfriend. Everything is really, really good with my mom.

Rodriguez: Will we ever see a Carly Simon-Benjamin Taylor tour?

Taylor: Um, yeah. It was supposed to be right now. It might've been today, if she hadn't canceled the tour.

Rodriguez: Your sister often performs with you.

Taylor: Every chance she gets. But she's a new mother this year; she just had her first whippersnapper. That sort of took her out of the performance game for a while.

Rodriguez: Aside from being an uncle, you're also a big brother to your father's twin sons.

Taylor: That's right, I have 7-year-old twin brothers.

Rodriguez: Some children of major artists distance themselves from their parents when starting their careers, though you seem to embrace having James Taylor as a dad.

Taylor: If he had been a son of a bitch or a terrible father, then it would be a different story. But under the circumstances, it doesn't have to go any further than that - he's been a great father, an incredible role model, and a remarkable man.

Rodriguez: He did several benefit concerts for Obama. Did you speak to your dad on Election Night?

Taylor: Of course. He was like, "woo-hoo!"

Rodriguez: When you write songs, do the lyrics or music come first?

Taylor: I feel like no two songs really write themselves the same way - there're no rules to it. You find inspiration, whether it's lyrical or musical inspiration, enough to get the ball rolling. And then the best thing to do is try not to be too controlling while the ball rolls.

Rodriguez: Do you bring a full band with you, or do you perform solo acoustic?

Taylor: I have a four-piece band, a percussionist, bass player, and another guitarist besides myself. I often do solo acoustic shows, it just depends on how long the tour is and how much the budget is and what the venues are like.

Rodriguez: When's the last time you were in Seattle?

Taylor: I was there about a year and a half ago last, playing a show at the Tractor Tavern.

Rodriguez: Did you get a feel for the city?

Taylor: I slowly accumulate feels for cities piece by piece as I go back to them. I get the sense for the way it's laid out, in terms of the actual shape of it - the geography of the city - and I'm starting to get the feel of the vocal music scene, so I suppose that's part of understanding the culture.

Rodriguez: When you say local music scene, which artists are you referring to?

Taylor: My favorite Seattle band is no longer together. Ever know of a band called Maktub? That's my favorite. But I don't necessarily mean the local bands so much as the local venues, getting to know some of the places where you go to play music.

Rodriguez: What would Benjamin Taylor's best albums list for 2008 look like?

Taylor: I like the Justice album [cross-symbol titled album] or maybe that was more 2007. To be honest, I'm guilty of being one of these young people who doesn't actually listen to albums anymore; they just get song by song off the internet. A lot of the time I listen to old soul music.

Rodriguez: What about newer soul, like Sharon Jones?

Taylor: I don't know her. I'm probably a lot more out of touch than anyone would figure I am, being a professional musician. I believe if something's worth listening to, it's worth listening to again and again and again.
 

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