Thursday, August 19, 2010

AJ Wachtel interviews Livingston Taylor as submitted to “The Noise”

AJ Wachtel interviews Livingston Taylor as submitted to “The Noise”

A member of Massachusetts First Family of Music, Livingston has just released a new cd, "Last Alaska Moon", and its wonderful folk-inspired melodies may be the best music release of the year.

And currently on tour performing his catalog on the left coast, he was cool enough to call me from an airport between flights and then again the next day during some rare down time to make sure we were able to talk. Read on and hear what this master musician has to say:

The Noise: You're a great storyteller and in your new songs you specifically mention people by their names-Little Jimmy T, Katy, Erin, Stan, Henry Crossenfeld, Abigail, Grace and Gwynnie. Are these real people and are the songs telling about actual events in your life or are they fictional and mentioned for other reasons?

Livingston: They are generally fictional. Gwynnie, I just used cause I liked the name Gwynnie. Gwyneth Paltrow's name is Gwynnie, but the song has nothing to do with her, I just really like the name. I DO know Katy and Stan, and Erin is a young woman who I met when I was writing the song and I found her a very nice person and I just used the name Erin. And there's Erin Burnett from CNBC. I like the name.

The Noise: Many of the song titles on Last Alaska Moon seem to have spiritual meanings-"Never Lose Hope", "Answer My Prayer", "Walk until Its Heaven" and "Christmas Is Almost Here". What is your message to the listener and why is this feeling important for you to share?

Livingston: It's really not a message. It's things that interest me. I don’t have a sense I have a message for my listener. Hopefully, it’s interesting for other people to listen to. Hope is a good thing. Walk until its heaven; I love that image. To keep it going till you get it right. Until it does get right. The idea of "moving forward" and "moving ahead" is very compelling to me.

The Noise: The tunes on your new CD range from folk with an easy, acoustic sound to folk ballads and country & western, bluegrass and blues with a southern feel. Can you comment on this?

Livingston: The fact is I'm enamored with good melodies. I’m a very melodic guy and I’ve loved them since I was a little boy. In my most successful melodies I write the melodies first then find a story to put to that melody.

The Noise: What musicians do you listen to these days?

Livingston: Well, I find that generally, like the rest of the world, I pick and chose a song here and there. Anita Baker, Mamas and the Papas with Cass Elliot, Karen Carpenter, Frank Sinatra, it's all very eclectic and all over the board.

The Noise: You and your sister Kate both have new releases in 2010. Is this a coincidence or part of a bigger Taylor music conspiracy?

Livingston: (Laughs) I wish in this case it was the result of a vast conspiracy but it’s just a coincidence.
The Noise: The Taylor family has great songs about your childhood state, North Carolina. James with "Carolina (In My Mind), Kate with "Sun Did Shine In Carolina" and your new "Call Me Carolina". What is the story behind this? And what's the difference between music scenes down south and those up in New England?

Livingston: It's the word Carolina. Certain states have a very sayable word, like Carolina. NY-less so. NJ-it’s just-it’s a tough sell. Minnesota-it doesn’t work so well. And more important is the "Carolina experience". Down there, the idea of creative arts as a career choice is very acceptable. Nothing is better than being in an infrastructure where your music can be heard.

The Noise: Kate told me her song" (Sun Did Shine) in Carolina" is "about my brothers and our time in Chapel Hill, NC". What do you think of her recollections?

Livingston: Well, I think her recollections are lovely. Kate is a wonderful songwriter and a beautiful spirit. I treasure her recollections, I have different ones.

The Noise: Any advice to give to young artists trying to get their music heard?

Livingston: Yeah, above all else you must play live. You must bring your music to the people. You must watch it land. You have to watch what effect it has on your audience.

The Noise: What did you find most challenging in recording and releasing "Last Alaska Moon"?

Livingston: Again, the great challenge is finding the financial resources to hire the best players on the planet.

The Noise: In "Never Lose Hope" you sing "even Boston lost the curse". Is this a reference to the "curse of the Babe" and the Red Sox?

Livingston: Yes it is. It was a cheap little line that just fell in there at the time.

The Noise: Tell me about the musicians and the production behind your new cd.

Livingston: I used a great recording studio, Paragon, in Franklin, Tenn. I had great players and a GREAT mixer.

The Noise: Why Last Alaska Moon? Why not Last Vineyard Haven Moon?

1. Livingston: It just really alliterated great and I really liked the image of Last Alaska Moon.

The Noise: When I went to your brother A.T's wake you, James Hughie and Kate sang "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" together. Do you ever sing together anymore?

Livingston: We don’t get together terribly often. It's light and informal if we do. We've spoken about going on tour together but that's really in James' hands. And it’s not something he's waiting to do other than single shows.

The Noise: There's another generation of Taylor family performers. Do you ever get together with them and sing?

Livingston: Absolutely! My niece Sally and my nephew Ben. I love to play with those guys, they're great music forces, and it’s FUN!

The Noise: What's in the future for you? Are you very prolific these days? Are you writing songs for your next CD yet?

Livingston: I'm writing all the time. The great problem isn’t writing its getting the financing to get these projects to life. Right now Shelly Berg, head of the music dept. at the University of Miami and I are thinking of doing a project together. And I have plenty of things in the works like that.

The Noise: How are people on the left coast enjoying your shows?

Livingston: Yeah, again, when I come out West people who haven’t had a chance to see me in a while come to the shows. It's beautiful and much appreciated.

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