June 25, 2013

Growing Downwards: An Interview With Ben Taylor

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Between all the frat sweat and pen clicks that inundate our Cornell lives, we as students rarely get a chance to experience the unadulterated life and culture that struggles to pervade in Ithaca for most of the year. It’s easier to see Ithaca’s culture in the summer, when art and performances can take precedence in the city after the conclusion of student departures and the advent of summer’s local events. One of these exciting events is the upcoming performance of Ben Taylor, who is set to take the stage at The Haunt tomorrow night. The Daily Sun got a chance to talk to Taylor, the son of folk-rock legends James Taylor and Carly Simon, last week about music, his career and what we can expect from tomorrow’s performance.

The Cornell Daily Sun: Are you promoting your album Listening through this tour?

Ben Taylor: Well I’m always going to promote Listening. I feel like [listening] is something that most people aren’t good at. The album cycle itself is something that is used for the music industry, setting certain cycles and rules we have to abide by. It’s not for the artist [him]self. I was never a fan of promoting albums. It’s about promoting yourself as an artist.

Sun: How do you guys choose your pit stops?

BT: We like to choose names of places that have been taken from old mythology. If Ithaca works out, we’ll be going on to more mystical, Mayan-sounding places.

Sun: Do you guys … usually do that? Interesting…

BT: No, no I’m just kidding. So sorry I was being slightly truthful about my sarcasm [laughs]. We try to put it together in a way that we can have a day off every thirteen or fourteen days and keeping in mind that we can only drive.

Sun: About your songwriting style — do you have a certain quirk when it comes to writing songs? Does the music find you or do you find music?

BT: I think everything has a song. Everything. A tree has a song. A fish has a song. Your grandpa has a song. A watermelon has a song. And, as you write music, you develop tools and the right vocabulary and you look at life until something stands out. You use whatever tool you have or [that is] in your proverbial box. I just give attention to things that grab my attention. You can’t force your attention on something or else it doesn’t appear or, ultimately, sound natural.

Sun: I’m sure your family has a lot to do with how you became as a musician. What other inspirations do you have?

BT: Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future.  He is my main inspiration because of his hair. His hair is crazy. Bruce Lee moves me as well. Not because of his kung fu, but because of his acting. There are lots of musicians too that inspire me, but inspiration is mostly a matter of timing. Sometimes I can listen to the Spice Girls and I’ll be inspired. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to talk about my inspirations.

Sun: Speaking of acting, I’ve noticed it on your resume.

BT: At that time it was a vehicle for [my] music. I’m going back into it now and I want to be like Christopher Lloyd —  unique. The thing about music is that it is tiring and time consuming because you have to know how to present [songs], make them, [you have to know] what the scene is like — there are just so many things one man has to do. But in acting, you’re just told what to do. Unless you’re a producer/writer/director all in one person, you’ll just be told what to do all day long. I like being told what to do. I enjoy it.

Sun: It seems like there would’ve been some antagonism when your parents found out you wanted to go into music.

BT: They always knew they set an unrealistically high standard, so they were always cautiously very supportive.

Sun: As a musician, how have you grown and how do you want to grow in the future?

BT: My music is growth. It certainly has changed. Music changes. It’s the reflection of a person and all I ever do is change. Grow up, shut up and change. It always changes. I’m lucky that way, that my music never gets stale.

Music is a practice. I like practices. I like meditation practice. Yoga is practice. Music is another sort of practice I can bring a spirit I can muster up. The character is a matter of what kind of spirit you bring into it. Or a situation in your life. I like to grow slowly and bring in different kinds of spirits and create more fundamental music as a result. I’ve grown downwards.

Sun: Downwards? How so?

BT: Down into the ground. Into my roots.

Sun: What can we expect at your concert?

BT: We as a group of a people, whatever night I show up, we’ll bring all of our spirits with us. It will just hover over the atmosphere and we’ll take in whatever they request.

Ben Taylor will be playing at The Haunt tonight at 9pm with Roses and Revolutions. Tickets are on sale at http://dansmallspresents.com/event/ben-taylor-2.

Original Author: Teresa Kim