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article imageInterview: Singer Ben Taylor talks about his current projects Special

By Adrian Peel     Apr 10, 2013 in Entertainment
The singer-songwriter son of James Taylor and Carly Simon released his fourth full-length album last year, and plans to showcase some new material over the next few months.
Ben Taylor's professional career began back in the mid-1990s, when his version of The Beatles classic I Will found its way on to the soundtrack of the now-largely-forgotten comedy drama, Bye Bye Love.
Since then, the dedicated musician has become a proudly independent artist in his own right, though comparisons with his famous father inevitably persist, given their vocal similarities and laid-back musical style.
The 36-year-old's most recent offering, four years in-the-making - Listening - hit the shelves in August 2012 to rave reviews, though the title was meant somewhat ironically, as the blue-eyed gardening enthusiast - who openly admits to not actually being a good listener - explains.
"Yeah, that's how I thought of the idea of writing the song in the first place because I realised that, as a performer, I hadn't done that much listening - I'd been listened to far more often. So what I decided I would do is write a song about it...
"I wrote this song, which was funny because it almost wasn't even about listening; it was yet another little sort of self-important existentialist number and so yeah, I thought it was kinda funny...
"Also, I thought 'Listening' was a good thing to call the album because I get uncomfortable when it comes to promoting myself; like when I have to tell people, 'Hey, come listen to my concert, it's gonna be so cool because I'm so awesome' - makes me feel like a jerk.
"So generally speaking, it's great if I have a charity - I do a lot of non-profit charity work - because then when I tell people about the gig, I can say, 'Hey come, we're gonna support this incredible cause and play some music' and then I have something bigger than myself to work on...
"I'm not very good at listening, and I know a lot of people who are in the same boat, so I figure I'm on tour actually promoting people to listen."
Which other tracks on the record particularly stand out for you (my personal favourite is track two, Oh Brother)? "Not Alone, America, Next Time Around..."
And America is actually about a girl with that name? "Well it is... I was trying to do something patriotic and I found that my notion of patriotism was clouded by so much historical guilt, ancestral shame, political confusion etc., that it was a really wordy, confusing song!
"I brought it to my dad, because he was the one who inspired me to be patriotic, and I said, 'Dad, I'm trying to be patriotic and I feel like I'm just being way to clever' and he said, 'Well, you are too clever - the only time when you're not is when it comes to love, so why don't you write a song about America as if she was a girl?'"
As already mentioned, Listening, co-written with friend and collaborator David Saw, is Ben's fourth full-length album. His first, Famous Among The Barns, was released in 2003 and his most recent, prior to Listening, was The Legend Of Kung Folk Part 1 (The Killing Bite) in 2008. How does album number four differ from what went before?
"I'm the worst person to ask," he laughs. "I really really am... By the time I get done making an album, I have no idea what it sounds like. The thing about recording a song is that... the same way that a picture of somebody is like a frozen flame - it doesn't allow the breath, it doesn't allow the growth.
"When you commit something to an album, when you record something and release it, it's almost like it has to stop; you can't change a lyric - your fans are gonna be bummed when you play it.
"It's a song of its own accord, unless you freeze it in time like that, and God forbid it should be a hit, then it's always got to be identical. But without that happening, a song really does continue to grow and change.
"Some of the first songs I ever wrote, I never even knew what they meant until recently. Songs continue to write themselves, just as they continue to write you."
"Really a tremendous amount of working in the garden and working in the studio," answers the seemingly easy-going troubadour, when quizzed as to what he's been up to of late. "It's funny because I tend to think about releasing albums in a very old-fashioned way...
"When I make an album, I want it to be relatively thematically-cohesive. I scrutinise it and I usually redo things again and again and again, and it turns into the most laborious part of my process.
"A lot of the time, when I'm not actually making things for official release, I'm in the studio having fun, making songs with my nephew, or whatever it is that's like that. So recently I've been doing a lot of non-professional music, I guess you could say...
"I think that what I'm gonna start to do now, rather than try to release albums as often as I can get them up, is I'm just gonna start releasing EPs - little combinations of four songs at a time - once every four months because I think for an independent artist it makes more sense that way.
"It's hard if you have to employ a publicist and a radio plugger, marketing people if you have one album coming out every year, or every couple of years - it doesn't make sense. But if you have something fresh for them every four or five months, then it's incredible."
Do you have any plans to release an EP, maybe later this year?
"I do actually. I've already recorded the first five songs, four of which are gonna be on the first EP, but we're kind of thinking of it as a segmented album project. We're gonna take 12 songs - we've already got the first five - and I think we'll release it probably in September, or maybe July. We're trying to figure it out...
"But in the meantime, I'm taking some of this non-professional music and I'm building a new website, a new sort of backstage website, where I'm gonna offer a subscription to supply my fans with a little bit more of an intimate look at some of the music that I make for fun, rather than for Ben Taylor."
Listening is out now.
More about Ben Taylor, Listening, james taylor, USA
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