Thirty years ago, Taylor kicked his drug habit by replacing it with exercise. Today he is a grandfather and 16 years into his marriage to Kim Smedvig (she performs with him occasionally); they have twin sons. The man who so often laments his wanderlust in his songs is a family man. On Friday he spoke of the need to get home to help with his children. When choir officials picked him up at the airport, he was talking on the phone with one of his sons.
Like the man himself, Taylor’s music has aged and matured nicely, but there was a maturity to it even in the early years. From the start he employed chamber orchestras and choirs or background singers, which made him a good fit for a collaboration with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
“My music has followed a number of different directions, and to a certain extent I’m chorale-focused in my music,” he says. “I’ve always worked with four and sometimes five other singers, and there’s a chorale aspect to my music that has been with me all along and has been growing. Some songs really want to be performed by a choir.” Referring to the choir’s rendition of “That Lonesome Road,” he said, “This is the iteration that was waiting to happen.”
With family duties calling and perhaps a sense of age and contentment, Taylor says he struggles to focus on writing new songs (he hasn’t recorded an album of original material since 2002). He says he is trying to finish a batch of songs, but is easily distracted — “Rearranging my sock drawer takes precedence,” he says. “I have to go into solitary, I have to sequester myself or get so bored I’ll actually write.”
Asked about his method of writing songs, he said, “It’s mysterious. I don’t have a method really. But I’ve got to clear out my head and my calendar enough to let it happen. I have to sit down and play an instrument. That’s the way it starts to come out. I don’t feel like I write songs; I’m just the first person to hear them. Initially, there’s a lightning strike, something that comes to you driving or walking or playing the guitar — it’s very unconscious. I collect those things by writing down the lyrics or making a small recording on a pocket recorder that is constantly with me, and then later I pursue them. It’s always a surprise. It’s the best thing there is for me, the most fulfilling.”
In the meantime, while waiting on his muse, Taylor is enjoying the latter stages of his remarkable career with a victory lap through many of America’s top artists, including the choir this weekend. “It’s fulfilling to be able to come to Salt Lake City and meet these wonderful people and be part of this community for a week or so,” he says. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to. It’s a delight and an honor.”
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: email@example.com
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