Society of Sound: Ben Taylor

As the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, Ben Taylor was born into a musical world with much promise. His older sister, Sally Taylor, found her niche in the industry early on, but the younger Taylor never sought to follow the footsteps of his famous parents. His childhood might have been surrounded by recording sessions and tours across the world, but initially it wasn't in Taylor's mind to become a singer.

Taylor was raised in Manhattan and spent time in various private schools before leaving them behind in ninth grade. His father taught him his first couple of songs on guitar when he was 12, after which he taught himself to play by learning all of his father’s numbers; but traveling the world and connecting with nature were Taylor’s passion. Trips across Asia and Europe opened his eyes to Earth’s greatest wonders, leading him to think he might like to be a gardener or a farmer. Still, he had his hand in a few musical makings. Before he turned 20, Taylor’s cover of the Beatles’ ‘I Will’ landed on the soundtrack to a domestic comedy featuring Paul Reiser, Bye Bye, Love.

And later, when he started writing his own songs, at around the age of 21, his mother provided him with a handwritten, three-page manual with all kinds of tips and pointers on the art of songwriting. But for a long time before that, Taylor rejected the idea of going into music. As a youngster, dividing his time between living in Martha’s Vineyard and Manhattan, he found himself yearning for the kind of discipline that neither of his parents were inclined to impose.

“My dad wasn’t strict, and my mom loved me so much that I would wake up sometimes and she’d say, ‘Come on, pretend to be sick today and get the day off school and let’s hang out and listen to music,'” he recalls. Taylor’s “rebellion” was to gravitate towards the ultra-disciplined culture of martial arts and Eastern philosophy, enrolling in kung fu schools and travelling with various teachers.

My music is a huge amalgamation of things and influence and styles, but it's very much made up of music that my parents made that I heard growing up. It's ingrained in me. I have a hard time separating between the two. Ben Taylor

A trip to the Caribbean gave him the push he’d been wanting for so long. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a headful of songs, Taylor shaped himself into the natural singer/songwriter his parents knew he’d become. While visiting Los Angeles in late 2001, he befriended drummer Larry Ciancia (Fiona Apple, Everlast) and a musical bond was formed. Fellow musicians Adam MacDougall, Rick Musallam, and Joe Dunne joined them weeks later and the Ben Taylor Band was born; Taylor had gone from a shy, reserved teenager to a brave, confident young man and artist.

He eventually recorded an album for Sony’s label the Work Group, but it folded shortly after Taylor inked his contract. He was left feeling disenchanted, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life because he still wasn’t convinced music was for him. Taylor would soon come to realise that music was the only career he’d understand.

“My music is a huge amalgamation of things and influence and styles, but it’s very much made up of music that my parents made that I heard growing up,” says Ben. “It’s ingrained in me. I have a hard time separating between the two.”

After his first released album Famous Among the Barns and his EP #1, Taylor decided that this path (which yielded music that Taylor describes as “neo-psychedelic folk funk”) did not represent his true musical nature, Taylor released a follow-up solo album that is much more acoustic in nature and more in line with his family roots. That solo effort, Another Run Around the Sun, featured backing vocals by his sister and mother, with Taylor as vocalist and guitarist, Peter Calo on Guitars, Larry Ciancia as drummer, and  produced by Kevin Bacon and Jonathan Quarmby. This was followed by a string of EPs. In 2008, he released a new full-length, The Legend of Kung Folk, Pt. 1, followed by Listening in 2012.

Naked (BW98) by Ben Taylor is live performance in a stripped back format, produced by Kevin Bacon (Another Run Around the Sun) and released on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound in July 2016.

By Online Editor

Published on Thu, 28 July 16

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