JTO Feature: Sally Taylor


Patrick Hill is a long-time fan of Simon and Taylor-family musicians. He’s worked as a news writer, disc jockey, broadcast journalist, and training manager.

By Patrick Hill

Sally Taylor

Each choice in life, however large or small, contributes to the path taken and shapes our lives. I’m sure it is the same collective group of choices that have led Sally Taylor to performing her first professional gig at the "Fly Me To The Moon Saloon." At that time in 1996, Sally was under the impression that music was a love that she shared with family and friends, more or less a hobby. However, that particular stage performance in Telluride, Colorado, though it may not have been with the best equipment, capacity crowd nor a supporting cast of great musicians, that night was a new beginning that has to date led her across North America and back, and now back again.

The Albums

“Apt. #6S”

“Tomboy Bride”

Taylor during her teenage years had sang as part of over a dozen bands as well as a solo act in her college year simply because she loved music. When her love for music developed into a passion and her talent recognized she began believing that she too may have a place in the music world.

"I was involved with music in high school but I wasn’t taking it seriously at the time. I didn’t consider going on the road or doing anything professionally until 1998, that’s when everything sort of happened and now it’s a pleasure to be where I am, it feels right."

In 1997, after the release of her first album Tomboy Bride, she felt her music would be represented more completely by a full band. Today, the members of the Sally Taylor Band are a well-oiled machine of musical prowess and truly love being on the road. After a brief vacation in August, the band is again touring, though she’s realistic enough to credit special moments in her life as crucial to a band’s continued success. Taylor’s ability to master the process of being your own boss and essentially running your own show is a continuous work in progress, but worth every effort. Taylor has spent her life’s experience watching and learning from her wonderfully gifted cast of musical family and friends. Now she has crafted her own style, which she describes as folk rock with jazz and pop influences.

With a Van Morrison-type work ethic, she feels most comfortable looking at her new career in music as genuine hard work. Instead of seeking stardom, Taylor would much rather make music on the band’s own terms, having people show up at the shows and just entertain the socks off an audience. The amazing thing is her ability to have been disciplined enough to take from volumes of observation and thought from her folk rock mentors, and consolidate and develop her own unique voice, which varies from soothing to sassy, with hints of tone handed down through generations of musical Taylors.

With independence serving as a key motivator through her life since well before earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Sciences/Medical Anthropology from Brown University, Sally continues to strengthen her grasp on her career decision in music. Now with well over 250 shows to her credit, Taylor recognizes how far she has come, and perhaps more importantly finding comfort with where she is at musically, and looks forward to the future.

"I know I have improved (musically). When I first started performing I couldn’t play guitar well. I used to tell the sound guy (Chris Delucchi, Soundboard Engineer) to mute me every night, just mute me out of the audience. And, now I rip!!! OK, I don’t ‘rip,’ but I can play now and am used to the songs now and like changing the songs up. I feel to a certain extent when I sing, I’m not always singing the same melody line, I’m doing different things vocally with the songs. That’s cool and exciting. Sometimes I’ll think, wow, where did that come from?"

Sally with Dad

Sally has embraced her past and present, while carefully planning her future. While referring to her past and her famous parents (James Taylor and Carly Simon), she is very modest and grateful. In looks and in voice, Taylor resembles her parents just enough to make the connection, but has clearly succeeded in establishing her own style. Trough she doesn’t dwell on comparing herself to her parents and attempts not to pressure herself to try to be as good as they are, she certainly understands how high the bar has been raised with expectation.

"It’s a pleasure to hear someone say ‘I’m such a fan of your parents,’ or ‘I’ve learned so much from your parents’ art,’ that’s always an honor for me to hear. To hear that, it’s almost as if they were saying that about my own art and complimenting me. I feel very honored to hear that. I love sounding like them. I cry for joy when I listen to myself on a recording and can hear them in me because I know then, that they will live in me forever and ever for as long as I live."

One of her special possessions is a shoebox of audiocassettes that contain songs and stories shared between her and her parents from when she was very young. Short clips of this archived treasure of memories appears throughout her first two albums in between songs, including a special hidden track at the end of Apt. #6S. Sally confirmed there is much of this material that exists and that she will continue to add clips to her future albums.

"I was a fire cracker as a kid. I have tens of thousands of tapes of my songs from when I was a kid and they’re pretty funny."

She and the band realize that by deciding to create their own success, rejecting the life under the umbrella of a traditional corporate-industry album deal, they publicize and support themselves during every performance, one at a time.

"In my perception what has happened with the (music) industry is less people who enjoy music are actually "heading" the major labels and more business people who are coming in and strategizing how to make the most money out of the artist. It seems to me that what the labels are actually are service providers. They distribute, manufacture and provide services for the artist — but the artist creates. What’s happening now with the Internet and the new independent labels, there’s become new avenues– there’s an independent distributor, marketer and publicist. An artist no longer has to rely on getting everything from one major record label, and instead are going outside of that and realizing they can develop themselves. It’s a great time to be in music because there’s a revolution going on, and a revolution creates music."

Each audience means a great deal to the Sally Taylor Band, which includes guitarist Chris Soucy, bassist Kenny Castro and its newest member drummer Kyle Comerford — which Sally refers lovingly to as "my minions." Castro, a fellow "minion," originally from Texas, is a firm believer in the future success of the band, and attributes friendship, support and responsibility as keys.

"I see a lot more organization and a lot more drive, a lot of bands I worked with were good players but they were happy to be at the level they were at and didn’t want anything else, but… I want more, and so does the entire band."

Soucy, originally from New Jersey, believes in Sally’s dream to foster and continue to build the band independently, and is proud of the common ground felt between the members.

"I’m totally supportive of it, I was brought into Sally’s world when she already had formed these opinions and it was sort of an eye-opener for me that someone would choose to do it that way. After being on the road for a couple of years it feels good and we get a lot of support from people who come out and hear the band and they think it’s a great idea. I think it is possible to do it, it takes a lot of work and Sally works harder than any of us really– and it (the success) is ours, which is great.

The new album for the band, titled Apt. #6S is their second album and is being distributed regionally by War Records. The official available street date for "Apt. #6S" was September 12.

The debut album, Tomboy Bride, is available only at band performances and on-line. Both albums are available via her own record label called Blue Elbow from the web site, at www.sallytaylor.com

The official web site is an incredible resource for upcoming tour dates, news from the band while on the road (Sally’s "Road Diary" which she adores writing for her fans and providing them her perspective on life/music/travels) or in the recording studio, as well as person and professional insights from the group. Each album shows a different side of the band, and displays the member talents diversely.

The Sally Taylor Band

"Tomboy Bride was a collection of material that I worked on over a period of time until the day that I recorded it — really over two years worth of material that I picked and chose from and my music was evolving to a stage where I now find myself with a band and these guys. They all have major influences on me and the way my music sounds. Chris and I may start writing something and then Kyle comes in and adds a drum beat that maybe neither of us had in mind beforehand. That’s what’s exciting about Apt. #6S for me, is that it really isn’t just me, it’s a unit, and an organism and it’s also the product of being on the road for two years. It’s no longer my life, but an experience prodded along by the road and these guys and also by the places we play"

Sally Taylor

Apt. #6S is a compilation of songs, which portray a return to music rooted in honesty, sincere effort and passion. The band’s charisma and growing national popularity ignites a mutual respect and admiration from its building new and existing fan base. Taylor also recognizes that audience contact not only makes the show more enjoyable for the audience, but for the band as well. According to various band sources, the main ingredient to a successful gig is being able to interact with the audience, laugh at a mistake, smile and have fun with a great solo or crisp performance and enjoying the overall moment.

"I’m interested in performance art and looking at it as a science, how a performer identifies and then has a relationship with the people (audience). It’s a communication process and not necessarily what you’re saying in the song, but what you’re saying from the heart. The way that I feel about my audience and what I’m trying to convey to the crowd is love yourself and open up the scary places in your heart– and be free of them."

Taylor decided to name her sophomore album Apt. #6S after recalling a humorous childhood memory of growing up in New York City. When items were delivered to her home, a confirmation would be made to send the package to Apartment "6-S.” Sally heard it as Apartment “Success,” hence, throughout her early childhood she believed she lived in "Success."

All of the songs on "Apt. #6S" were written by Taylor (with some songs co-written by Soucy) are believable and heartfelt, especially the classic ode to the regrets felt upon being distanced from a good friend, in “4 Kim.” Taylor claimed at a recent show that she and her friend had mended their relationship soon after recording the song and supplying her friend with a copy. Taylor said "4 Kim" is currently the band’s consensus choice as the first single to be released from Apt. #6S, though nothing has been confirmed.

Kim this song is for you
think you might catch it in the wind
that blows up through

the valley that we started out in

and then maybe you’ll sigh, and call me up

my old friend —

From attending multiple shows, a consistent crowd favorite, though particularly spunkier performed live, has been “Convince Me,” which provides an upbeat and crisp rhythm featuring younger brother and fellow recording artist Ben Taylor on backing vocals.

You looked into my eyes and you said you
saw the future
I didn’t recognize myself in that reflection
you said I would in time and you said you
could convince me —

Ben Taylor, is taking the opposite path of his older sister, as he’s signed a contract with the Sony Work Label, and reportedly recording his first album in Europe. In August, Sally recently told fans that she has asked her brother to appear with her during upcoming show this fall on the latest leg of her Apt. #6S Tour, though at this time nothing has been confirmed.

An acoustic tune called "Nisa," co-written with Soucy, is a gentle reminder of the high expectations we hold for love as we shift to the 21st Century.

Sit down massage my eyes
become the man of my dreams
why’s it always me who falls
for these guys who always leave me here
with my pain —

“Split Decisions” (which also includes brother Ben on backing vocals and showcases a smooth solo by lead guitarist Soucy) and “Strangest of Strangers” have a distinct ready-for-radio feel. Each deal with the intense work the band has embraced as well as the barriers endured in its beginnings.

The restless, jazz enticed and unmistakable rhythm of Castro’s bass in "Fall For Me" shows the diversity within emotions and roads traveled within Apt. #6S. Taylor is said to also be considering "Fall For Me" a potential song for release– as a single or perhaps even as a music video. Whether released in format or not, "Fall For Me" is the true sleeper/Cinderella track of the album that may very well be commercially successful to cross over.

"Give Me The Strength," will no doubt be a mainstay at future shows, in terms of the uplifting message it contains, about dealing with internal struggles and finding the strength to overcome — This song has stood alone as a Taylor solo at various shows over the summer, as her lower range is put to the test, demanding our attentiveness.

I can barely lift up my head
off this pillow
I can barely breathe through my lips
I can barely see
Deep across this lonely harbor
And I am home
How can I ever find tomorrow
Buried in this foggy gray —

"How Can I," on this album will bring a smile and warmth to mind and soul. A steady beat, with Soucy’s admirable handling of the Mandolin, as well as Sally’s vocal presence, not to mention whistling skills displayed for our listening enjoyment.

How can I
sit by your side
all blue in my white
on this summer’s day?
But then baby I’m yours and you
You are mine
Give me 1,000 tears
I’ll forgive you this time —

The poetry-driven of "Without Me;" deep prowess of "March Like Soldiers;" life lessons learned from our mistakes in the bluesy and also co-written with Soucy "40 Years" and the worldly "Immortal" are all vital to create the backbone that is the latest release of the Sally Taylor Band. Moreover, Taylor lends her songwriting on Apt. #6S to focusing on the rise and fall of life’s relationships and how she views herself through different perspectives.

"I write about what ever emotion is falling out of my heart at the time I sit down with my guitar. A lot of my writing comes from emotions after having broken up– and had my heart broken. In a lot of ways I sort of over-analyze that feeling, not the actual scenario of breaking up, but the emotion attached– That’s when the loneliness happens. You have taken from yourself and given yourself to somebody else– and for me, the difference between being alone and being lonely, is that being alone you are just not with anybody else, and being lonely is being surrounded by millions (of people) but not really within yourself. That’s an emotion I’m rather in touch with — And, giving yourself, losing your time, losing a part of yourself to somebody, is, what’s it’s all about but it’s also so painful sometimes."

There is no doubt the Sally Taylor Band is by far one of the most entertaining, resourceful, talented and accessible independent group to perform in our scene in recent years. And, after attending the Sally Taylor Band’s upcoming show in Annapolis at the Rams’ Head Tavern — Soucy believes there is a very good chance you can get your CD signed by Taylor in person, with a smile to boot.

"Sally will spend time after the show talking to everybody in line that wants an autograph, and she’s happy to do that. It leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I’ve never been in a band before that did that. Sally does that every show, it’s great to have that kind of passion for what you do."

Based on fan comments and reviews from a long list of shows, the Sally Taylor Band is consistently holding its own and has flourished in generating amazing album sales independently. Sally truly enjoys spending the time to meet her fans, as it is important for her to know and identify with her fans. Besides, as Sally’s Uncle Livingston says, “Somehow, an album sounds even better when it’s signed.”

"My Uncle Liv and I have performed together and it’s so great to perform with one of my relatives. And, he’s so funny and great. With my Uncle — I learned from him the routes to a career in music, the different roads to be taken, that there isn’t just one, there are many. He took a specific route, and watching that — as opposed to watching my Mom, my Dad, my Aunt, other family I knew in the industry that all took different routes, I realized — OK, this is something I can do for myself, on my own. I don’t have to just take the way that someone else says is the best, or is already paved. I’m just getting out my own machete and am hacking my own way through this. I have the guts to. And, as it’s turned out I did it."

All photos: sallytaylor.com