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James Taylor Chat on America Online
30 September 98

Welcome James Taylor to Entertainment Asylum and AOL Live!

Question: What is the best memory of your music career so far?

James Taylor: It's difficult to answer that. Being in the studio with the Beatles in '68. It was a major thrill. It was sort of a realization of a dream come true.

Question: When are you releasing your next album?

James Taylor: I don't know. It won't be out before Sept. of '99 We're just writing the songs now. It's hard to say. I'm hoping by then, but no guarantees.

Question: How did you come up with the title of your last album?

James Taylor: The title was in my mind for awhile. It seemed like a good thing to call an album. Particularly this one. It's like an hourglass, marks the passage of an hour, runs through its content. Something too about the thin waist of an hour glass where the individual grains pass through sort of being an illustration of the concept of now.

Question: What is your all-time favorite tune?

James Taylor: Let me think about that one :)

Question: At what age did you start to play guitar; and, do you like a 12-string acoustic?

James Taylor: I started at 12 yrs. old. I don't like 12 string. I like the sound. I don't play it. I'm not good at it.

Question: How do you like touring?

James Taylor: Touring is great. It tends to be hard at the end. Anticipation before going out on the road can be anxiety provoking. I'm always both sad and glad when it's over. The other things I do in my career or professionally are very abstract. There's something undeniably real about performing in front of real people in real time.

Question: I have always loved your music, it can always change my mood. What inspired you to write, "Shower the people you love with love"?

James Taylor: I don't know. Songs just sort of seem to come out. That song has sort of a general sort of universal love anthem. I'm not sure what triggered it. It just came through.

Question: I've noticed that certain songs you have played, have been influenced by (for lack of a better term) sea-faring times ex: "Frozen Man" "Water is Wide" Is there a nautical history in your family?

James Taylor: Yeah. I guess there is. A long time ago, my mother and father's families. They were originally from Scotland. They came by boat over here and owned boats. The 2 brothers who came over. They sailed those boats for a living. My mother's father was a fisherman out of Mass. He spent his life on the outer banks, pulling fish out of the sea.

Question: James, who was the most influential person in your life as a child?

James Taylor: My parents certainly. Outside of them, hard to say. Growing up we felt like a very close knit and detached family. We didn't have a huge amount of contact with other people. Aside from my parents, I guess my old friend and Danny Kortchmar has been influential. He has been pivotal in everything I did for a long time. I met him at the age of 13. I did my first professional job with him.

Question: Who would you say has impressed you musically over the last 5 years?

James Taylor: I've been listening to Shawn Colvin a lot.

EAMC Host: How does the message of your most recent work compare to past work?

James Taylor: I don't know. There's not any kind of a conscious thread or anything that holds these things together. They come at random. There are patterns, but I don't think that there is any particular identifiable shift or change. In terms of beginning and then end now. Maybe I'm moving more from the strictly personal to the more universal.

Question: The guitar you play is unusual. What is it?

James Taylor: It's an Olsen. James Olsen, who lives in St. Paul, Minn. makes them.

Question: Any plans to release your song about Ireland as a single? If not when will it be an album?

James Taylor: It's on this DVD that we're releasing now. I don't have plans to release it as a single. It might be on a benefit album for victims of the most recent Irish bombing attack. I can't recall the name of the town. There was talk about it as a possibility. I would feel good about that. You might see it next on a record of mine in what we're starting to work on now.

Question: What makes you decide what songs to do in a concert? I mean I personally would rather hear the songs that are seldom played rather then listen to Fire and Rain and you've got a I guess my question is what songs do you like to play in concert?

James Taylor: I agree with you. I get such a clear response that people want to hear those greatest hits It's always hard to leave those out. Generally, I like to do about 1/3 new stuff, 1/3 interesting reworking and cover tunes, and then 1/3 that you'd call greatest hits. You walk a line between keeping things fresh and making the audience happy and giving them what they came to see. Leaving it up to me, I'd retire some of the more predictable ones. But people want to hear them, so I'll keep playing them.

Question: Do you feel like you have to defend the creative process from the perils of the music business?

James Taylor: Yeah. I think that's definitely an issue. That's a valid question. It's something that I think about. I've been lucky being able to do what I want to do. Very little commercial pressure on me to dress up in latest fashions. I've been allowed to steam along on my own course.

Question: Do you have a place that inspires you in your writing or a practice that opens you up for the writings to occur?

James Taylor: I like to go someplace quiet and where I can fall into a routine or writing at certain times of the day. Aside from that, there's no real practice. I just need open space and quiet for songs to emerge. Emptying out and defending the time.

Question: Hi James! You are my very favorite artist! I am 14 years old and a lot people my age don't even know who you are. That's a very sad thing! What do you think about having this (small) young audience? Does it "take you back to your day?"

James Taylor: I'm glad that you are listening and into my music. I'm sorry if you feel lonely in that. But I think enough people are into my music. I don't miss having a larger audience. I don't know about the age of audience. I guess there's a tendency for my audience to get older with me as the time goes by. Then again, it depends on where I'm playing. Sometimes if you're playing a college town, you get a lot of College students. Or St. Petersburg in the winter, you get an older crowd. It depends, of course. Some bring their kids to my concerts. I notice families showing up sometimes. That's interesting.

Question: When will you be on tour?

James Taylor: I just finished this summer. We were in Europe for a few months. I've been out a lot in the last 2 yrs. I don't expect to be back out until next May and that'll be in Europe. This time next year probably in the States.

Question: Who have you never worked with, that you'd like to?

James Taylor: I've worked with some great people.

Question: Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

James Taylor: Ray Charles, I guess. Yeah. Ray Charles. Hard to do better than Ray.

Question: Where and who taught you to play and sing?

James Taylor: Hard to say exactly. I picked it up from here and there. I used to practice playing hymns and Christmas carols at 14 or 15 yrs. old. And I used to listen to a lot of folk music and blues. That's the first kind of music I tried to play. That's who I was copying.

Question: I appreciate what you are sharing with the world. Do you ever sing Gaia Live? That would have been wonderful in the concert in Philly for Green Mountain!

James Taylor: It would've been good. You're right. I didn't think of it at the time. Year before in '97 we performed that.

Question: I am a NC native and have always wondered where you were and what exactly inspired you to write "Carolina In My Mind"?

James Taylor: I was on an island in the Mediterranean called Formenterra. I was riding around on a bicycle and I'd stop every once in a while and more parts of it would come to me.

Question: What's your favorite thing to eat?

James Taylor: I like a nice linguini with red clam sauce. I'm partial to sweet corn. I like caviar too. Beluga Caviar.

EAMC Host: What are your all time favorite songs?

James Taylor: I'm going to say Ray Charles' Hit the Road, Jack and Aretha Franklin, Till You Come Back to Me. I like Beatles' Penny Lane and I like Rye Cooter's song called The Tattler. There's a million of them.

Question: What is your most memorable concert?

James Taylor: I guess in Rio de Janeiro in 1985. I played a festival down there and I'd never been in Brazil before. It was remarkable. It was a whole other experience. Also recently I played a concert in Ireland that was really amazing. In Dublin. It was great. There's a million of those too. Many stand out. Every few years we play in The Gorge in Washington in the middle of nowhere in a vineyard that overlooks the Columbia River. People come from all over and camp out. There's an unbelievable feel there. So beautiful in the middle of that landscape. That's a great job. I don't know where to stop! We played in Florence, Italy in an ancient theater there in the center of town. It was great.

Question: If you weren't a musician, what would you do for an occupation?

James Taylor: I'd be lost, I think. I don't think I have any other options. Maybe a fish farmer! :D Head 'em up, move 'em out!

Question: We understand you work with NRDC. How did that come about and how do you feel about it?

James Taylor: Like other people, I have a sense that there's an environmental crisis looming. Human activity is putting stress on the source of our life. Of all life, mother Earth. It's compelling to me. I can't shake it. It concerns me. When I discovered that there was this organization that seemed to be so effective and hopeful and doggedly in the service of relentlessly working for environmental protection and conservation in all areas and they asked me to help and I felt a great sense of relief that they're doing the work they are. It makes me feel better. There is some hope that we may wake up and put our priorities in order. Sometimes it seems desperate. I do it because it makes me feel better.

Question: When is the Hour Glass DVD going to be released?

James Taylor: Right now.

Question: Do you plan to do any more performing with large orchestras? (Enjoyed your concert with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony.)

James Taylor: That was sort of an experimental first try at that. Following that we did a couple months tour, in '95, with the orchestra. I'm going to do that again a year from now. I'm not sure how large the orchestras will be but it will be a series of orchestras We're putting final touches on that itinerary.

Question: Tell us your reaction to receiving the Grammy!!!!

James Taylor: You could've knocked me over with a feather. I had put it out of my mind. I was in Norway on tour. It was in Feb. and I was doing some skiing in a town called Geielo. I had pretty much dismissed any possibility of winning the award. I considered the nomination more than I could hope for. I got the call at 5a.m. It was about 11pm in the US at the Grammys. Someone hysterical on the other line telling me I'd won! I dismiss those as being BS. But it's amazing how fast you change your mind when you actually win one. It's been a long time. I've gotten 2 in the early 70's. Total of three if I'm not mistaken.

EAMC Host: And how many Grammy's have you won?

James Taylor: Three total. I want to thank all of you for your attention and your interest tonight. This has been my first online chat. I'm technologically retarded. This is novel! I can see why people are so taken with it. We must do it again sometime!

(c) 1998, Entertainment Asylum & America Online.