Ben Taylor’s taste ┬áin music challenged by superstar parents

Photo provided by Ciancia ManagementBen Taylor
Photo provided by Ciancia ManagementBen Taylor

By John wirt

Ben Taylor tried every possible alternative he could think of to a life in music.

“Yeah, if I’d had the talent that I have and the love for music that I have without the parents that I have, no one could have stopped me from doing anything but music my whole life.”

But Taylor, the 36-year-old son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, initially believed that his Grammy-winning, multimillion-selling parents set an unrealistic example of success for him and his musical sister, Sally.

“I worried,” he said, “that no matter how successful I’d be in fulfilling myself and my music’s potential, that it would always seem like a disappointment if I didn’t catch some of those Grammys.”

Taylor later realized that success in music these days is quite different from success in the era when his parents hit their commercial stride.

“That was not my destiny,” he said. “But there are so many new ways of defining your own success.”

Taylor is an extremely talented, natural singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist who has a decadelong music career. His four albums include “Listening,” released in August.

“Listening” confidently encompasses pop, soul, reggae, country and folk. In a sign of the musical times, Taylor says it may be his final album.

“Albums are good for compilations and ‘best of’ collections and specific themes,” he explained. “But nowadays it takes too long to make an album. You’ve got to tour more often and have new content more frequently. So I’m going to put out collections of four songs, four times a year. I’m going to make those as thematically cohesive as possible, almost like one long song in four different parts.”

When Taylor was growing up, his parents challenged his taste in music.

“My folks were interested in me becoming a critical listener early on,” he recalled. “So they said, ‘What is it that you like about this music? Explain it to me.’ A lot of times they would tear it apart.

“But I remember I took some Bob Marley music home and my dad said, ‘Yeah, I can’t really listen to those songs right now, but I can’t knock them either. They’re some of the best songs ever.’

“Bob Marley’s ‘Stir It Up’ is one of my father’s favorite songs,” Taylor added. “Sometimes he says it’s his favorite song. Which is so weird, because all of the other songs that he would say were in contention for his favorite song would be hideously brainiac affairs.”

Taylor hears his father’s voice in his own voice, mostly in tonal similarities.

“But the way that we phrase things is remarkably different,” he said. “He and I went on a father-son tour, singing each other’s songs. I couldn’t figure out how to sing my songs the way that he sang them. He sings a beat-and-a-half earlier than I do.”

Taylor’s spring tour includes a Tuesday night show at The Parish at House of Blues. He hasn’t performed in New Orleans since before Hurricane Katrina.

“Oh, man,” he said. “Is anybody ever not looking forward to going to New Orleans? It’s really an oasis of magnificence in the middle of an already colorful, wonderful part of the world.

“I remember the first time I went there, I was walking down the street and checking out a cathedral, reading a sign on the outside, and I heard horns. It was the Rebirth Brass Band playing on the street. It was just one of those moments.”