Ben Taylor to play sold-out show with dad JamesWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Ben Taylor decided to go into the family business, he knew expectations would be great.
He’s the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon.
And the tall, slender singer-songwriter-guitarist not only resembles his father, he sounds like him, too.
“I imagine there are probably obvious pros and cons about it,” Taylor said of having superstar parents. “It doesn’t do me much good to dwell on the hard stuff. It’s definitely opened up opportunities for me that wouldn’t have been there any other way.”
Taking the stage with his dad is one such chance.
“[My dad’s] an immaculate professional, as a performer and as a musician, period. So I wanted to make sure that if I was going to bug him to let me come out and introduce me to his fans and such, I wasn’t going to be terrified and green,” Taylor said. “We both figured it would happen organically if it was ever going to happen, and this is when it happened.”
The Taylors will play a sold-out show at 8 p.m. April 2 at Stranahan Theater.
“It’s a fully integrated set. We’re both going to be onstage all night, playing and singing on all my songs. I’ll sing on all his, and in some cases we even perform each other’s songs,” Taylor said during a call from Tulsa, Okla., where he and his father were rehearsing for the tour last month.
The 34-year-old shared how his dad prepared him for the music business.
“He said music is a blue-collar job; don’t get into this game thinking that it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, hard work, and it’s going to require plenty of steadfast dedication to be able to make it,” Taylor said.
And what advice did he receive from his mom?
“She wrote me a book, like a songwriting instructional manual,” Taylor said and laughed. “She said it’s just like poker: Jacks are better to open; don’t start with a boring line.”
Not only is music in his DNA, Taylor’s environment was filled with it growing up.
“My parents’ music was always around being performed live, and we’d hear the stuff that was in the works. But also my parents both have very good taste in music,” he said. “My dad turned me on to Steely Dan and a lot of Frank Loesser show tunes, you know. We’d drive from New York to Connecticut and listen to ‘Guys and Dolls’ in the car and Cole Porter and Gershwin.
“My mother’s a big Gershwin fanatic, too, and Rodgers & Hammerstein and all those classic sort of old jazz standard songs. And also my mom turned me on to The Beatles and The Stones, and my dad turned me on to Howard Tate and Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. So I love Motown; both my folks love Motown — Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Bill Withers.”
When he was a teen, he heard hip-hop
“When I was 14, that’s when The Roots came out with their first album, ‘Do You Want More?!!!??!’ And that completely blew my mind,” Taylor recalled. “Here’s these guys doing live hip-hop music, live drums and being so intelligent and so poetically inventive, so that sort of opened my eyes to what was going on in the urban music world.”
His forthcoming disc, “Listening,” features guest rappers.
“I’ve got John Forté on there a couple times, King James rapping with me, Jon Dolan on one track,” he said. “I collaborate with hip-hop musicians to whatever extent I can without feeling as though I’m being disingenuous. Obviously that’s not in my background, and I would have a hard time making a hip-hop album and being authentic about it.”
Taylor’s 2003 debut, “Famous Among the Barns,” featured folk and funk. On “Another Run Around the Sun” from 2005, he sounded a lot like his father with reflective, acoustic songs. And he mixed it together for “The Legend of Kung Folk: Part One (The Killing Bite)” in 2008.
“We’re living in a time now where 90 percent of the songs that you hear on the radio only have three or four chords in them. So I kind of go back and forth between these influences of early Rodgers & Hammerstein, really sophisticated music, and Wu-Tang Clan, which basically just plays the same two chords on a loop for an hour,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for both. There’s a lot to be said from not distracting from the lyrics with too much musicality, and there’s also a lot to be said for not distracting from the music with too much cognitive dissonance.”