Interview with Joe Taylor

Joe Taylor: Singer-Songwriter

Joe is a singer and songwriter, originally from Toronto, who now calls New York home.

“Soulful”, “Evocative” and “Awe-inspiring” are words that have been used by fans and music critics to describe the Joe Taylor live experience. Joe is able to connect with audiences through his unique artistry, combining stellar songwriting, soaring vocals and stripped down instrumentation. His 2011 album “Anything’s Possible,” captured the magic and vibrancy of his live performances.

Joe’s latest album “Follow The Trend” already has people buzzing especially on the radio charts.  His current singles “Don’t Change” and “I Can’t Make You Love” have both reached #1 on the Hot AC 40 National Radio Hits (NRH) Chart and Independent Music Network (IMN) Chart, and have reached #2 on the Hot AC 40 New Music Weekly (NMW) Chart.  (Taken from Joe Taylor’s website)

TSM: Thanks so much for doing an interview for the magazine. It’s great to have you here.

JT: My pleasure, thank you so much for having me.

TSM: How did you get your start in music?

JT: When I was in grade six, I was at a school called Pierre Court, and I actually auditioned for the play they were throwing, which was called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I ended up playing Joseph. I was famous in grade six for a whole fifteen minutes. That’s how I got started as far as first opportunities I ever had.

When I was very young, I was a big, big John Denver fan. I was about five years old when I was listening to his music, and that’s pretty much how it all began. There was an album he wrote, which was a very somber album called Seasons of the Heart. I just listened to that album over and over again. That would have been in the early 80’s, and started my entire career. I learned how to sing, how to harmonize, and even basic song structures from listening to that album.

TSM: You studied vocal jazz at college in Toronto, Canada. However, the genre of music you make is more rock/alternative/pop. What made you choose jazz back then?

JT: Well, I love Jazz. I’m multiple styles, btw. I just put out a country song. I can do country, pop, rock, jazz, classical, and I play classical piano. I like to do all the styles. The reason why I went to school for jazz is because Jazz really teaches you to master what you’re doing. So, if you take a pop song, a pop song is kind of like taking three or four ideas and putting them together. When you’re doing a jazz song, you’re taking twenty ideas together, so it’s more complex. It’s like if you’re going to be an English major, you would want to make sure your vocabulary was as extensive as possible. So, jazz made my musical jobs more extensive than just regular pop music would. Classical, I believe, is even more. It’s like 100 ideas merged into one piece. So, it becomes even more complex, and that’s why you never have chords, btw in classical. You do in jazz music, but you will not in classical. Jazz was the perfect medium for me to really work my jobs.

TSM: What is your creative process like?

JT: I would say getting out of the way is my biggest process for creativity. Basically, removing myself from the equation, removing my ego, and just allowing the Universe to do it’s thing. It speaks to me when I get out of the way. That’s the most creative thing that I think somebody can do.

TSM: What’s your process for writing lyrics? And where do you get the inspiration for your songs?

JT: I’m inspired by everything. If I look out the window, if I go for a walk, I’m inspired by other peoples stories; they might not even be my story, maybe it’s somebody else’s. I’m inspired by so many things.

As far as writing lyrics, I let the Universe do it’s thing. I do collaborate with a great writer friend of mine, Jane Getz. She helps me out on a lot of the lyrics, and is a very, excellent jazz pianist as well. I collaborate with a few people.

When it comes to lyrics, musically it just all flows out of me. Now once the idea is down, this is where people I think get it a little backwards. They try so hard to come up with an idea. Just allow the idea to come out of you, to flow, and just go with it without being afraid to make mistakes. You can later come back to that idea and develop it. People are trying to do it all at once, it doesn’t work that way. Let it come out the way it needs to come out. Then you also need to have time like a fine wine, to allow it to marinate, open that bottle if it’s a red wine, and let it sit for awhile. That’s the same way it is with songs. You can’t be in a rush with them. When they’re ready to come, they will come. Some of them come very quickly, some of them don’t at all. It just flows out of you or it doesn’t. When you try to take an idea and overwork it, it doesn’t work. When you put that idea down, once that process happens, then you can start to use your faculties to fine tune it.

Art and photo by Wandering Gypsy Music & Media

TSM: Tell us about your latest album Follow the Trend and inspiration behind the title.

JT: The process behind Follow the Trend…the title of the album is this, it’s the trend, It’s like everybody is all about the trend. If the media said, “you guys need to jump out of your balcony and wear underwear on your head,” than people would be doing it. So, it’s like are you following the trend, or are you making your own trend. I would prefer to make my own trend. I’m not saying I’m not influenced by other trends, absolutely. Sometimes the trend is just so ridiculous, so there is a little bit of word play there.I’m being a little sarcastic, but I’m being genuine. The final lyric, “Are you real, or a pretender?” That’s the final lyric in the callback. Are you like a genuine person, or are you just all about the trend? The purpose of this song is to question things a little more and don’t believe all the hype. We have this idea about the way the world is, and it’s really not that way. It’s not what people think it is, they have this idea of what fame is, but it’s not what you think it is. It’s almost not real. It’s created for the public consumption, but when you really get into it, the life of people is not all what it’s choked up to be. That’s part of follow the trend, and that was kind of the premise of that whole title track and the album.

Then we threw some other songs in there, like there’s a lot of different love songs. If you go through the whole album, I have different styles. In “Follow the Trend,” song itself, I have multiple styles in that song, through the eras, it’s like it’s the trend. I’m musically changing the whole song, so it starts off as almost like a Beegees kind of dance electronic, then it goes into a pop song, it’s everything. Just taking all these styles and assimilating them all into one piece. I did that to a lot of the music. I assimilated multiple styles into my songs, and so that was the theme, follow the trend. It’s like what’s relevant now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s relevant later, but when you have a great song, it’s timeless and that’s the goal. Don’t worry so much about the trend, write something that feels good. My music teacher’s advice to me and what he’s been teaching me is to sing with the truth. When you sing with the truth, you don’t have to sell it, it just speaks.

TSM: Why were you dubbed Subway Idol by the New York Times?

JT: I was dubbed Subway Idol because when I went to audition, I was going to do this thing called “Music Under New York.” I saw these artists, they perform in the subways, and they can make pretty good money doing it. So, I wanted to do it, but if you don’t have a permit or audition for MUNY, you can’t be amplified. The audition was coming, and I got this email from somebody claiming to be with The New York Times, and I’m like, “Why did they pick me?” They said, “You’re auditioning tomorrow,” and responded with yes. They asked, “Do you mind if we come with you?” I responded with okay and told them I was leaving at about 11:00. They ended up meeting me outside my apartment; at the time I was living in the city on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. So, I went down, jumped in a cab, he’s filming me, we had breakfast, and then we went down to Grand Central to do the interview. They’re filming everything and I’m signing up. Anyway, it was a great audition and later that evening I was basically dubbed the Subway Idol. It was a big thing, as it was on the front page of The New York Times. It was pretty good, so I was happy about that. Great publicity. That’s how it happened, and then the name just kind of stuck.

I got in, as I was accepted and they did another segment. Two weeks later, they showed up when I was picked as one of the people. I think they probably have about two or three thousand people that audition every year, and I think they pick like five. So, it was a big deal to get picked for that, and that’s how I made my living for about five or six years. It was quite an experience and chapter in my life.

The turning point is when I realized that I was done being in the subway. The final song I sang was a Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believin.” The main producer for the Broadway play, Rock of Ages hears this and sees me doing this song, so I got a call later that day inviting me for an audition. I never ended up getting the Broadway job, but I still went in and auditioned. It was great and did a great job, but that was the end of my subway career. I had just had it, it was great and made money for many years, but I was done.

TSM: What was it like opening up for Rick Springfield?

JT: It was pretty cool and amazing. I’ve known Rick for many years, and I’ve worked with his team for a long time. You’re playing, all of a sudden, in front of 1000 to 2000 people, and it’s basically the same if you’re playing in front of 100 or 20 people. It’s just more people, and stage is bigger, You perform better as well because when you’re on a much better system and get into bigger theaters, you’re playing on premium systems. So, if you can pull it off on your own in a small venue and sound great, when you get on a big stage, you’re going to be awesome. It was a great experience. I’m very grateful to Rick, my former producer Matty Spindel and Jeff Gross for putting it together. I’m so glad I was able to work with those guys for many years.

TSM: How did your single “Sweetest Tune” end up on NBC’s daytime drama, Days of Our Lives?

JT: My co-writing partner, Hilary Bernstein and I wrote the song many years ago back in 2007. We loved the song, and it was the first song we cut. We just pitched it to NBC, and they agreed to put it on the show. That’s how that happened, it was great publicity.

TSM: Tell us about your upcoming album releases, Heartfelt Graffiti and Closer to the Dream.

JT: Heartfelt Graffiti is a project that I’ve been working on for twenty years. The project is called “Taylor Ross.” I work with my first engineer/Co-Producer, Jeff Ross. He’s based out of Canada, and so we’ve been working on this for twenty years. We’re finally just about ready to release it. It’s very exciting, and a Taylor Ross thing. I just actually recently been touching up some of the strings and arrangements, I arrange as well. So, we’re just in the final stages, and now figuring out how to release this, and the process. The next step will probably be to master it, and we’ll go to L.A. for that.

As far as the title meaning, when you’re young, and I was very young when I started working on this, and Ross was pretty young too at that point. He’s a little older than I am, but more experienced. So, the idea about Heartfelt Graffiti, when you’re young you tend to take things more personally, generally. You’re not as wise to the world, you can be angry and edgy. You’re working against things as you get older. If you’re intelligent you tend to learn to let the Universe work for you. When you’re younger you fight everything, the Universe, and it’s like it’s not working. Well, you’re fighting gravity, so of course it’s not going to work. If you have a little bit of a triumphant moment, if you do have some success, “Oh I fought for it, it’s a big thing.” You’re fighting the current, so there’s sort of the idea that you’re heartfelt. You’re feeling the heart and the pain of growing pains of being younger, life, and wearing your heart on your sleeve. Learning these lessons in life is why it’s called Heartfelt Graffiti because it’s all heartfelt. Whatever it is, to finding your own way, it’s heartfelt and you pay a price. That’s why it’s the graffiti because it’s almost like a paining. It’s like your heart has been hit.

Closer to the Dream is my next solo album, we already started working on the first three tracks. So, we’re now going to cut the next three once the Corona Virus kind of goes away. We’ll go in and start working on that. It might not even be until 2021, but we’ll get there and it will happen. We’re building that album, so that’s my next solo album.

The premise about Closer to the Dream is you’re striving, you’re actually getting closer, you’ve had this dream, and now this reality is you’re getting closer to this reality. You’re now living this reality, you’re now in this dream, you looked around years ago, and you were nowhere near this dream, and now you’re in this dream.

TSM: What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?

JT: I don’t think I would be here, music saved my life. I wouldn’t be here, it’s like it’s not even an option. So, I don’t know what I’d be doing.

TSM: Who are your major music influences?

JT: I’m a big Beatles fan, I love them. I love Elton John, Billy Joel, Jeff Flynn from ELO; he’s so good and talented, and Jim Croce. More current bands that I like, they’re not even that current anymore as they’ve been around for fifteen years now. I love One Republic, they’re great. Ryan Tedder is one of the greatest songwriters; probably one of the most underrated as well, but he is one of the greatest songwriters of modern history. He really has the tunes, the voice, dances, production chops and plays his instruments. He does it all and is fabulous. So, he would be one of my most current influences. I love some rock music as well; I dog Aerosmith and I was into Guns N’ Roses back in the day. I love all the music. I’m a huge McCartney fan. I’m into classical music – Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. So many different influences in music.

Technically, all the music you listen to today all comes from Bach. He was the one that really showed the world, “hey, look at what we have here, we can do these things.” So, he is probably my favourite artist of all time.

TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?

JT: I think I’m already doing it. My power is to make music and to make people happy because I like to make people happy, and I like for people to believe in themselves. I’m not really looking to write songs that tear people down, but I want to build them up. I think too much music tears people down, makes them angry. I want people to feel good and resonate well. That’s my goal.

TSM: What is one of your favourite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?

JT: “Life is what happens to you, while you’re busy making other plans.” That’s my favourite quote right there. John Lennon had it right on that one.

TSM: Anything else you’d like to share?

JT: Well, I think for the most part I’ve gotten it. We’re moving into some very interesting times, and I just think it’s more important now that people just know that we’re going to be okay. There’s a lot of fear going around, a lot of people being made to feel afraid, and just know that it’s going to be okay. It’s all going to work out, the Universe has got this. So, that’s pretty much all that I want to say to my fans, friends and family, and everybody out there. Just that we’re going to be okay, Just breathe, This whole doom and gloom thing, just take it with a grain of salt and go outside, take a walk, shut off the TV, and just enjoy yourself. Go be with your family and friends, and just enjoy life. Enjoy being alive because it’s a gift. It’s such a gift to be here. I believe at some point maybe we’ll move on to the next life, maybe we don’t, maybe we don’t, maybe this is it, or maybe there’s more. I don’t know, but just try to do the right thing if you can. If there is any guilt, as I think a lot of people are feeling guilt that I should have done this or that, but try to do better and do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up. Just let it go, go out, live your life and try to love each other.

TSM: Thank you so much again for doing the interview.

JT: It was such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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