Ben Taylor is a singer songwriter who really knows a good parking lot when he sees one. He’s highly trained in martial arts, plants quite the garden every year and doesn’t mind if there isn’t a Gap around. Taylor is currently on tour and took some time out from the road to chat with the IN.
IN: Where are you calling from today?
TAYLOR: A parking lot in Dallas. As far as parking lots go, this one isn’t so bad. I’m a nomad musician, so I’m always getting to see all these incredible places, that seem to be next to some parking lot, that’s connected to a Marriott, that’s also connected to a Starbucks. All the same places, across the country.
IN: I’ve heard you’re highly trained in martial arts. How’d you get into that?
TAYLOR: When I was about two and half, I had a 103 degree fever—I was a really sick baby. One of my kidneys wasn’t working and I was just staying sick, so they removed it before I was three. My earliest memories are of hospitals. I developed the idea that I needed to protect myself. The strength we make that is developed out of fear is never sustained for long. By the time I was attending school for martial arts, I really needed discipline. My Kung Fu is not so martial anymore. When you’re a teenager, testosterone makes you into this strange, tribal, primal version of yourself and so it was good to get that aggression out. My musical practice is my Kung Fu now.
IN: You didn’t start pursuing music until you were in your mid 20s. What brought that about?
TAYLOR: Well, I was 25 when I started. I always wanted to do it, but I was too smart. I had to wait and lose some brain cells. I could point a finger a few nights. When you get into your mid 20s, you don’t have that much time left to be really good at whatever it is you want to be good at. I was thinking, how many hours do I have, what would I give my time to other than music. I spent a lot of time near the Grand Canyon, working on some stone masonry, and I had been living in New Mexico. I was on a plane back to New Mexico when I wrote my first song. Sometimes it starts to feel like you’re weighing everything you write on a scale like a dead fish. Writing on napkins is good, because you can just blow your nose on it if it’s terrible.
IN: What was your first show like?
TAYLOR: It should have been in a dingy bar with about four people there. But it wasn’t. It was in Salt Lake City, Spike Lee was in the front row, it was a fucking tribute at the Olympics for that year. This is the plague of the celebrity brat—you’re given merits based on the talents of your parents. I feel like it happened yesterday, yet I can barely explain it. I was 1,000 feet above myself, and my eyes turned into my parents, and every song felt like it took an hour to get through. I kept thinking to myself, how could I have written a song this long? It was the hardest thing I’d ever done and I either never wanted to do it again, or wanted to do it all the time.
IN: You are the child of two very famous musicians. What was that like for you growing up?
TAYLOR: At some point, I noticed at school that other people didn’t have parents who had sold out concerts full of fans. They were always very careful to never push their unrealistic example of success on me. Celebrities are like teenagers in a way. They need discipline sometimes.
IN: You live in Martha’s Vineyard. Tell me about your life there.
TAYLOR: There are no corporate places at all. Everything is mom and pop. No Starbucks. No Gap. Don’t stop by if you’re looking for the Gap. My house is nice. There’s a good garden, a good porch, a good bookshelf. I’ve been growing a lot of stuff in the garden. Anything that will sustain itself in the northeast. So no citrus or avocados. But lots of kale,
IN: You’re on tour for the next month. What’s next for you after that?
TAYLOR: I’ve got an album that I want to record. I’m gonna go to Boulder, CO and record it there. I go there any chance I get.
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, April 3
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox