A CONVERSATION WITH LOUISE TAYLOR
[Louise was at Annie Gallup's place in Michigan. Annie and I shot the breeze for a minute, she said that she and Louise were listening to Kelly Joe Phelps.]
Louise Taylor: Hello.
Puremusic: Hello, Louise.
LT: How are you doing?
PM: I'm fine. It's nice to speak with you. Sorry to interrupt your listening, there.
LT: No problem.
PM: So we'll just get right down to business.
PM: Although you and I are friendly, I don't really know much about your past. And so if you don't mind, I'd just like to spend a few minutes there. As far as I can tell, the gypsy fever had you kind of young.
LT: [laughs] Yeah, when I was like 12, I ran away for the first time. And I was just searching for something, I don't know what. When I was 15, I started hitchhiking around the country, and hitchhiked around for six years. I wound up in a lot of different places, mostly seeking out the sun and a free lifestyle.
PM: So do you mean when other people were going to school, you didn't do that, or you did get around to doing that?
LT: No, I really didn't do that. I did eventually go back and get my GED, in case I ever wanted to go to college, when I was like 26. But I really never learned very well from school. I was very energetic and wild, so I just took off.
PM: Wow. I sure love that. When you say you headed where the sun was shining, did you get south of the border?
LT: Not much south of the border. I didn't really dip into Mexico that much. I lived near the border, and the Gulf of Mexico, and down in Padre Island and Texas. I lived in Florida, the Keys, and an island actually past Key West called Christmas Tree Island.
LT: And I played street music at Sunset Pier in Key West, as well as in various places around New England.
PM: So you were busking at a very early age.
LT: Very early. I knew like five songs that I wrote. [laughs]
PM: Wow. And would you play covers around them, or just play these five songs?
LT: Not much. I didn't really know too many songs. There were probably a few songs that I knew, but I'd just sort of repeat mine, and jammed with people. And I was also a dancer. I did a lot of street dancing for drummers down in the Keys.
PM: How would you describe your dancing?
LT: Lightly clad.
PM: Atta girl.
LT: Well, I didn't do bar dancing or anything like that.
PM: Not exotic, exotique.
PM: Wow. Yeah, so my question about gypsy fever hitting you kind of young, I see now that it was a bit of an understatement.
LT: Yeah. I used no money for a long time. I mean, very little money. I panhandled and lived on nothing for many, many, many years. And that was a whole way of life that had actually been taught to me by someone who really was a street person, who really knew how to get around without money, was very good at it.
PM: Who was that person?
LT: His name was Frank, actually.
PM: Oh, I see.
LT: And he was an interesting guy. He still lives in Vermont, near me. He was much older than me.
PM: Are you still friends?
LT: I see him every once in a while. He still looks the same. He was a street musician. He played sax and clarinet really well. He had been a Marine, and had sort of this wild life, manic depressive. And so he had a side that could go way too far, or he could just be fun and interesting. I kind of forget all about that whole part of my life. At this point especially, it seems so far gone for me and doesn't happen to play into who I am much, but I guess it's just there still.
PM: Oh, it's got to be. I mean, it certainly seems to have laid the foundation, for instance, for the freedom that you express as an artist in all your records, in a format that's, to my way of thinking, not particularly inventive. You know, the singer songwriter domain and the radio formats that accompany it are not famous for pushing too hard on the envelope. So I think it shows up there in good measure and to great result. So your only self released CD was in '92, Looking for Rivers.
LT: Yeah, Looking for Rivers was the first. And it was actually recorded after work, at night--you know, driving to a studio about an hour and a half away, and gathering up $75 or whatever I could come up with to sit down and play. And over the course of a year, I would get a take or two here and there that seemed good enough, and I would put them on a CD. A friend of mine, Jack McKay, really believed in me and really thought I should make a record. So we just did it blindly.
PM: What a hard way to make a record, over that much time, and in those increments.
Yeah. I think a lot of people do that with their first project, they sort
of don't know what they're doing. But I had no money. I was a single parent,
and I was working full time just to get by. So that was how I went about
it--and thinking that no one would ever hear it, even. And it wound up
getting reviews, and I started to get letters and emails from people around