A CONVERSATION WITH LOUISE TAYLOR (continued)
PM: And with that first release in '92, you were already, to some degree, on your way, is that not right?
LT: Well, it helped. At that point I wasn't even playing very much anywhere. I had been doing some local stuff, but I hadn't really been touring at all. And it was after I released that record that I started to tour, mostly New England, a little bit nationally. And I realized, "Oh, people are going to be listening to this. I have to pay attention to what I'm writing--"
LT: "--and think about what I'm going to say." So it all kind of came, for me, in a very unconscious way. I was always interested in many kinds of art, and not a very disciplined person, more sort of wild and scattered. And through the course of having some success with that first record, then I kind of reined it in and tried a little harder.
PM: And it was a full four years before your long-standing relationship with Signature Sounds began in '96 with Ruby Shoes?
PM: And Ride, the following year. Why was it so long between the first and second CD? What was happening in your life then?
LT: Mostly I was struggling as a single parent.
PM: What year was Morgan born?
LT: Morgan was born in '83. So I was just trying to get him through school, and work, and survive, in the country, in a small town where an uneducated woman couldn't really make much of a living. So that was a lot of what was going on. I was writing all the time. But I was looking for some type of record deal, or whatever. And actually, I recorded the record about a year earlier than when it came out.
PM: I see.
LT: I recorded it in '95, and I shopped it around for quite a while looking for a label. And Signature had always wanted to sign me. They wanted me as their first artist. But they were a brand new label. They were just starting, and I was not convinced that they would be successful.
PM: They wanted you as their first artist?
PM: So whom did you know, and how? You knew Jim Olsen?
LT: I knew Jim Olsen from a radio station. He was the program director for WRSI. And the first thing I did for him, as a lot of local artists had done, were these Homegrown Holiday CDs to raise money for various good causes, like the Food Bank of Western MA. And he still puts those records out.
PM: And that's where WRSI was, Western Mass?
LT: Yeah. WRSI was in Greenfield, and it's now moved to Northampton. But I don't believe he's doing--he's not the program director anymore. He just does a show once a week. And he took a long hiatus from that, actually, to just do the record company. But it was through doing that Homegrown Holiday CD--I believe, at least--it gave him and Mark Thayer, the co-owner of the label, who had the studio, Signature Sounds Studio, the idea to make records. They enjoyed it so much, and I think they saw the potential there, and they saw that there were a lot of unsigned artists in that area.
PM: Yeah, God knows, they've become one of the most important of the small labels, and one of the most tasteful.
LT: Yeah, they've done very well.
PM: Now I see my friend Amy Rigby is coming out on Signature Sounds.
LT: Is she? I don't know Amy.
PM: Oh, she's great. Her new record is coming out, and it's a real foray into pop music for them.
PM: And I think as jazzy as Velvet Town is, there's also a lot of pop in Velvet Town.
PM: And very sophisticated and refined pop, for a woman who calls herself uneducated.
LT: [laughs] Uneducated in the regular way, that's for sure.
PM: Yeah, right. So Ride was a fantastic record, as was its successor, Written in Red, which was the first one of yours we covered. I remember we thought you'd found the trap door between Celtic music and the blues. Tell us something about your trips to Ireland at that time, around Written in Red, where you went and how you felt influenced.
LT: Well, I went to Ireland, I guess it was the year before I wrote Written in Red. I went there for a few tours--three tours. And I became interested in Irish music--well, I was already. In Ride there are hints of that sort of Appalachian feel, or the Celtic feel, just beginning.
I got really interested in traditional songwriting, and how a traditional song works. How a story is put across, the way a story unfolds, and the sort of mystique about it. And the beauty of a traditional song, for me, has a lot of do with the fact that the song has been handed down from generation to generation, and has become honed over time, so the finite details become that much more powerful. And impossible as it is to write a traditional song--you can't--I wanted to write something that had that type of story line in it and power in it.
LT: And so, after being in Ireland and listening more to traditional music, I was beginning to understand it better--because I think when I first started hearing it, it all sounded the same to me. Then I started to hear the intricacies of the melody lines, and how stories are born and play out.
And then I tried my hand at writing a few songs that sort of combined that and the blues, because I really heard the link between them. Actually, when I was on tour over there--I toured with Chris Smither and also did a few shows there with Kelly Joe Phelps, and I really heard in their playing that the Celtic style was just a note or two away from being very bluesy sounding. continue