Ben Taylor on music, education, family
It's good to be home. Songwriter and musician Ben Taylor just got back from having lunch with friends at the Art Cliff Diner. "I'm really looking forward to spending the rest of the summer here - swimming a lot," he says. "Yesterday I got to the beach for the first time."
But it's not all beach days and late lunches. Mr. Taylor gives at least one Vineyard concert a summer, most often linked to a local cause. On Tuesday, August 11, he will perform a benefit concert at the recently remodeled Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs for Plum Hill Preschool, a Waldorf-style program located in West Tisbury.
"To do a concert for the community, for a particular niche and get a little bit of that local strength and support - it feels a lot better both for me and for the people doing it," he says. "Plus, the Strand is a really cool place to have a concert. It's something I've thought about ever since I saw Batman there for the first time."
While he's looking forward a month-long exhale, relaxation is an ephemeral thing. He's currently juggling several collaborative and solo projects, and in October and November, he tours Europe.
One album he's working on contains acoustic folkrenditions of classic R&B songs. His other solo project is a double album of original material. "It's the same group of 12 songs recorded in two different fashions," Mr. Taylor explains. "One completely electric with D.J. stuff and crazy samples and beats, and the other one is just me on guitar."
He explains the concept: "I write songs with just me and the guitar or the vocals by themselves. It's tempting to want to put beats under them or horn sections or anything else. But there is a purity to them just by themselves. If a song is good enough to put on an album, it should stand on its own without any sort of additional production. So sometimes it's just nice for people to hear that."
Mr. Taylor becomes reflective when discussing the impact of having James Taylor and Carly Simon as parents: "It would take a fool a little bit more insolent than I am, to want to complain about it at all. So much of it has been so good. I guess there are pros and cons to everything. I don't know what it would have been like to have had it any other way. But my parents, for me anyway, before they're musicians, they're just human beings."
When Mr. Taylor was 10 years old, he attended the Rudolph Steiner School in Manhattan, the first Waldorf School in North America. He admits that, at the time, he didn't appreciate the school's approach to education.
"I think at some point every human being develops a real thirst for knowledge, and a lot of times it doesn't happen for us until we're done with school," he says. "Now I really appreciate the knowledge I gained there. Waldorf schools emphasize that kids have a connection to their environment and plants and animals and things. It's subtle, important stuff that a lot of education systems are missing out on."
And when the subject turns to his personal and artistic evolution, he again sounds thoughtful: "It's just me getting a little bit older and stranger. I guess it's just that as eccentric people become comfortable in their own skin, it comes out in eccentric ways."
Ben Taylor in benefit concert, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 6 pm, Strand Theatre, Oak Bluffs. Doors open 5:30 pm. Benefits Plum Hill Preschool and Island Waldorf Community, Inc. $25; ages 12 and under, $10; including after party at Che's Lounge, $100. 508-627-5900.