Musician Ben Taylor aims to bring folk rock to Madison in August in a way that feels both impromptu and just right. With only Taylor’s voice and guitar, the musician’s Aug. 17 show at The Frequency is set to be personal and honest.
“I’m shooting for some sort of hybrid between Cat Stevens and Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s approach to music is unrefined and laid-back. As a child of award-winning musicians James Taylor and Carly Simon, it’s easy to see why Taylor is so comfortable with writing and performing music: It’s in his genes. From an early age, his parents encouraged him to pay close attention to music.
“When I was bringing music home from school my folks would stop it and be like, ‘OK, I want you to listen to this song and tell me what it is you like about it.’ And my mom would make me listen to it again and pause it when I heard what it is I liked about it,” said Taylor. “Because they were so interested in music I was thinking about it pretty deeply very early on.”
However, Taylor dropped out of high school and traveled the world before beginning his music career.
“I got started actually making music very late in life. If you’re the son of two radically special examples, then a lot of times you get opportunities that you’re not ready for,” Taylor said.
Now at age 36, Taylor is finally ready to carve out his own musical identity.
“I’m attempting to make music that’s authentic to me and to whatever degree it sounds like my parents or is influenced by them I think is good thing,” he said.
While Taylor’s approach may seem nonchalant, he is keenly focused on his music. Currently on break between tours, Taylor spends his days playing bocce ball with his friends and family at his home in Martha’s Vineyard.
But when he gets a moment alone, his mind is back on the music.
“If I wake up in the middle of the night and have an hour to myself, I usually go and make some music one way or another,” Taylor said.
Making music is a long process for Taylor. Just last year, he released his fourth full-length studio album, Listening, after four years of work.
“I kept on looking at it over and over and over again,” he said. “That’s the problem with being the master of your own destiny.”
The album is a blend of folk and blues rock with hints of country and gospel influences, tied together by Taylor’s soulful voice.
As a whole, Taylor’s most recent album is sonically diverse and experiments with more varying styles than on his usual fare.
“When I look back on it, it’s more like a journal than a piece of music,” Taylor said. “Listening is just really a pile of stories, basically. It’s a narration of two years of my life.”
The album is meant to reflect the passage of time and the speed of change. Taylor said he’d call the record an “update” of him, using many of the same basic elements to create “a new suit.”
This August, fans in Madison can expect Taylor to voice his updated stories as well as his old ones, if that is what they are hoping to hear.
“I don’t even know what to expect from it,” Taylor said. “I never figure out what I’m going to play before I get on stage. I adapt very well to different groups of people and different environments, so I imagine I’m going to play exactly what they need to hear.”