Taylor, Rodriguez cover their tracks – July 2005
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Taylor, Rodriguez cover their tracks  Print

By Dan MacIntosh, July 2005

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Taylor likens Frisell's overt love of country music to another modern pop-jazz singer's recent dip into country sounds.

"It's almost like people would say, 'Well there's a jazz singer named Norah Jones, and she's going to do some country songs.' Well yeah, okay. But Norah's heart is there, and she's one that can do it because she lives it and believes it - somehow. Bill was like that. Bill is really so true to that stuff."

Although Taylor and Rodriguez were both convinced of Frisell's true believer-hood, such faith was no guarantee that he would also work with them.

"We didn't know if he would do it or not," Taylor recalls. "We sent our albums out to his manager, and his manager said, 'Oh, I don't think he'll have time.' We sent these two albums, and in the next few days, the call was back that he really wanted to record with us. From then on, it was just a whirlwind thing of making the plans. We were all excited about doing it. And he's such a damned nice guy! He's the gentlest soul you've ever met. We met with him in my apartment in New York, and he was so into it. There was a lot of passion floating around."

When Taylor speaks over the phone line, he does so with plenty of passion and enthusiasm. You'd never guess that such a seemingly chipper guy could ever write the kind of dark songs that fill up "Red Dog Tracks," though. This is because there's a whole lot of cheating and a bunch of hard drinking being done by these various album characters. So is Taylor, the man, any different from Taylor, the songwriter?

"If you get me at different times, you might hear different things from me," he admits. "Here's what it is: I don't edit my emotions when I write. And maybe I should, and maybe I shouldn't. I don't know. But when the emotion comes out, and I'm getting a chill, I don't say, 'Yeah, but I can't talk about this, or I can't talk about that.' The passion overrides everything else. And I just let it come out."

Whenever Taylor lets his passion take the wheel, even he's sometimes surprised by where it leads him. This spirit may, for instance, draw out songs that differ greatly from his usual writing style.

"There happens to be a couple of story songs on the album, and I never write story songs," Taylor says. "I don't know why they came out."

There are also numerous girls in trouble running through these songs. "They'll be in trouble if they hang around me," Taylor laughs.

Taylor's history as a golfer and a gambler may seem out of place, especially when viewed alongside his various musical accomplishments. But each of these endeavors point back to the dedication he puts into everything he masters. Accomplishments become like drugs.

"Everything I've ever done, I've done it with an addictive personality," he explains. "I certainly was addicted to gambling, even though I was very good at it. I get addicted to almost anything I do. When I get involved with anyone (romantically), that becomes an addiction too. I don't do things on the periphery; I tend to dive in. I'm glad I haven't been able to get rid of this (songwriting) addiction. I love the gambling stuff. It was wonderful years I had with that. But playing for people and having the spirit of the music take over me when I'm creating it - this is the best part of my life that ever was."

When you stop and think about it, Taylor has taken a long and winding road to finally arrive at his current artistic destination.

"It was like all my dreams as a high school kid," he elaborates. "I kind of had to hibernate to survive the business and become a songwriter for other people. Now it's like this is the best time. I'm kind of focused on one thing, and I have a total passion for it."

It may be hard to reconcile the music Taylor makes today with a rocking little tune like "Wild Thing." But he's obviously evolved from being a wild thing to becoming more of a vibe-y thing, instead. His enthusiastic anticipation of the future is simply contagious. He may have lived more lives than your average cat, but Chip Taylor is clearly focused on what's to come, rather than what's already happened.

"If they come to my show, sure I'll sing 'Wild Thing' and love it," he says. "And I'll duet with Carrie. But the thing that is keeping me going is not the past, ever. And it never was for me. It was never the past. It was always tomorrow. What is going to happen tomorrow? I know some wonderful things are going to happen tomorrow. I don't know what they'll be."

"But if I throw myself out there with Carrie, something beautiful is going to happen. I hope the people enjoy it, too. But I know something's going to happen with me on that stage when we're out there that's just going to vibrate through my whole being. And it's going to make me feel so great. And I know Carrie feels a similar kind of thing."

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