hip Taylor has had his fair share of fascinating jobs over the years from golfing with the pros on the greens to earning a ton of green stuff (the treasury-issued paper kind that is) as professional gambler.
He's also enjoyed great success as a songwriter, with credits ranging from penning that classic garage rocker, "Wild Thing," to writing the gentler pop hit "Angel of the Morning," not to mention the many country hits he created for Nashville back in the Sixties.
But these days, Taylor is one half of a musical duo with fiddler/singer Carrie Rodriguez. This act has just released its third CD together, "Red Dog Tracks," and Taylor credits the chill factor, if you will, for its artistic success.
"When I was a young kid, I was very...even though I was from Yonkers, N.Y....I was a country music fanatic," Taylor explains. "I had a country band when I was a kid. I had a lot of favorite artists, but I would say that the majority of stuff that I liked was harmony singing. Like The Louvin Brothers, and the Brown Family and the Everlys. And with the race records down South, it was The Moonglows and The Moonlighters and The Mills Brothers and all those kinds of things."
"I loved harmony stuff. So after being back for seven years or so (performing music again) on my own, I hired Carrie (daughter of Texas rootsy singer David Rodriguez) as a fiddle player. I asked her if she sang, and she said she didn't, but she'd try to sing harmony if I needed her to. So I put a microphone in front of her when we went to Holland to play some shows. And all of a sudden, when I heard her voice hitting my voice with some harmonies - she'd try it a little at a time - I got a chill every time I would hear her sing with me."
"I hear a lot of duets that just don't give me chills these days. But when Carrie's voice hit mine I just got that physical feeling, those chills. I hadn't heard that in a long time. I guess the last time I heard that was Kimmie Rhodes with 'West Texas Heaven,' when she did duets with Townes (Van Zandt) and Waylon and Willie. I got a chill when I heard that, but I hadn't gotten that chill in a long time. But when Carrie's voice hit mine, I just got it, so it was really kind of an easy thing (from then on) to do duets."
In addition to creating beautiful harmonies together, both Taylor and Rodriquez also try and make each and every live performance into something new and unexplored.
"And now that we're doing it, it's hard to give up," Taylor admits. "Because every night we perform, I know that I'm going to experience something unique. We don't do things the same way all the time. We kind of go with each other's emotions as to how to phrase and stuff. So it's always magic, the stuff that's going on every night. So that's what motivates me - the passion and the inspiration. That's because we don't do things by the book every night; we're searching for some kind of vibe together. So for the foreseeable future, I can't see us not working together."
Even with this compatible singing partnership, Taylor hasn't much changed the way writes songs.
"I don't ever write with anything in mind," he says. "I don't pick up the guitar and say, 'Oh, I want to write this kind of song or that kind of song. Or I want to write this idea or that idea.' I just pick up the guitar and let stream of consciousness things seep through. And usually, songs will have to do with something that's very close at hand."
"Because I'm with Carrie and because I love the way her voice sounds, the inspiration probably just erupts in that direction. It's not because I haven't written other songs during that period of time; but so many of them that I've written have just seemed right for Carrie and me."
Additionally, Taylor sees this musical relationship as a true team, rather than a situation where the presence of another artist merely compliments his own work.
"I don't say, 'Carrie, we're going to do this,' or 'we're going to do that.' We're now a partnership. If I play something for her, she'll say, 'Oh wow, I love that. Let's do that.' And it just sort of evolved that way."
This latest release features the eclectic, electric guitar work of jazz musician Bill Frisell, which, on the surface, seems like a rather odd collaboration choice for this popular Americana act.
"Carrie and I went to see a performance by Bill Frisell in New York," Taylor recalls. "She was influenced by an album she had gotten from a boyfriend that she had talked about called 'The Willies.' I got to love that album, so we went to see Bill and got to meet him. I've been around some vibe-y guitar players - the guy that tours with us on the road is John Platania, who was the guy that played with Van Morrison on 'Moondance' and 'Domino.' So John's a very vibe-y player. Bill's a very vibe-y player."
"But when I heard Bill's stuff on 'The Willies,' when he did 'Cold, Cold Heart' and 'Goodnight Irene' and stuff like that, there was a certain thing that just felt right. And Carrie was really excited about the thought of it, and I got every album that I could find by Bill. And I saw that this country thing had kind of taken over him since 1999. And it wasn't like when an outsider jazz guy all of a sudden does country songs. It was like the real deal, a true love in his heart that had him kind of having this beautifully sensitive feeling for this kind the music."