Luck be a Lady Tonight
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Luck be a Lady Tonight
City Paper: Lady Luck was just released this week. A few of the songs on the album also appeared on your Savannah Drive EP. For you, what are the major differences between the EP and album versions of the songs?
Maria Taylor: Well there's only two that appear on both and basically I just was antsy and just wanted to put something out because I had to wait four months for the label to get prepared to put out Lady Luck so I don't know I just wanted to go on tour and I wanted to just show also the difference in how a song can just completely change according to how its recorded and so the EP was completely stripped down we only used our guitars and voices and that's it and so it kind of more shows how the song was actually written what it sounded like as I was sitting on my bed writing the song versus being in the studio with strings and a full band and its interesting to me to hear the difference and I thought other people might think so too.
CP: With Lady Luck, how'd the writing process/studio production differ from your early recordings?
MT: As far as writing I've pretty much written the same since I've started writing songs. I just kind of sit down if I have something on my mind I'll sit down in a place where I'm really comfortable which is usually in my bedroom on my bed with my guitar and I just sit there and write. But as far as production on Lynn Teeter Flower I had been touring with a rock band and I wanted it to sound a little more like we sounded live. We didn't really add that many over dubs and pretty much we just played everything live in the studio. For this one I just wanted to make it more lush and elaborate more production wise more so I had my friend Nate arrange string parts and woodwinds. I used the same people pretty much like Mike Mogis and Andrew LeMaster I always work with so lots of it felt the same but I feel like I've changed as a human being and whatever changes in my life I think that's the change that you'll hear in the music.
CP: How do you choose the order of songs on your album? Is it random or does it follow some sort of narrative progression that it follows?
MT: It's not random but there's not a narrative either. I like to get lots of my friends opinions when it comes to that for sure because I kind of feel like I'm too involved in the middle and I can't listen to it effectively. But I feel like a lot of it has to do with the flow. I really do get a lot of outside input when it comes to that because I'm just like 'I don't know,' I mean I can usually always tell what should be first and last but I'll just sit there and listen to it and there will be a little lull or there's something and I feel like when you figure it out it can make a huge difference in the overall effect of the record.
CP: Being your third solo album, how has your strength as a singer-songwriter has increased since your first solo release?
MT: It's hard for me to say. I hope my songs have gotten better. I mean I feel like I've been doing it now forever. ' For a living I've been doing this for 15 years. I have no idea. I feel like as a singer I can feel my voice getting stronger. I feel like I can do more things with my voice that I couldn't do and I'm more confident to try more things with voice. And I think I'm a better musician because I've been playing everyday for so many years.
CP: You were with azure ray for awhile do you feel like you have more freedom creatively being a solo artist versus as when you were in a duo? How are the dynamics different when it comes to working solo or with another person?
MT: With Azure Ray we always wrote separately we never wrote together so the only difference is that now I write ten songs versus five songs. I've never been in a band where I had to compromise anything. Orenda and I just saw eye to eye pretty much always. If I liked something she would like it and if she liked something I would like it. We just had really similar tastes and had such respect for each other we just trusted each other even if we were a little uncertain. And working with a band now, I work with different people all the time so I pretty much feel like it's a band when we're on tour with each other for a month so I usually switch it up every single tour. And on the record I switch it up on every single song. I have the creative freedom to do whatever I want on any song.
CP: A lot of artists don't have that. Its cool that you switch it up. I'm sure it keeps it fresh for the listener and also for you playing stuff over and over again.
MT: Definitely. Like last night we were practicing, we're about to leave tomorrow for tour and we were playing a 'Song Beneath A Song' and I was like, 'We gotta do this different.' And it still makes it easier because there's different people and everyone is going to add their own little personality. But with that song you can't really do much with it. It's three chords and you just play the same thing. So I was just like, 'Please, you guys just play whatever you want, just make it sound different.' And they were like, 'How about like this?' And it was like '70s disco and I was just like, 'Perfect, perfect, do it different.'
CP: It seems like every time you go on tour something unlucky happens along the way. Do you think you'll be any luckier this time around?
MT: Oh God, don't bring that up. I don't know. I'm going to knock on wood. I don't know, I think there's a balance in life and I feel like I'll just take the good and I'll take the bad. So when bad shit happens like I just look at it as something really good is around the corner so bring it on, I can take it
CP: That's a good way to look at it.
MT: There's usually something every single tour like whether we break down or our shit gets stolen. Our shit got stolen several times. I feel like now I'm getting tougher and tougher.
CP: It definitely attests to your resilience. To be on tour and have that stuff happen and still play a show and go on, it's pretty inspirational.
MT: Oh thanks. Well, I don't know, there's not much else you can do cause there's no home to stay in. I mean I do that at home plenty when I'm having a bad day. I'm just like, 'I'm locking myself in, I'm not talking to anyone, I don't want to see anyone.' Cause the worse thing is I don't like to make other people suffer when I'm in a bad mood, I don't want to bring anyone else down so I try to avoid contact with people when I'm having a shitty day but on tour you can't do that. I'm just trying to learn to bite my tongue, swallow it all down and be happy we're all alive.
CP: A lot of your songs are known for being emotionally intimate and honest. Opening up that way to your audience takes some major courage. How do you feel about the way listeners receive and interpret your songs?
MT: Well I guess I don't really know how they interpret it and I feel like that's the beauty of art, just sitting it out there and letting each individual interpret it how ever they want to. I feel like I'm free. I spell it out a good bit, but you know I'm that way as a person, as a friend. I'm just kind of wide open and I feel like I'm the same way with my music. Sometimes it makes people vulnerable but really it just makes me feel closer to every single person that I come across. It brings people closer.
CP: Are there any instances where you've talked to fans and what they've said really moved you? Have your fans inspired you at all?
MT: Oh yeah. This one girl came up to me and told me that this one song, she said that she was going to commit suicide and she was listening to this one song over and over and it made her think about things and she said she didn't do it. So I started crying and she and I were sitting there crying in the club and I'll never forget that moment. Sometimes I'll be like, I don't know, 'What am I doing with my life?' Like I want to be doing things that help people. Sometimes it can feel a little selfish and that's the aspect of this business that I hate. But then I realize, this is great and it makes me want to keep going and it reminds me why I'm doing this in the first place.
CP: So at this point has Azure Ray kind of taken the back seat for right now or is it kind of done with?
MT: Well we kind of just put it in a long hiatus but I think we both didn't really think that we'd ever work together again but I'm in Los Angeles now and Orenda moved to Los Angeles, she and her husband did and they live right down the street. We've just been seeing each other everyday and we might try to work on another Azure Ray record, that's kind of like the plan. I don't know when we're both going to have time because right now I'm just touring so much and she has a couple projects out as well. In the next year we're going to try to write and record one and it's really exciting. I can't wait.
CP: So what inspired you to start making music?
MT: My dad is a musician and he writes jingles for a living so we always had growing up a studio where he'd do the demos in the house. His passion is music so pretty much every memory I have of growing up involves my dad holding a guitar and singing some song and we'd always have soing-a-longs. It was always my hobby and always what we did around my house. I wasn't until I was 18 when I realized, 'wait a minute people do this for a living? I do this for fun.' I was a ballet dancer up until I was 16 and I think it just didn't occur to me that I could do that as a living. I would do it for fun. I was always playing, [playing with my friends. Playing drums and just loved it. I remember meeting this band, Remi Zero, they're from Birmingham and I became friends with them and they were on Capitol Records and they're just like to me so successful and I was like,'Holy shit, why am I not pursuing this?' And so that's when I pretty much quit ballet and Orenda and I got a record deal and went on our first tour across the country and there's no looking back after that.
CP: Like most of Saddle Creek's roster and artists in general, you've collaborated with a lot of people over the years. Are there any favorites that stand out that you're particularly proud of or moved you in a certain way?
MT: That's a toughie. I can't really say. I mean working on this record with Michael Stipe that was pretty special. Like staying up until six in the morning and jamming and him writing lyrics. That's something that will stand out in my mind forever. When I think about it, also the first Azure Ray record working with Eric Bachmann. ' there's something really special about that whole recording process. We were in our friends house on this 8-track and we had really no money to do it so we mixed the whole record in the middle of the night when no one was at this nice studio. And pretty much always when there are pretty string parts, like when people arrange string parts for my songs. When I come in and the string players are in there and actually hearing it for the first time with real live strings over my song I've always cried every time that's happened. I can't not. It's just like 'Oh my god it's so beautiful. And it's on my song and I can't believe it!' I don't know, there's some.
Maria Taylor plays the Barbary tonight, an early, all-ages show.
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