Taylor Made

The big time's calling for Boulder's Sally Taylor -- but she's taking her sweet time answering.

How is Sally Taylor unlike most local musicians? Counting the ways would require a mainframe computer the size of the Astrodome--but here's a couple of examples. Whereas the average area performer would sell his or her family into slavery to get a contract with a major-record label, Taylor, who lives in Boulder, has graciously declined a whole passel of them during the past year or so. She also turned thumbs down when a representative of People magazine asked to do a story about her, prompting the startled staffer to admit that he'd never before been rejected. Taylor laughs at the memory--and at the notion that she might someday regret her decision. "I feel great about not doing it," she says from Telluride, where she's just spent three days fasting and doing yoga. "I feel like it reminds me of who I want to be."

The pretext behind the intense interest in Taylor isn't tough to suss out: As the 25-year-old daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon--about whom those of you who've been in the vicinity of a radio during the past quarter-century have no doubt heard--she's seen as a lucrative commodity. But even people who'd rather undergo several days of uninterrupted dental work than listen to "You've Got a Friend" or "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" are apt to be charmed by James and Carly's eldest, and not just because her independently produced CD, Tomboy Bride, is a cut above the usual singer-songwriter fare. On a personal level, she's wide-eyed, guileless, honest to a fault and thoroughly indifferent to fame for fame's sake. She doesn't need to dream about appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone--she already did, when she was five.

Unlike plenty of celebrity offspring, Taylor doesn't whine that her parents' star status made her life more difficult. She knows that she drew a lucky number in the gene-pool lotto and is appreciative of the privileges that came along with it. At the same time, she's toiling earnestly at developing her own creative voice, and if the language she uses to describe this process sometimes suggests a twenty-something Oprah, it doesn't diminish her efforts or make her determination not to rush into a bad situation any less admirable.

"I'm still really learning," she admits. "But the main reason that I don't want to sign with a major label right now is that I really don't feel that it's within my integrity to do it. I've been trying to stay really clear about what my heart's telling me to do versus what my ego wants me to do. So I've said no to a lot of really cool opportunities--or what people might feel were really cool opportunities--because I was afraid I might be putting my heart at stake."

The story of Taylor's formative years wouldn't have appealed to Horatio Alger: There's definitely no pulling up of bootstraps in it. When she came along during the late Seventies, father James was riding high on the strength of smash singles such as "Handy Man" and "Your Smiling Face," and mother Carly was doing equally well thanks to "Nobody Does It Better," the hugely popular theme to the James Bond opus The Spy Who Loved Me. As a result, Sally was never less than exceedingly comfortable. From an early age, she and her brother, Ben, who's three years her junior, were toted back and forth between a posh pad in New York City, where she was born, to a lovely spread on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts--and they got to know other stops along the highway as well. "We went on tour a lot," she says. "It was mostly when we were younger, and then in the summers. But Mom really took time off to raise us and keep us feeling a sense of home and a sense of community. That's really important to her--that we had a place where stability happens."

To note that Taylor was inundated with music as a kid might seem tantamount to revealing that McDonald's makes lots of hamburgers. But even by the standards of other well-known musical clans, hers was extraordinary in this regard. Her aunt, Kate Taylor, and two of her uncles, Livingston and Alex, had record deals, and other relatives harbored similar ambitions. According to Sally, "There's only one person on my mom's and my dad's side who's not a musician, and that's my Uncle Peter, my mom's brother; he's a photographer who mainly takes pictures of musicians." She adds, "Family reunions and family gatherings were basically music festivals. It was great."

Although her parents' marriage broke up in 1983, when she was six, Taylor insists that she and Ben didn't feel caught in the middle. They spent most weeks with Carly, most weekends with James, and everything was civil and pleasant. The only tensions she recalls were imposed by outside forces. "The question people always wanted to know from my brother and I was, 'Which one do you like more?'--meaning whose music did we like best," she says. "Isn't that awful? We'd always go, 'We like them both the same.' We were just trained really well."

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