Music News

Son Rise

There are plenty of reasons why singer-songwriter Ben Taylor might seem cranky. Perhaps he doesn't like conducting interviews from his tour bus. Maybe he's lost patience with one of his companions, a Jack Russell terrier (it belongs to tourmate Tristan Prettyman's percussionist) that's eager to escape the vehicle by any means necessary. Or it could be that he's temporarily exhausted from the effort of trying to make a name for himself when the names of his mom and dad, '70s icons Carly Simon and James Taylor, are infinitely better known. He was on the cover of Rolling Stone last year, but the occasion -- an article called "The Children of Rock" that also featured Sean Lennon and Nona Gaye -- was motivated as much by the continuing fascination with Carly and James's respective egg and sperm as it was by his own music.

Whatever the case, Taylor, 29, is more "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" than "You've Got a Friend" on this day, answering most inquiries in a weary tone. For example, when he's asked if fans at his shows typically outnumber those on hand out of sheer curiosity, he mutters, "I would say that there are a greater number of 'me' fans" before adding, "It's not that people don't like my parents. That's something I need to remember."

He will, too, since the rest of the world won't let him forget. Like his sister Sally, a Boulder-based performer who often sings with her little bro, he was in the public eye while still in utero. But fame alone hasn't been enough to ensure a smooth career path. During the late '90s, Taylor signed to Sony's Work Group imprint, but in 2002, around the time a recording titled Green Dragon, Name a Fox was slated for release, the branch collapsed. He isn't heartsick that Dragon never roared, however. "We were trying to un-Taylorize it so much that it ended up not sounding like me," he says.

Afterward, he steered clear of majors, issuing his de facto debut, 2003's Famous Among the Barns, on Iris Records, an indie he co-owns with his drummer, Larry Ciancia, who lives in Evergreen. Iris is also behind 2005's Another Run Around the Sun, a moderately catchy strum-a-thon that recalls Sweet Baby James's platters. Taylor is of two minds about the disc. "We recorded it three times, and we kept getting it wrong, and then we finally got it right," he allows -- yet he concedes, "I'm still not particularly satisfied with the way it came out." In his opinion, "These are the songs in a pretty simple state. It's a singer-songwriter album...I just thought it could have been a lot cooler than it is."

Of course, uncool can still be commercial, and Sun is what the music business wanted from this son all along. But although Taylor isn't averse to someday striking a distribution deal with a mega-corporation, he insists that his first priority is "to be able to make music and stay out touring, and we'll see where it goes."

With luck, he'll wind up in a happier place than he's occupying now.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts