Say you’re a gifted young artist — someone like Ben Taylor, for instance. You’ve written a pile of great songs. You’ve a way with melody and a mastery of the understated lyric. You’ve got a voice that lingers in the air — tuneful, expressive, the kind of voice that makes its impact with the smallest turn of a whispered phrase.
Under normal circumstances, you’ve got all it takes to make an impression. Some might say you’re even a candidate for stardom.
But Ben Taylor’s circumstance is far from normal. His parents are James Taylor and Carly Simon. And with that lineage come the expectations that makes his album “Another Run Around The Sun” a milestone.
Of course, there was never any pressure from his family to match their Achievements — no pressure, that is, except from Ben himself. He’s always kept his standards high — how could he not? And when his sound began to evolve, and invariably it showed signs of influence from those who were closest to him, he found himself at a crossroads that most artists never have to visit.
His choice was whether to deny his birthright, to pack up his music and take it somewhere else for reasons that have nothing to do with the music itself. Or he could stake his claim on the family land, sing and play the way he wanted to, and against all odds stand as an artist with unique qualities of his own.
It took a while, but with “Another Run Around The Sun” Ben makes that choice — the right choice. Listening to his album is like slipping into a brand new shirt that feels as comfortable as one you’ve worn with pleasure before. As you button up and shrug it into place, though, you notice the differences. That combination of the familiar with the new is the key to appreciating Ben Taylor.
“The truth is, the songs I write really are similar to my dad’s,” he said. “That’s no surprise: I grew up mostly playing his music on guitar, and he was the songwriter who influenced me the most, especially on the musical side, while my mom taught me how to write lyrics.”
For years, especially on his earliest projects, Ben resisted this legacy; results were mixed, his first good songs flashing like flares against an unsettled sky. With “Another Run Around The Sun” his method changed. Despite the title, it’s not about running; it’s about stopping, accepting, and coming up with something that, for the first time, tells where he stands as well as how he got there.
“This album is a natural progression of who I am and what I’ve been through,” he said. “I wanted to make a record that I could tour by myself if I had to — something I could live with night after night. That’s how I feel about ‘Another Run Around The Sun,’ because it’s honest. There wasn’t a whole lot of me in some of my earlier recordings, but this one is entirely me. It’s the most self-accepting thing I’ve ever done.”
Self-acceptance was always a musical, never a personal, issue. Raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Ben enjoyed a childhood as “phenomenal in the most absurd ways. Instead of going to high school, I got independent credit for doing correspondence work. So I was always on a trip, working on the Colorado River or in the Grand Canyon or on a farm in New Mexico, and writing essays about what I’d learned. It was a pretty cool way to get an education.
“I toured a lot with my father, watching him onstage every night, or wondering where he had gone when he locked himself in a tiny room for months upon months until he came out with works of genius. He never played his new music for us until he felt it was impeccable. My mom was at the opposite end of the spectrum: She was always playing her rough mixes because she wanted our input. No matter what time of the night it was, she’d wake everybody in the house to hear whatever song it was that she couldn’t get out of her head.”
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, May 23
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Tickets: $17 in advance or $20 on the day of the show. (Seated show, just 250 tickets to be sold.)