When James Taylor opens his 2011 tour at the Brady Theater this Saturday, Feb. 26, it will be a night of firsts. More than the first night of a tour, it will also be the first time he has toured with Ben Taylor, his son, making the Tulsa stop something special.
It's not a matter of the two having not played music together. When you're raised in a musical family, as Ben was, that's going to happen naturally. It's only that they haven't toured together previously.
If you follow in your parents' footsteps, however, expectations run high and comparisons will abound. As an aspiring singer songwriter, those comparisons were plentiful, especially on the younger Taylor's earlier CDs, which followed the classic singer-songwriter mold that James Taylor has become a master of. Those comparisons were only heightened by the fact that Ben's voice carries a similar timbre and quality as that of his father.
When not one, but both parents are iconic pop singer songwriters, the standards set before you rise exponentially -- and that's just the scenario that Ben Taylor faced as the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon. In fact, Taylor didn't initially plan on following in the footsteps of his famous parents.
"I didn't try to make it happen, it just happened organically. I think we knew, in both of our minds, it would eventually," he said of following in his father's footsteps.
"Over time, I have suffered from a decreasing amount of pressure that I put on myself, more than from the outside. I've had great examples of success to look to and learn from," he said.
Even so, Ben Taylor's development as an artist has been slow and steady. After truly setting out with Famous Among the Barns (released as The Ben Taylor Band) in 2002, he has continued to develop, growing beyond direct comparisons to his father and truly finding his own voice and direction as evidenced with his latest disc, The Legend of Kung Folk, Part 1 (The Killing Bite).
Taylor still unmistakably shares certain qualities with his father: he bears a striking resemblance to James, often writes and plays in a similar acoustic vein and even shares a similar vocal quality. At the same time, however, he has also found his own more contemporary style, incorporating a different set of influences and giving his songs a slight swagger and ease that at times likens him to a Jack Johnson and other times leads him in a different direction altogether.
Ben There. Ben Taylor’s development as an artist has been slow
and steady. After truly setting out with Famous Among the Barns,
he has continued to develop, growing beyond direct comparisons
to his father and truly finding his own voice and direction as
evidenced with his latest disc, The Legend of Kung Folk, Part 1
(The Killing Bite).
"I think, as a songwriter, nobody continues to inspire me more than Neil Young," he said. "His simplicity is perfect -- he doesn't say anything more than he needs to."
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Taylor also quotes Saul Williams as a huge influence as well as many spoken word and hip-hop artists.
"I think my last album, Kung Folk, is really where my music started to go in two directions," he said. "There's the acoustic singer-songwriter aspect, but it's also more produced and goes in a more electronic direction."
Taylor also said that while his current album is more acoustically based, he also has one in the works that is more electronically oriented and he is considering going out later and incorporating a DJ into his live show.
As of right now, however, Taylor's focus is on his more acoustic material as he embarks on his first tour with his father, not quite a decade after the release of Famous Among the Barns.
Details of the how the current string of shows will progress are still being ironed out as the band arrives in Tulsa a few days early to rehearse at an undisclosed location before the tour's launch.
"There will be quite a large band on stage and it will be kind of a free for all," Taylor said.
Saturday night's James Taylor concert at the Brady Theater is officially sold out, but that doesn't mean tickets can't be found. Whether you've planned ahead, have to buy your tickets from a broker or get lucky and stumble across friends with extras, this will not be a show to miss.
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