Thursday, February 15, 2007

SPOTLIGHT: Cincinnati's swan Kim Taylor

The main point of this site is to highlight musicians that work outside of the music scenes in their towns and yet who ultimately define what their cities stand for. They are focused on songwriting, instead of being scenesters. They are trying to create something unique, instead of jumping onto some hip, flash in the pan, musical band wagon.
That's why I wanted to talk to someone like Cincinnati singer/songwriter Kim Taylor. I only recently heard about her and was surpised to find she'd already been touring extensively with Over the Rhine and more recently Ron Sexsmith. In 2002 she released her first record "So Black, So Bright" and was crowned new artist of the year by Cincinnati's Citybeat Magazine. She followed that with an EP in 2004 and an invitation to Austin's SXSW Festival.
Her sophomore full-length entitled "I Feel Like A Fading Light" came out last year, which made album of the week in November by NPR's World Cafe.
Plus, Taylor did it all on her own.
I must admit, I've never been much a fan of most female-fronted bands. Mostly it's because the singers were always ripping off someone else, be it Gwen Stafani back in the day or Sara MacLaughlin more recently. It seems like a nice change to find so many interesting new female singers and songwriters who have created their own unique sound and voice. Even better that they are here in the Midwest.
Kim Taylor's music is incredibly old school sounding, in that it comes off as very realistic and believable, while standing up next to famous acoustic-based icons of the past. I've heard Taylor has been called the Midwest Cat Power. I can see that, but I also think Taylor transcends that label. Her songs are way more diverse and interesting than Chan's, but similarly emotional.
So I asked Taylor how long she has been around, performing music in the Midwest.
"I've been playing my songs live in a real and tangible way since 2002," Taylor said. "I put my first record out that year (called "So Black, So Bright) and did a couple of weeks of touring with Cincinnati-based Over the Rhine. I had just done a little on the Cincinnati front that year, getting my feet wet on open mics and such."
She has since gone from being a solo performer to enlisting a band.
"The positive of being solo is that it's low maintenance," she said. "The biggest negative (with playing solo) is that i get lonely real easy. I think in general and more and more I enjoy working with people and I'm getting better at communicating my thoughts and musical wishes. I've not had the best track record on that. But you learn as you go."
But what immediately sets Taylor apart from the open mic crowd is her stage presence and honesty. Her foot stamps to the beat, her voice rises and falls, becomes shaky or angry, all in order to create a great dynamic.
"I was born in Miami, Florida and raised just a couple of hours north on the Atlantic Ocean in a small fishing town. I grew up in the woods on a few acres of land. I was an only kid. I was a girl scout. I was horrifically shy. And in elementary school I was chubby, gap-toothed and four-eyed," Taylor said. "Does that conjure up any thoughts as to how it went (for me) as a wee lass? I was a nerdy flute player through junior high and then danced in early highschool. I so wanted to be a fly-girl and Janet Jackson. I didn't start singing out until early college and I have no idea why I kept going. Other than it helped keep me sane. I had quite a few troubles in early college. Singing and writing always felt like a grounding for me."
Those troubles from growing up as an insecure girl end up coming through, many years later, as a mature confident voice. What stands out is her ability to sound confident and vulnerable all at once. It has the feel of a constant personal struggle between the two.
Taylor said the topics she writes about can be diverse.
"I don't set out to write always on certain themes, but i think as humans we're always writing about the same stuff over and over. It's how we work things out i guess. So i'd say the themes for me are always revolving around love, death, war, grief, and god," she said.
She grew up listening to music constantly being played in the home by her parents, which has molded her sound.
"My childhood was filled with old country: Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. Then there was Elvis and the Beach Boys and anything popular at the time. And also the Everly Brothers. A lot of the Everly Brothers. My parents listened to music constantly," she said.
As far as what philosphy she is trying to convey, Taylor said she is still trying to determine that path. She expects more growth in her music down the road.
"I don't know if I have a philosophy. Maybe I will in a few years," Taylor said. "I think right now I don't think in that way. I just write music because it helps me feel better and I work out a lot of my own neurosis through music. I guess I'd hope to just relay some kind of truth and as far as where it takes me I have no expectations. I just try to ride the waves that come."

Check her out on Myspace, HERE
I recommend starting with "I feel like a fading light."
If you don't like that song, there is something wrong with you.

Some of Taylor's favorite Cincinnati bands: The Great Depression, The Sundresses, Heartless Bastards, Peter Adams

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