Terese Taylor’s music describes a personal world – or maybe series of worlds – that is dark, stark and cynical. Or perhaps, she is simply laying reality out in front of us as she sees it and letting us interpret her images through our own lens. Or maybe both at once. That is the genius of Terese Taylor, a song writer and musical artist who uses her lyrics to paint sharp, steel cut images of life that upon closer inspection can be ambiguous. The same goes for her music. Is it rock, folk, country, or punk…or something that is simply Terese Taylor, best enjoyed without analysis?
Music FridayLive! interviewed Terese Taylor on 1/31/14.
Patrick. Terese, you sent me four songs that I understand are slated for a new album to be released in April. April is only about 2 months away, so you must be closing in on having it ready. Can you gives us a status report – what is it and where does it stand?
Terese. It will be ready April 4. I am looking at the cover mockup today. It will go into production. It is all done, all mastered. We went down to Ventura and Golden Recording to master it. And it all depends on the factory at this point., When we shipped out the turnaround rate for CDs is 8 days, and for LP’s – we are releasing an LP too – that is 7 – 8 weeks. So by the end of the month I should have it in my hands. But it will do online April 4.
Patrick. The title song, “At Your Mercy” is pretty powerful stuff. he menacing violin sound, or maybe it’s a key board or modulated guitar, sets an ominous tone underscores the lines about a quarter in a hotel bed – an image we can all see. what is going on there? How did you do that?
Terese. That was an upright bass. James Whiten on the upright bass. He played through a looper and a lot of effects. He really embellished the album. He was the lead bass player.
The line about the quarter in a hotel bed. - I was a little worried about that one. I grew up near Niagara Fall Street in Buffalo . It is honeymoon row and there are all these cheap motels with quarter beds – that makes the bed vibrate, you know sexy.
Patrick. There is another li the lines about flying from San Francisco to Culver City – which is where our studios are – leading to “at your mercy.” is asking for help being at someone’s mercy, or is there a larger metaphor here.
Terese. It’s actually a circumstance. I had a particularly horrendous tour – like one of those tours where you want to break the band up and draw pictures of how you are going to kill each other. We were not very well prepared. We took public buses from gig to gig and we looked at other on the bus and said this is really the “at your mercy” tour. And we laughed about it…humor is really important on the road. And I always had it in my head to finish this album with the kindness of strangers as an underlying theme.
Patrick. I hope you met a lot of kindly strangers here – Los Angeles is a pretty friendly town. But if there is a subtext to that song, it is rent a car.
Patrick. Another song that I have been listening to and thinking about is “briefcase”. Especially the lines:
Your see it your way, I see it mine/and if you want to know the truth/I think you are seeing blind…..
if I wanted to be true, I’m sure it wouldn’t be to you.
That hurts. Was there a specific individual involved that was the target of that, or is there are larger target than an individual there?
Terese. Yeah, If there was, it has all become a blur. The power of denial and time taken their toll. When I am writing and singing I will have a circumstance in mind and it will take on a space of its own. I just let that voice come out. I don’t have any vindictiveness about any particular individual with that song.
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Patrick. One of my listeners emailed that your music sounds dire but you sound really upbeat. Which is it.
Terese. I let my music have whatever voice it has. I am actually really into comedy, especially old comics like Carol Burnett and Lilly Tomlin. A lot of the directness I feel comes out through the music…that is my specialty. I would say both.
Patrick. You were raised in Buffalo, New York, and you now live in San Francisco. I lived in San Francisco and Marin for too many years – up to three years ago, and always thought of it as a very beautiful, optimistic place, one of the nation’s best places to live, despite the Google buses and gentrification of Mission District. Can I gather from these songs and your past albums that you don’t agree. or does the physical environment have nothing to with the emotional content of your music?
Terese. Buffalo was pretty decent to grow up in, although I always wanted to get out, which I successfully did. You learn to roll with the snow – tobogganing is a word that not many of my friends know, or how to creatively play in the snow. I can win in snowball fight because my friends from the South have no idea what to do.
I am going to carry Buffalo with me wherever I go. There are four seasons in Buffalo and one long one in San Francisco. So the optimism of San Francisco may come out in my songs in the future, but I guess I am still working it out. Whatever the darkness of the winter are is kind of a specialty for me …I can take sun and work it into an explosion, but I can take the happiest situation and everyone dies. It is what my writing does now, I am trying to work with different voices, but that seems to be my most natural one.
Patrick. These are spare songs, more like your earlier ”Folsom Street” than like the richer “Goats for Daddy”. is that where the new album is heading – stripped down, minimalist, spare?
Terese. I think that did happen because I was moving into a place that was more complicated, working with Klaus Fluoride as a producer on this. I thought this was going to be wham-bam in- and -out punk rock- let’s make this album with the songs as I had written them. He really crafted it and took time and brought singular elements to it – he put my voice up front which hasn’t happened in any of my other albums. He stripped down to the elements and made what he thinks my message is clearer, more streamlined, using his refined ears.
Patrick: Do you have a trained voice – you can control it precisely.
Terese. Mrs. Allen, my high school she was my teacher. That’s it. I have always loved to sing. I do it to the radio, all the time. That is my training. But my violin teacher fired me. I had cousins who played music and they would come over on holidays and play the guitar. They had beards and long hair and I was intrigued. I got my first guitar when I was 16, an electric guitar, and I starting writing and playing.
Patrick. Speaking of guitar, I love the guitar work in your song “His Own”…you create such a perfect environment in that song with the guitar riffs, but I’d like to know what you mean with the line, he sings for me, of me, about me, but I know he sings his own?
Terese. Those who know me know I don’t love explaining the lyrics of my song, but like listening to how people interpret them so I would normally turn the question back to you. But in this case I will tell you – it was written when I loved across from a local bar called Amnesia after a breakup. I would sit out on the fire escape writing songs getting over my breakup and I could hear music coming out of the venue. A lone voice and a guitar, I would just listen and feel that I was there, but I knew he was singing his own gig.
Patrick. What gigs to do you have coming up?
[dc]T[/dc]erese. I can’t say exactly where, but I am playing a house concert tomorrow – contact me through Facebook for the address. And I will be at the Bottom of the Hill Club on April 24 with two other bands, with the bands We Are the Men and Port. Stay tuned I am booking as a I wrap up the album, I do all that myself, but we will be back out there in full force in the Spring.
Patrick. Looking forward to it, and to seeing you in SoCal. Terese, thank you for being here today.
Terese. Thank you . This was fun.
Music Friday Live!