Eric Taylor (musician)
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Taylor performing in Wexford, Ireland Photo: Sean Rowe
|Birth name||Eric Taylor|
25 September 1949 |
Atlanta, Georgia United States
|Genres||Americana, country, folk|
|Labels||E1 Music, Blue Ruby Records, Eminent Records|
Eric Taylor (born September 25, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter from Texas. He is known for his anecdotal songs which often take the form of short stories. In addition to Taylor's seven solo releases, his songs have been recorded by Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and many others.
Eric Taylor was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 25, 1949. His father had been raised in the Greenville/Spartanburg area of South Carolina and when he was six months old Eric's parents moved there. Aged eleven, Taylor moved back to Georgia. From an early age, the youngster wrote poetry and short stories, "I spent a lot of time alone when I was a kid." At age thirteen, Taylor purchased his first guitar for $2.50, even though it lacked tuning pegs. He soon became adept at tuning with pliers. In his years of high school, Taylor played bass in numerous garage bands. Considering his lifelong love of words, it was natural that Taylor started composing, "The first song I wrote was "Trip Of The Golden Calf". It had real heavy lyrics." His teen years drawing to a close, Taylor headed to Washington D.C., and Georgetown University. There was a burgeoning music scene locally. Six months later, Taylor was back in Atlanta, having run into some friends on the road. Although intent on returning to D.C., Taylor was persuaded to join them on a cross-country trek to California. Their first stop was Houston, Texas. Lacking funds, for a while, Taylor set aside his plans to travel west. Taking part time jobs, he delivered rental television sets and washed dishes. In local clubs Taylor witnessed performances by Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. He concluded that his musical education would benefit from hanging around for a while.
Taylor formed a friendship with local concert promoter Mike Condray. "Mike was a big driving force in my life, musically. He told me the wrong things I was doing and told me what he liked too." Observing the aforementioned performers, and once more the owner of a guitar, Taylor began performing in local clubs. In time he toured other parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia. In 1976, Taylor contributed three songs - "Memphis Midnight, Memphis Morning," "Virginia's Photograph" and "Rainbows And Lightning, Beautiful And Frightening" - to the Houston songwriter compilation album Through The Dark Nightly released by Fair Retail Records. The following year Taylor was one of the six winners of the Kerrville Folk Festival Emerging Songwriters contest. Another Texas writer, albeit Austin based, who was creating a stir locally at this time, was Nanci Griffith. They became partners. When Nanci completed There's A Light Beyond These Woods , the nine cuts included Eric's "Dollar Matinee." A duo rendition of the song appeared on the 1978 Kerrville Live Highlights album.
Initially reluctant to record a solo album, Taylor eventually relented and the sessions took place at Loma Ranch Studios, near Fredericksburg. Co-produced by Taylor and the studio owners, John and Laurie Hill, the resulting ten-track recording was titled Shameless Love. Although he and Nanci had parted, her vocals are prominently featured. Featherbed Records issued Nanci's second solo effort Poet In My Window in 1982. Cut at Loma Ranch, Taylor played bass on the sessions and the collection included the Griffith/Taylor collaboration, "Ghost in the Music." Griffith continued to champion Taylor's music through the eighties recording a handful of his songs. On the eve of his first European tour in 1983, Taylor walked away from the music business and entered a rehabilitation program. In the years that followed, Taylor initially worked at a halfway house as a counselor, while studying for a professional qualification. Over the ensuing decade he would play annual shows at Anderson Fair in Houston, and Austin's Cactus Café.
In 1994, Taylor joined Lyle Lovett in California - back in his student days, Lovett had booked Taylor/Griffith shows at the coffeehouse on the Texas A&M campus - for the I Love Everybody recording sessions. The MCA/Curb collection included the Lovett/Taylor collaboration, "Fat Babies." A few months later he signed a song publishing deal with Polygram International.
Taylor cut his sophomore solo album for the Austin based, now defunct, Watermelon label. Iain Matthews co-produced the album with his friend Mark Hallman, owner of Congress House studios. Eric Taylor was released in the late summer of 1995, and featured classic songs such as the Kerouac inspired "Dean Moriarty," and the closing tale of a streetwalkers pimp "Shoeshine Boy." The recording was subsequently voted the 1996 Kerrville Folk Festival, Album of the Year. Taylor undertook his first European tour in late 1995 accompanied by David Olney, Vince Bell and Matthews. In 1997 he appeared in a songwriter's showcase at the Newport Folk Festival, and returned the following year as a headliner.
Lyle Lovett's tribute to Texas based songwriters Step Inside This House  included Taylor's "Memphis Midnight, Memphis Morning." Denice Franke, Eric's longtime friend and backing vocalist, issued a solo album titled You Don't Know Me in September 1998, and followed it three years later with Comfort. Both albums were produced by Eric.
Eric's next solo album, Resurrect, surfaced in 1998. Taylor's writing was, once again, finely observed. In the spring of 2001, Eminent Records, a Nashville based imprint released Eric's fourth studio collection Scuffletown. As with its immediate predecessor, and both of Franke's solo albums, the recording sessions had taken place at Rock Romano's Red Shack in Houston. Commencing in 2002 Eric, Denice and David Olney began performing as The Texas Song Theatre, a concert presentation that included song and spoken narrative. Olney subsequently decided to concentrate on his solo career, and planned for future Song Theatre productions to feature Steven Fromholz. In late 2004, Taylor released an enhanced CD version of Shameless Love (previously only available on vinyl) on his own Blue Ruby label. It featured two previously unreleased songs, "Dollar Bill Hines" and "Half Moon Hotel." Later the same year, Taylor released the self-produced album The Great Divide featuring eleven songs, including "Storms," which Nanci Griffith cut for her album of the same name back in 1989.
Like The Great Divide, Hollywood Pocketknife  was recorded at Romano's Red Shack in Houston and was another Blue Ruby self-release. It featured seven Taylor penned originals and one cover song each by Townes and Susan Lindfors, and closed with the traditional "Rally 'Round The Flag." The latter song, recorded on July 4, 2007, principally featured the voices of The Flatliners - Eric Taylor, Vince Bell, and Steven Fromholz. That trio made its concert debut during February 2005 and went on to perform Threadgill Theatre concerts during the 2006 and 2007 Kerrville Folk Festivals.
Taylor has toured extensively in the United States and Europe, playing notable venues such as Club Passim, The Bottom Line, Caffe Lena, The Bluebird Cafe, Eddie's Attic, The Ark, CSPS, Freight & Salvage, Paradiso (Amsterdam), Theatre Kikker (Utrecht), The Real Music Club (Belfast), Hotel du Nord (Paris), Grey's Pub (Brighton), and The Bein Inn (Perth). Festival appearances include Kerrville, Newport Folk Festival, Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Take Root (The Netherlands), and Roots of Heaven Festival (The Netherlands). He has taught at the Kerrville Song School, and has conducted songwriting workshops at the Fulston Manor Performing Arts Centre (Sittingbourne, England), CARAD (Rhayader, Wales), and the Plowshares Coffeehouse (Pennsylvania).
In 2009, Lovett released his second cover album, Natural Forces - and once again included a Taylor song. This time it was "Whooping Crane," from Taylor's 1995, self-titled album.
- Through The Dark Nightly (1976) - [Fair Retail Records, compilation with other Houston songwriters: Bill Cade, Stephen Jarrard, Lynn Langman, Don Sanders]
- Shameless Love (1981, Featherbed; reissued 2004, Blue Ruby Music)
- Eric Taylor (1995, Watermelon)
- Resurrect (1998, E1 Music)
- Scuffletown (2001, Eminent Records)
- The Kerrville Tapes (2003, Silverwolf)
- The Great Divide (2005, Blue Ruby Music)
- Hollywood Pocketknife (2007, Blue Ruby Music)
- Live at the Red Shack (2011, Blue Ruby Music)
- Studio 10 (2013, Blue Ruby Music)