Monday, December 14, 2009

Great Performances Are Two Taylors-Made


Within the past month, I’ve had the unusual and fortunate opportunity to personally encounter not one, but two of the musically talented Taylor brothers:

Livingston Taylor and his older brother James Taylor

I met Liv Taylor in November when he visited Nimbit’s offices in Framingham, Mass. and enjoyed hearing his perspectives as a longtime performing musician and music professor on his firm belief that “success in the music business comes as a result of the cultivation, care, and feeding of your audience.” Since our mutual friends at Nimbit (www.nimbit.com) are focused on helping music artists build sustainable careers by better connecting, engaging and selling directly to their fans, it was fascinating to hear such a talented performer share his thoughts on how many in the “music biz” have forgotten the importance of staying connected with those whom Liv says “have decided that your art has value."

Two days ago I was one of a lucky handful of people who attended a private birthday party for a very dear friend of mine. In the “Hall of Impossible to Top Birthday Presents,” her husband arranged for a surprise birthday concert for his wife and 50 guests. The performer: James Taylor (and a small supporting group including two vocalists and a cellist from the Boston Symphony). Fellow husbands: Unless you can somehow find a way to convince your wife’s favorite-ever performer to come to your house and have him sing for 2 hours to your sweetheart with her best friends and family present—don’t even try!

Having sung along with, danced, laughed, and cried to James Taylor’s music ever since 1970 (when my younger sister played Sweet Baby James night and day), hearing him sing his intimate songs in such an intimate venue was nothing short of awesome. For the 50 forty-to-sixtyish Boomers in the audience--- seeing JT perform “Fire and Rain” forty years after he first sang the song was spellbinding and reminded me of the memorable lyric from one of his songs: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." For my friend (the consummate James Taylor fan), hearing him sing “You’ve Got a Friend” in the presence of those who love her must have been spectacular!


While the circumstances behind meeting both Livingston and James were as different as these two singing siblings are from one another, I can’t help but think of similarities between the Taylor troubadours.

Both of them are:

• Survivors who’ve lived with depression, divorce, family substance abuse, and the travails of life as touring/recording musicians
• Mediocre students who each found success through talent and very hard work
• Gifted storytellers who are able to combine poetic lyrics and beautiful music that can move us and warm our hearts
• Brothers who’ve learned and remind us of the value of family and friends

As an a cappella singer myself--- what impresses me most about the Taylors is that they are both performers without peer! Watching and listening to each of them was a delightful reminder of the power of great performers to connect, captivate, and inspire an audience. Beyond their guitar mastery and soft singing delivery of great tunes, the combination of genetics and the experience of performing thousands of concerts has created two different but very gifted musicians whose performances are accessible, compassionate, engaging, and humorous.

While James may be the better known of the brothers, Livingston sets a great example for their family for those of us would like to emulate him.

Ten years ago, as part of his affiliation with Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Livingston Taylor wrote a seminal book for aspiring musicians entitled Stage Performance. Bizarrely now out of print, but sometimes available as used copies from book stores or Amazon.comStage Performance makes great reading and provides good advice for musicians, for marketers, for life.

Here’s a selection of excerpts:

“Look at, and pay attention to, your audience.”

“It's okay to be human on stage...They love you to be normal, to make a mistake, acknowledge it, smile, shake your head slightly, forgive yourself, and move on.”

“Our songs remind them of past worlds. When they want to relive those worlds, they seek us out."

"Silence is the canvas on which we paint our performance. There is nothing more wonderful than complete silence in a sold-out hall—the anticipation of the paint on canvas."

“Don't get lost in the fantasy of how your career should be. It's good to have heroes and inspiration, but not good to compare yourself to others, and the career progressions of others. Each person's path will be different.”

“Accept compliments graciously.”

My personal heartfelt compliments are directed to James and Livingston – who are as gracious as they are gifted.

Thanks for your entertainment and your example.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Patrick:
    Found your blog tonight, and I'm totally envious about this 50th birthday present (H.B.G alerted me), and that you got to attend! I must admit I was secretly hoping this would happen for my 50th (but it didn't!!) Details, asap!!!

    Hope all is well. Merry Christmas! Tracy

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  2. Thanks...I needed to hear that. I just released my first album and I remember that Livingston Taylor once said that you don't really make money until your 6th album.

    I started selling it in March this year, and I've managed to sell 200 out of 1000 copies, but it's been mostly to family and friends...and i need to sell 300 to break even, so I'm not too far from my mark. :)

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