Reviews

Lynn Teeter Flower

Author: Graham
05/17/2007 | Scenepointblank.com | www.scenepointblank.com | Feature
One half of the songwriting duo Azure Ray, for nearly a decade Maria Taylor has been writing and recording music on a professional level. With the release of her second solo effort Lynn Teeter Flower, Maria ventures further into finding her own voice: capturing a type of songwriting with both a personal and universal appeal. Recently I had the chance to sit down with the songstress before her Toronto gig, to discuss the release and catch up on the latest from the Saddle Creek label:

Scene Point Blank: Your new album, Lynn Teeter Flower, runs a full gamut of sounds expanding from the work you did on your last record, 11:11. When writing was the varied nature a conscious effort or something that happened naturally when going into the studio?

Maria Taylor: I think that a certain type of song lends itself to a certain type of production. Some songs you can tell any extra may take away from it, well others can really improve with more layers. I mean, I would just go into the studio and really whatever happened naturally, happened. I wasn't trying to do so many styles but- well it's how it turned out.

Scene Point Blank: On 11:11 you had worked with two different producers in Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes) and Andy LeMaster (of Now It's Overhead) who anyone familiar with Saddle Creek would recognize. Keeping with this fashion the new album has multiple producers as well. What did each person bring to the sound?

Maria Taylor: Well, different things. What Jim Eno, who plays drums for Spoon, really added most was the change of the beat. For my demos I'll have my own little playing or whatever, but I think that his drums on those two songs really changed the direction of those songs in general. With this one guy Doug Easley, his stuff sounded really organic…

Scene Point Blank: He's most known for his help with Cat Power's production…

Maria Taylor: Yeah, and with Pavement. He recently worked on Willy Mason's new album and when I heard though songs, every instrument just sounded so true to itself. I really wanted to capture that type of tone. With Andy, he's like my best friend and we work so well together so, um…I'm sorry, I have an attention problem(laughs) hopefully that answered your question?

Scene Point Blank: (laughs) Mostly. Was there a reason Mike didn't return to help out on this effort?

Maria Taylor: He was doing the Bright Eyes record the whole time. We had plans to work together but Mike's really the busiest man I know. He's the kind of guy who books five things in the amount of time when he could probably only has space for two. The whole time he saying " I could do it," and I thought "how in the world are you going to be able to"…and he was still saying he would until the day I was done. So I was just like "Well Mike, we'll do it next time."

Scene Point Blank: When reading through interviews, a lot of people seem to ask what the difference is when writing without Ordena as opposed to writing with her. Often overlooked, however, is your contribution to Now It's Overhead, fronted by Andy, whose record you both sang and played on last year. Is there any contrast into how you work while doing his stuff, as opposed to how he works when he's on yours?

Maria Taylor: Well, mostly, he's a producer and I'm not. So while he is working on my stuff he is actually changing the sound and varying what the overall songs ends up as. When I'm there working on his, I'll give him feedback or ideas but usually I'm just lending my voice or helping with a part he wants me on. So I'd say he's adding a lot more to my stuff than I'm adding to his.

Scene Point Blank: On the cover of Lynn Teeter Flower, we see the same little mannequin man from 11:11 hiding in the corner. What's the deal with him?

Maria Taylor: (laughs) Well it's suppose to be me…so it's a she. On 11:11 she's got my necklace on…I didn't want to put myself on the cover so I just thought I'd get a mannequin and that could be representative. For this one I think I'm just more confident and comfortable with myself in lots of ways, but musically especially. I had always thought it was cheesy to put your picture on the cover but this time after reflecting I changed my mind. This is me, and this is my solo record, and fuck everything I've ever thought about that. At the same time well putting myself out there I didn't want to let go of the past entirely, so the mannequin is in the corner as homage to that and to keep me company.

Scene Point Blank: You had done a video for the single Song beneath a Song previously, have you got plans to do a shoot for the first single on this album?

Maria Taylor: Yeah. I'm doing one for A Good Start in Los Angles…but I'm afraid to say too much about it because these things change. Hopefully it'll include some live footage because I really wanted the band that I'm touring with right now ( Author's note: The band includes Maria's sister Kate and brother Macey) in the video. To me, this album feels a lot more like a band, and I want it to sound like it does live.

Scene Point Blank: There seems to be a vast difference between your live acts from what you were doing with Azure Ray and even on previous tours, to what you're bringing to the stage now. Do you prefer rocking out…

Maria Taylor: Oh, we rock out!

Scene Point Blank: …to the slower more mellow sets?

Maria Taylor: Definitely. I even find myself start talking when it's really mellow the whole time, even though I hate it when people do that. But if you're going to play bars where people are drinking, that happens. On this tour we play three or four quiet songs, but since it's only three or four, people can us that attention and be quiet. It hasn't even got anything to do with that, though, I just really like to rock out. I mean, it feels good. (laughs)

Scene Point Blank: You're easily one of the most honest song writers I listen to, but because of that most of your work comes off as intensely personal. Does that sort of exposure ever get to be too much, as so much of yourself is put into these tunes?

Maria Taylor: Yeah sometimes, but a lot of this record isn't about me. It's about friends, or it's about dreams, or my hypothesizing what things would like if I had made different decisions. It's not as directly about my life as some previous songs. It's weird; I read this one review which criticized the album for being too introspective and I was like well…you didn't get it ( laughs). When I write a song, even if it's not in the lyrics, all the emotion I'm trying to exhibit leaves my body and my mind, so I can actually focus on something else. As long as I can identify with something in the song it becomes therapeutic.

Scene Point Blank: With such a long period of your life devoted to recording, from playing with Little Red Rocket to Azure Ray to now, how do you think your writing has evolved?

Maria Taylor: I feel like I'm only now really getting comfortable with myself. Before I would always try to make things a little more cryptic, and if I really felt strongly about something I would usually protect it instead of saying it. The only thing I think that's really changed is when I'm going back and listening to older songs the lyrics would be really negative or I'd be angry about something. Now I try to make sure there is some kind of positive element to everything I do, and even if it's sad, I want it to be somewhat uplifting. I try not to let anger play into my lyrics cause being angry or jealous are natural, but really ugly, characteristics of human nature. It wasn't until the first Azure Ray album that I thought about that stuff or really spent a lot of time with lyrics, writing and throwing them away, because I wanted to make sure I said something.

Scene Point Blank: This is always a hard question to answer, but I like to do it when someone's just put out an album. If you had to pick a favourite song or alternately a song to be representative of Lynn Teeter Flower, what would it be?

Maria Taylor: That is hard. I think I'd say A Good Start, but my favourite song is Clean Getaway…or maybe Lost Time. The slower songs are my favourites on the album, but I don't think they're representative as a whole, because it's more beat oriented …is A Good Start the right answer?

Scene Point Blank: Maybe, my favourite is Small Part of Me. As a pet project I've been toying with for a little while now, I've been trying to find a concrete definition of what art is. At the risk of sounding too philosophical why do you create music and what does it do for you?

Maria Taylor: I've been making music since I was two or three. My Dad's a musician…

Scene Point Blank: He's a jingle writer, right?

Maria Taylor: Mhmm. I've grown up with a recording studio in the house, and instruments everywhere. I'm one of those people that's annoying because I sing all the time, and I don't even know I'm doing it. It's not even something I have to consider in terms of why I'm making music. I really feel like I live and breath it.

As for what it does for me? I think I could only answer that if I knew what it was like if I didn't make music. I'd have to see what it was like being without it to know what it is for me, since it's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.


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