Reviews

The Birmingham Sessions: Maria Taylor

Author: Mary Colurso
11/11/2013 | AL.com | www.al.com/#/0 | Feature
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Some artists use creative rituals, picturesque retreats or mind-altering drugs to spur their music. All Maria Taylor needed was a little sleep deprivation.


Well, make that a lot of sleep deprivation, after the birth of her first child, Miles Taylor Dwyer. Taylor, a Birmingham native, and her husband, Ryan Dwyer, might have been bedraggled last year, tending to a beloved infant who slept in two-hour stints. But there was an unexpected bonus.

Taylor, a folk-rock artist, found her weary brain working in an altered state. It was oddly conducive to songwriting.

"I kind of felt like I was in this really cool place," she says. "Usually, I say, 'I'm going to take these next three months to write a record.' I stay in and I focus. This time, I worked in spurts. The first song I wrote, 'Up All Night,' was when Miles was about 3 or 4 months old. He didn't sleep at all. It was hard. I thought, 'It's probably going to be 10 years until I finish the next record.' But it took a little less than a year."

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Birmingham natives Maria Taylor and Macey Taylor are siblings and musical collaborators. He handled bass instrumentals for every track on her new record, "Something About Knowing." (Tamika Moore | tmoore@AL.com)
Her sixth solo record, "Something About Knowing," was released Oct. 29 on the Saddle Creek label. "Up All Night," the first single, can be regarded as Taylor's mission statement, reflecting her unusual process and her joy as a new mother.

"Miles has given me so much perspective," says Taylor, 37. "My heart is overflowing. Usually, when I'm sad, I'm so prolific. When I'm happy, I'm not digging deep. But a big part of this record reflects that I'm content, and I don't want to do anything to destroy that. I feel like I've grown as a songwriter. I put myself out there in the songs."

Don't imagine, however, that Taylor has released a full-scale Mommy record. Just three songs on "Something About Knowing" can be directly attributed to Miles' influence. Taylor --who's been performing, writing and recording since her teen years with Little Red Rocket -- has a career path that's thoughtful, intelligent and diverse. She isn't about to be pigeonholed.

Consider, for example, that Taylor has released nearly 10 albums with Azure Ray, her duo with Birmingham's Orenda Fink. Their 2012 tour for the album "As Above So Below" brought the women to China, where they found highly receptive audiences leaping over the language barrier.

"Here I am with my friends, Orenda and Andy, at these packed-out shows in China, and people are signing along with my music?" Taylor says. "Moments like that, I want to cry."

Look at Taylor's resume and you'll see other impressive collaborations there, with the likes of Bright Eyes, Michael Stipe, Moby and Joshua Radin. Her tunes have been featured on the soundtracks of TV shows that include "Grey's Anatomy," "Bones," "Private Practice" and "Suburgatory."

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Maria Taylor's fall concert agenda included an Oct. 25 release show for "Something About Knowing" at Parkside Cafe in Avondale.
When her schedule permits it, Taylor's been working on a record with one of her pals from the China trip, Andy LeMaster. She also opened for Jim James this fall, when his solo tour stopped at Iron City. Taylor's planning to tour the United States in January -- with Miles in tow, of course -- and she'll perform in Europe this spring.

"This is what I know how to do and what I love to do," Taylor says. "I hope that comes across."

For her performance in The Birmingham Sessions, Taylor opened the doors to her family's residence in Homewood. She chose "Up All Night" and enlisted some help from her brother, multi-instrumentalist Macey Taylor. He played bass, keyboards and piano during the recording sessions for "Something About Knowing," at producer Mike Mogis' studio in Nebraska.


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Something About Knowing

Something About Knowing

LP / CD / MP3


Overlook

Overlook

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In A Bad Way

In A Bad Way

CD / MP3