Monday, February 28, 2011

Taylor Hicks ~~ Songwriting--Muse or Lightning Bolt?

Taylor Hicks tweeted recently: “Off to prepare for the shows next week and to do a little writing.”

Of course, we assumed that would be songwriting. I recently looked at one of Taylor’s first songs written at age 19, “The Fall.” He said in “Whomp at the Warfield,” that it just kind of “fell together.”

James Taylor said songs hit like lightning bolts. He talked about creativity recently in an entertaining interview with Charlie Rose.

Music blogger, Bob Lefsetz featured it and led in with his own look at the iconic song writer and performer and at song writing today:

“…it's no crime to get old. But in fine detail, James Taylor looked less like a star and more like a person. After all, these are just human beings, flawed like the rest of us, but they wrote those songs... How did they write those songs?

“Not the way they do it today. Not the way those big Top Forty hits are constructed. They're built from the ground up. And even those Nashville compositions are anything but bolts of inspiration. Brick by brick you build the song today. But great songs are feats of inspiration, they enter your brain and you have to write them down fast, before you forget them.”

In Charles Rose’s interview after an introduction of classics like “Carolina in my Mind” and “Fire and Rain,” James Taylor talked about the process:

How did you write those songs?

“There’s sort of a lightning bolt moment when you are visited by a song and you have to remember it...hopefully you get as much as you can; sometimes it’s a whole song, sometimes it’s just a fragment and you have to collect those fragments and often hide away somewhere and work them, push them around in circles.”

That was then.

“The lightning strike part happens less frequently now…. I feel an expectation to express myself…you get better at the craft of it.”

There must certainly be a large part of craft to the process using knowledge and experience. But that does not explain why Taylor feels that one of his best songs is “The Fall,” and it was only the third one he had written. Is creativity an inherent ability or “gift” that comes with his obvious passion for his music?

Lefsetz has said that true artists perform because they “must.” And songwriters write because they “ must.”

Lefsetz suggests a large part of passion in the “must” equation. What part passion? Is it the driving force that ignites the artist and craft the delivery of the art?

“In the creative state a man is taken out of himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious, and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. He mixes this thing with his normal experiences, and out of the mixture he makes a work of art.” E. M. Forster

I’ve posed the question here before whether songwriting for Taylor is different now than it was at 19. He has gone from relative obscurity to obscuring his identity when he goes out. After all, his life has changed drastically. Do life experiences inspire creativity? He said in his autobiography, “Heart Full of Soul,” that he had written some of his best songs during his dark days in Nashville. Does unhappiness bring out the muse or nurture an emotional climate for creativity? Taylor wrote “The Fall” after a breakup.

James Taylor seemed to say that he writes now because it is expected. That seemed sad to me. I thought, “Is the fire gone?”

What sparks creativity? What nurtures its taking shape? How does it make that journey from the heart and soul to the voice and guitar of a musician passionate about his music?

It is a complex dialogue…

As elusive as the Muse—that romantic goddess of creativity…

Does one implore the Muse and hope that she will deliver the artistic?

What part of creativity is just plain hard work?

Perhaps not romantic but realistic, is it craft—knowledge, experience, toil?


But I’m not the artistic one!

Just give me creativity on the voice and the guitar strings of Taylor Hicks!

And may the forces, spirits, Muses, or lightning bolts continue to come together and create the magic of musicians like James Taylor and Taylor Hicks!


Read all of Bob Lefsetz’s blog and see James Taylor’s interview. They are way up the creativity chain here!

Final Reflections:
I would like very much to know if and how songwriting has changed for Taylor Hicks from age 19 when he wrote “The Fall” to now, when he seems to search for time to spend on his craft, or is it time to reconnect with his muse, or is it just a place for his big gift of creativity to do what it does?

Do songs still “fall together” like “The Fall”? Is it from lightning bolts or a creative craft of experience, love for the music, and the elusive muse?

Process or passion?

Interesting to contemplate!

Taylor said last week that he was heading back into the studio to work on an album due out in late fall.

So it begins…

Stay tuned!

Photo by Mike Payne: Taylor Hicks performs at Gold Strike Casino, Tunica, MS, February 25, 2011.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taylor Hicks ~~ Touring's in the Blood!

Taylor Hicks kicked off his Modern Whomp Solo Tour on this day in 2007 on an historic stage at the SOLD OUT Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the same stage where Elvis Presley opened his first national tour. In the footsteps of The King, Taylor hit the road and rocked the stage on a very ambitious tour.
If it's February...

It was nothing new for the 2006 American Idol. Taylor Hicks had been on the road for ten years throughout the South, although this road trip was going a little bit farther.

As he prepared for Opening Night in Jacksonville, Taylor told an interviewer,

“Touring is in my blood.”

Touring is that irreplaceable connection with the people.

And this tour had a formidable cast of musicians.

“I’ve handpicked all of the players.”

Taylor was giddy about taking off with an 8-member soul band:

Taylor Hicks, Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Cow Bell
Loren Gold, Music Director, Keyboards, Vocals
Josh Smith, Guitars
Al Carty, Bass
Brian Gallagher, Saxophone, Flute, Percussion
Felix Pollard, Drums
Brian Less, Organ, Vocals
Melanie Nyema, Vocals, Percussion

Taylor Hicks,” the album, had been released in December, 2006, and the set list would reflect much of the music from the record that had just been certified platinum in January.

He said of the set list then:

“It’s gonna be loose. I’ve been the same performer regionally for ten years, and now I’m that same performer nationally.”

It was new music and old music. The opening song on this first national tour was appropriately, “Soul Thing.” Taylor has claimed it as his mantra for the years on the road.

Opening Night in Jacksonville:

Soul Thing
Heaven Knows
The Maze
Hell of a Day
Wherever I Lay My Hat
Dream Myself Awake
Just to Feel That Way
Heart and Soul
-Call and response (Soul Patrol!)
-Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (Chuck Berry)
The Deal
The Runaround
Gonna Move
Young Turks
Takin’ It To the Streets (Doobie Brothers)
The Right Place
Long Train Runnin’ (Doobie Brothers)

Jacksonville Times-Union writer, Dan McDonald, reviewed the concert the next day:

“Hicks…is unashamed of his love for the music. It is this genuine quality that makes his performance endearing and entertaining. …Totally at ease…He was a performer, not some contest winner. …On this night these people invested more than a couple phone calls to vote for Hicks. This time they spent real money to buy tickets. He answered the call.

“Hicks will always carry that American Idol baggage- for better or for worse- but of all the winners, he may be the performer who stays true to his own musical muse. Hicks sings from his soul.”

Many of us had in hand our own itinerary for a few days after opening night and would meet up along the road that year.

The Modern Whomp Solo Tour played 109 concerts from February 21, to November 2, 2007. Almost 40% of the shows were SOLD OUT! All were at near capacity!

So, if it’s February, and it is…

Taylor Hicks is rehearsing. Fans are packing. There’s more touring on this horizon…just three days from now—a new set list and perhaps new band members.

It is like marking the seasons for the touring musician…

And as the concert reviewer did in Jacksonville, we could also say today…

“He sings from his soul!”

We said in our Congratulations then as we all started that new journey:
“We have miles to go…”

That's still true. There are many more miles and many more Opening Nights!

Congratulations, Taylor, on another February and another tour!

Sing from your soul!


Touring in the Blood ~~ 2011:

February 24, 2011 ~~ Pensacola, FL, Vinyl Music Hall, 7:30 p.m. Tickets on sale:

February 25, 2011 ~~ Tunica, MS, Gold Strike Casino, Millennium Theatre, 9:00 p.m.

February 26, 2011 ~~ Biloxi, MS, Beau Rivage Theatre, 8:00 p.m.

March 28, 2011 ~~ San Marcos, TX, for Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge, 7:30 p.m. $50 donation and $150 VIP Meet and Greet.

April 28, 2011 ~~ Snoqualmie, WA, Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom, 7:00 p.m.

May 27, 2011 ~~ Coos Bay, OR, The Mill Casino, Salmon Room, TWO shows, 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Tickets: 1.800.953.4800

Stay tuned…

It’s only February!

Thanks to RagsQueen for saving the memories of “Taylor Hicks” in Lights, and for Taylor on stage in Jacksonville!

Thanks to cath_tthc for all the archiving of the 2007 Tour!

For a look at the 2007 Tour Dates and Cities:

For the Connections Bus Stop thread on Jacksonville and all the other stops in 2007 visit:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taylor Hicks ~ "The Fall"

“It’s funny how my life changes with the snow…”

Someone told me once:

“It’s sad when you can’t marry your first love.”

I was 19, in college, and had met my first love.

No, I didn’t marry him. He was climbing the ladder…

You can’t know Taylor Hicks music without knowing “The Fall.”

It’s the other end of Jam Cruise 9 music; it counters “Badge.” It will grab you. It is what I call “pure Taylor voice” as we also hear on “Indiscriminate Act of Kindness” and “Maybe You Should.” It balances the repertoire.

If there is a song that Taylor Hicks has written or performs that seems to come from deep inside him, it is “The Fall.”

He wrote it when he was 19, and the very popular concert encore was only the third song he had ever written. He talked about it in the interview segment in his first music DVD, “Whomp at the Warfield” released in 2009:

“After a breakup…you know, I think it is one of the better songs that I’ve written. It just kind of fell together… it’s kind of John Prine meets Lowell George.

“That song still has some evolving left…I think it has some more growth as far as the song. I haven’t been able to produce the song as much as I wanted to, so I’m kind of looking forward to some of the older music and produce it the way that I want to…

“My opinion is you want to take as much time as you can on the art to make it right….I’m pretty excited about some of the older material on the first album, In Your Time, [to] let them grow and let them breathe again.”

“The Fall” is an emotional story of seemingly many goodbyes, games, separation, and, as one climbs the ladder, breakup.

In his introduction at one venue he gave a knowing grin to the audience and said “heartbreak…chick…you know…”

Do we ever look at what we do as reflected in someone else…the falls they take?

“The Fall”
By Taylor Hicks

It's funny how my life changes with the snow
takes a long, hard solid state of gold
all the times I look it still occurs to me
just passing time, trying not to mind, set my spirit free

There's a place and time for everything
when the good gets going bad
and every time I try to look and hide
it leaves you lonely, feeling blue, and feeling sad

Here it comes, just rushing in
the distant smile replied,
a distant grin

It's not so bad after all

I climbed the ladder,
and you took the fall

you took the fall

Light on my feet I'm walking down
my steps are heavier to lessening frown
soon I'll be gone so pay me no mind
there's always the worries wasting time, and wasted wine

Here it comes just rushing in
the distant smile replied,
a distant grin

It's not so bad after all

I climbed the ladder,
and you took the fall

You took the fall

Feelings will pass and soon have to go
the colder the heart, the harder the wind blow
although you're trying to make your own throughway
you turn your back on love with the games that people play

Here it comes just rushing in
the distant smile replied,
a distant grin

it's not so bad after all

I climbed the ladder,
and you took the fall

you took the fall

“The Fall” is poetry first with images and emotions in black and white and grays before there are Taylor vocals and acoustic guitar. Even notes add images as they “tumble” down on “faaaall.”
This is Taylor most vulnerable…he closes his eyes in much of the song. Whether or not he is reliving the hurt of the words as they were when he was 19, he is expressing the hurt of words like this at any time.

There's a place and time for everything
when the good gets going bad

“When the good gets going bad”…
Remember the hurt at 19?

“Here is comes just rushing in …”

reminds me of the emotional repeating line in “Gran Torino”: “Beats the lonely rhythm all night long,” as the essence and emotions of the song flood over you.

I have watched many performances of “The Fall.” As Taylor said, it is a song that has evolving and growth coming. I wonder if it is “the” song that, with Taylor’s “evolving, growth, and production,” will become his breakout signature song.

It would be a beautiful legacy.

If I could take only one piece of Taylor Hicks’ music to wrap up and hold close, it would be “The Fall.”

We move on, but we never forget love at 19!

For love that was, love that is, and love forever...

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Blogger’s Note:

I love words. “The Fall” is one of the most intricate and beautiful collaboration of words I have seen. I find myself comparing this stunning poetry to “February Song” by Josh Groban—both beautiful and a little mysterious. It is not for the listener to know the exact story behind the words.

To see “The Fall” in “Whomp at the Warfield” again, I watched all of the DVD and remembered again why I am here—the incredible music and amazing show that this man shares every time he takes the stage. The 2007 Modern Whomp Solo Tour was another magical time when a very slim Taylor was on an exhausting big tour high with 5-6 shows a week. It paid off—that was the 27th biggest grossing tour of the YEAR and there were MANY tours on the road that year.

For those who were around then and before, I know this is repetitious. For those who have joined the Taylor journey in the past year or two, I hope you enjoy some of these times that have taken Taylor to where he is today. Incidentally, you can hear Taylor’s “It shall be called ‘whomp’” definition of his music in “Whomp at the Warfield—the Interview.” And you can see “The Fall” and “The Badge” side by side!

Talk about juxtaposition!

Final reflection….if you haven’t gotten your Valentine’s Day present…or you deserve another… “Whomp at the Warfield” is at Amazon…

just sayin’

Photo by RagsQueen via TMOMedia: Taylor Hicks at Bay Shore, NY, September, 2010.

“The Fall” from the 2010 Summer Tour in Bay Shore, NY by MissMeerkar:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Behind the Soul: "Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks"

Taylor Hicks sits down for lunch with the staff and young people at the Big Oak Ranch where he appeared in a charity concert for the Alabama children’s home.

We see a short snippet of Taylor’s performance of “Gran Torino” for Clint Eastwood at the Museum of Tolerance gala honoring the legendary film maker.

Jam Cruise “Shotguns” place us in the party as Taylor sits in with the jam bands on the all-day-all-night music fest and as he hosts the fun and funny Gong Show.

TaylorHicksTV on YouTube has produced a video series taking along viewers as Taylor appears around the country. With an unknown “sidekick” holding the camera, we are backstage, in the crowd, and on the move with the Season Five American Idol—up close and soulful.

If you haven’t seen “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks,” click on the links below to all the episodes. New ones are usually posted on Tuesday on and @TaylorRHicks on Twitter!

"Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks" by TaylorHicksTV :

Jammin on Jam Cruise"

Jam Cruise 9"

The Gong Show Extended Edition"

Honoring Clint Eastwood at the Tolerance Museum"

The Shops at Grand River Tree Lighting"

Children’s Cancer Benefit"

Talk of Alabama
“I’m gonna tear this old place down and I’ll be on my way…”

Stay tuned onTuesdays! And enjoy “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks”!!!
Photo by Brad Hodge Photography: Taylor Hicks on Jam Cruise 9

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks: Jammin on Jam Cruise"

American Idol jammin’ at sea?

It’s not your Simon’s Idol.

Five years, and life after Idol for Taylor Hicks is sailing along just fine.

Taylor Hicks performs with Galactic on Jam Cruise 9; photo by Tom Zinn.

The Season Five winner recently joined in with a rock-star list of jam band musicians on Jam Cruise 9 for a week-long 24/7 floating jamfest. Taylor sat in with legends Robert Randolph, Ivan Neville, Maceo Parker, Galactic, Anders Osborne, Big Sam, JoJo’s Mardi Gras Band, and more. He officially hosted The Gong Show with all due hilarity.

Hosting The Gong Show on Jam Cruise; photo by Paul McLaren.

In “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks: Jammin on Jam Cruise” –Taylor rocks out with other Jam Cruise artists:

The weekly video series on Taylor HicksTV on YouTube captured by Taylor’s unknown “sidekick,” “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks” takes viewers along on appearances in 2010 including Children’s Cancer Research Benefit, singing “Gran Torino” for Clint Eastwood, Jam Cruise--The Gong Show, DisneyWorld for Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and more.

Performing "Gran Torino" honoring Clint Eastwood at Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival; photo from MJSBigblog.

For all the latest on Season Five American Idol, platinum-recording artist, Broadway star, recent restaurateur, and touring musician, check out more “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks,” news, and upcoming concerts at: