The reason no one ever heard about who won was because of me. I apologize for that. I asked the administrators at HQ not to announce my name as winner and they were great about working with me.
I accepted the delay and in fact, wonder if it may have contributed to Taylor's unhurried manner while talking to me. If he had called me in the midst of rehearsals and costume fittings at the beginning of the summer, the call may have been a quick two minutes, instead of the chatty twenty minutes he gave me during the show's last week.
I have to say, I wasn't expecting that. I had jotted down some questions and comments weeks ago, assuming the call would be brief. During one uncharacteristically quiet moment in my life, I asked myself, "What do you really want him to know?"
It all came down to the music. I wanted him to know that he has the ability to take a sound and turn it into a feeling. I don't understand it, but it happens. He opens his mouth to sing and my body reacts with goosebumps, tears or a smile.
So I picked one performance to talk about first and foremost in case that would be the only thing we got to discuss. Then I listed some questions should he be in a talkative mood.
Finally, the phone rang and Kevin from HQ connected us:
Taylor: Hey, Caryl, what's happening?
Me: Hi, how are you doing?
Taylor: I'm doing well, sorry it's taken so long to get connected, but now we're here.
Me: Yeah! So, how are ya feelin?
Taylor: I'm feeling great, I just went in for a check up. I'm ready to hit this last weekend on Broadway. I'm pretty excited about that. I have friends coming up. There's gonna be a party for everyone and the cast after the show.
Me: That should be fun. I have a couple of questions if that's OK .
Me: But first I wanted to tell you that I recently saw a video of you sitting in with Spoonful James at Ona's in May. You sang "Bring It On Home To Me" with Wynn Christian and it was sooo beautiful. It stuck in my head for days.
Taylor: Our voices compliment each other. We've had that kind of chemistry since college. Wynn's a great songwriter, too.
Me: I thought your version with the quiet harmonies was just so beautiful.
Taylor: That's a good version. We've always done it that way, since we were younger, you know, at Auburn.
Me: I read that your next CD will have a country influence. Is that true?
Taylor: Well, just because you go to Nashville and write songs doesn't necessarily mean that they're country. I think they're more Taylor than anything else. You can take a country song and...here's an example, did you know that all of Gladys Knight's hits were written by a country song writer? A lot of her Motown hits were country songs, they just made it fit her style. A great song is a great song, whether it's country, blues or rock, it doesn't matter. You just have to make it your own.
Me: Yep, I agree. I also read that you were thinking about adding a verse to "Somehow".
Taylor: Yeah, I was...I think it needs it...but then again, if it's not broke, don't fix it, ya know?
Me: Sure. You've got more life experience though, maybe you have more to say.
Taylor: That's very true.
Me: You looked great, by the way, at the Kentucky Derby. Did you work with a stylist?
Taylor: Yes, I do have somebody. If I have an event to go to, we go shopping. She helps me facilitate my ideas about clothing.
Me: That reminds me, what you wore to A Capital Fourth was pretty nice, too. I couldn't quite figure out what kind of fabric the suit was made of. It almost looked like leather.
Taylor: It wasn't leather! (laugh) If I'd been wearing leather you would have seen me drip completely off the stage. It was about 98 degrees.
Now I started blabbering about a show I went to where I thought I saw his brother. (Yeah, I agree, who cares? But gimme a break. At this point I was wingin' it!) He said, yes-indeed, his brother was at that show.
Me: He looked like he was enjoying every minute.
Taylor: He's a great guy. I keep in touch with everybody, ya know.
I asked him about the Otis Redding album he stole because I've never heard specifically which album it was and I want to check it out. He said it was a compilation of his greatest hits.
Taylor: But you know what's great. An album I was listening to this morning...Sam Cooke, Night Beat. There's a song on it called, "Mean Old World", a very cool, haunting number. During the "Somehow" time period I was listening to a lot of Sam Cooke. So I guess you could say it inspired "Somehow". You should look for it: Night Beat and the song, "Mean Old World".
Suddenly lots of sirens.
Me: What's going on over there?
Taylor: This is called what you hear in New York City when you're walking down the street. There's like 25 different cop cars that cruise around New York City, you know, for security. I ducked down the other way so I could talk to you. You hear all kinds of stuff.
I didn't realize we were talking as he walked through the streets of New York. I'm assuming he was walking from the doctor's office to the theater, but I didn't ask. (None of my beeswax.)
Me: Can you move around the city without being bothered?
Taylor: Yeah, all in all. The hat is key. I've loved living up here, being able to do the Broadway thing and that being such a success has opened a lot of doors for me, not only in theater but in music, too.
Me: That's great! I wasn't so sure about it when I first heard about it, but you found a way to make it cool.
Taylor: Yeah, I wanted to definitely make the part my own, that's kind of the reason for the suit and the harmonica. It's worked out really well. It also allowed me to be in front of new fans. There's people who come to Broadway from all different parts of the world and they see me play harmonica and it's been able to broaden my fan base. It's a really cool thing.
Me: Well that's great, I'm glad it all worked out for you .
Taylor: Yeah. I'm excited about the next chapter. It will be... unfolding...before our eyes...very soon. (He said this mock-dramatically.)
Me: *giggle* I hope it's not too long.
Taylor: Yeah, well, I gotta get into the studio. I got a couple more cowrites to do. I don't want to make the record like I made the last record. I want to take the time and be able to find the right players to fit the song. You have to really get it right. You have to get the music right. That's kind of where I'm at. I'm gonna take a little break and then get into the studio and make the songs that I have in my repertoire right now that I want to put on the record. I really want to make them right.
Me: Well, that's what we want from you. We want... what you want the music to be.
Taylor: This time around I'm in complete control of that. It's going to be awesome for my fans and I.
Me: I know that you're under contract where you can't talk about some things connected with AI but will you ever be able to talk about those things?
Taylor: It depends on what they are. I think the next record is definitely the most important thing right now. And it's really cool, there's no bad blood there at all.
Taylor: Not at all.
Me: That's good.
Taylor: Everything's great. I'm gonna take a little break and I'm definitely excited about getting back into the studio.
Me: Do you think you'll do any shows before the CD is finished ?
Taylor: Possibly. But my main goal is to create the best record I can. That's where all my focus is going- to make a really good record. You don't want to stray too far from what you want to get out there next.
Me: It seems like this is really your time because now you've got the resources and you've got the freedom.
Taylor: I do have that. I think in the long run that's gonna be beneficial for me and my fans, to go into this thing with a clear, stream-lined concept with people around me who have my career in focus.
Me: Yeah. *pause* Do you go anywhere online?
Taylor: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I do. I definitely am aware of what the fans are saying and stuff . I'm tuned in. As long as you guys are tuned in, I'm tuned in.
Me: Well, good. Hey! I've got a silly question. Why do you sometimes play the harmonica with your nose? (OK, I'm cringing. That was a stupid question!)
Me: Is it just because you can? *nervous laugh*
Taylor: *laugh* Well, yeah, ya know. It's fun for the people in the front. And it's fun for me.
Me: Oh, OK.
Taylor: Listen, Caryl, I've got to run.
Taylor: I've got to go to the theater. It was so nice to talk to you.
Me: You too, thanks for calling.
Taylor: Sorry it's taken so long, but I'm glad we got to talk.
Me: Me too, take care.
What I hope you'll take away from this is that Taylor really does seem to be all about the music. He became the most excited talking about Gladys Knight, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. And he said many times how important it is to him to get the next CD right.
I'm sure Taylor feels the pressure from his critics and frankly, from us as well, to create a CD that's a true representation of him as a musician. Maybe we should all take a break, like Taylor. Push away from the computer, work on something you're passionate about. And when he's got the album "right", come on back and celebrate. That's what I'm going to do.
I'll leave you with the song Taylor recommended. I imagine some of you will want to read too much into the lyrics, but the impression I got from him was that he just thought it was executed really well. So, enjoy it for what it is because, after all, "a great song is a great song."