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JT Radio interview w/ Leeza Gibbons

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Casey Bui

Feb 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/2/96
to Joel Risberg

Following is the JT radio interview with Leeza Gibbons on the
Entertainment Radio Networks. Recorded: I forget, some time summer of
'92? Whenever it was that the Live album came out.

Joel, thought maybe you'd want to add this to the JT page.



LG: Hi everybody. This is Leeza Gibbons from Entertainment Tonight.
Over the next couple of hours we've got music and conversation with one
of today's most influential singers and songwriters, James Taylor.
Born into a scholarly Boston family, James began his life long
love of music playing the cello before switching gears to folk and rock
guitar as a teenager. Well now after almost 30 years of sold-out concerts
and some of the most memorable music of our time, James Taylor fans can
bring his live show right into their living rooms with a double CD titled
"James Taylor Live."
Recently we had the pleasure to sit down and talk with James in
New York City, and we asked him if this was something he's wanted to do
for a long time.

JT: We love performing live, and uh, I feel really good about how the live
show has sort of evolved. We tried a lot of times to bring in a
recording truck and to tape a few live shows, but it always had the
unhappy effect of sort of making the thing too self-conscious or
something, so this time out we booked three weeks of gigs with the, you
know, with the purpose of recording them, and we a multi-track and just
parked it off stage with an engineer taking everything down, and it was
the right thing to do because we forgot it was there and just loosened up
and we finally got the live performances we wanted.

LG: But you have such an incredible catalog of music, James, to draw
from. How did you narrow it down?

JT: Well you know the.. actually the decisions about what songs should
go on the album are very much that same process that goes on when you're
trying to figure out what to do just in a live performance. I mean,
you wanna do new stuff and you wanna do things that the audience hasn't
heard before, but you also want to do... you assume the people come there
to hear their favorites and that they wanna hear the more standard
stuff. So you mix it up. And so it just followed naturally that that
was also the right thing for the Live album.

["How Sweet It Is," Live Album cut]

LG: From Disc number 1 of "James Taylor Live" there's "How Sweet It
Is." James, you know of course so many of your contemporaries are doing
this 'Unplugged' thing. That raw, live sound is *really* happenin' right

JT: You know I think it's uh, refreshing to move in that direction. I
think you can get so lost in the layering game that you play in the
studio especially with as much control as we've got with 48 digital
tracks or that kind of control or that kind of manipulation that you can
do in the studio really can lead you into a never never land of... just
endless overdubs and replacing one thing after another and just trying to
perfect everything and sanding off all of the rough edges and stuff.. it
loses something. It really does in that process, so it's really great
that there's so much acceptance for people who can make live music.. and
not everybody can. I think those people who are successful at it are
people who can really perform well live...

[fade into "Your Smiling Face" - Live album cut]

LG: Originally recorded for the album "JT" there's James Taylor and
"Your Smiling Face." I gotta figure James that you have done that one a
million times. Does the audience provide the energy you need to make it
fresh every night?

JT: That's the way it is. Y'know, something that if you tried to do it
in rehearsal, y'know just.. you couldn't stand to hear it come out of
your mouth yet another time. If you put in in front of an audience, the
fact that they want to hear it, and the fact that it's all happening in
real time, and the performance is depending upon it... it gives it a real
energy. That often does happen. Occasionally something will just get
done to death and you've got to rotate it out for a while and not play it
for a couple of tours. But generally the audience makes it happen.

[live intro into "Secret O' Life"]

LG: James Taylor and "Secret O' Life" live.

[radio commercial]

LG: Over the Radio Entertainment Networks, this is the James Taylor
Music Special. I'm Leeza Gibbons and thanks for being with us.
[Fire and Rain as background music..] James I know you come from a
musical family. In fact, I believe your brother Alex actually introduced
you to folk and rock music. Is that what sorta encouraged you to go
after a career in music?

JT: Yeah, I think it was a surprise to my parents. My dad's a doctor
and an academic. And I think it was always assumed that that was the
direction for us to go in. But they never even offered a second's
hesitation or doubt or expressed any concern about my wanting to do this,
they just supported me all the way. And there were quite a few years
where it not only didn't look promising but where the lifestyle looked
positively dangerous. So, you know, they were good...

["Shower the People" - original recording]

LG: From 1976, that is the incredible James Taylor with "Shower the
People." James, after a stint with a band in the 60s, you broke out and
became a solo artist, and you moved to London signing with the Beattles
label 'Apple.' Those must have been some pretty incredible times.

JT: It was unbelievable. Sort of a dream come true. I was some kind of
solid Beattle fan and used to listen everything.. and steal as much as I
could and play the songs. So when it turned out to be them and their
company that picked me up and offer to let me make my first record, it
was really.. yeah, a definate high.

["Carolina In My Mind" - original recording]

LG: From that very first Apple record titled "James Taylor." That's
"Carolina In My Mind." I gotta tell you James, when I left South
Carolina and first moved away from home I played that over and over
again. I mean, it sort of just became my anthem I guess. How did that
one come about?

JT: Oh yeah, well.. I was recording that Apple album and I took a break
and went to an island off the coast of Spain called Formentera (sp?).
And I met a girl there named Karin, and she and I took a boat to the next
island which was Abeetha (sp?) - a larger island. We were just walking
around there and missed the last boat back and didn't have any money for
a room and we stayed in the street that night and waited for the next
morning when the boat would run again. As the sun.. she was asleep on I
guess a sort of like a park on the side of a... in a cafe really on the
Boardwalk there on the Embarcadero. And I was up and I this song just...
I felt really.. I was thinking about my home in North Carolina and what
it meant and stuff and that just sort of came down out of the air. And I
took it back to London and finished it up. McCartney played bass on it and
sang some back ups and stuff. It's I suppose still my favorite song that
I've written. It means a lot to me that one.

LG: Mmm, what a special story. You know another song that I love from
that era is "Something In the Way She Moves."

JT: Yeah, that was one of the... when did I write that? I think that
was one of the first things that I wrote. I think it owes a little bit
to the Beattles. You know there's that song they have "She's in Love
With Me and I Feel Fine"? I think that maybe I owe them a little bit for
that. But following that George Harrison wrote that song something -
that *he* called "Something" and he couldn't call it "Something In the
Way She Moves" because my song was already *called* "Something In the Way
She Moves"! So I figure we sorta even out on that...

["Something In the Way She Moves" - original recording]

LG: Thanks for joining us and you're listening to the James Taylor Music
Special. James, like so many people who are thrust into the public eye
in such a big way, you went through a pretty tough time adjusting to
public life. In fact, in 1972 you were actually on the cover of Time
Magazine - a story that talked a lot about your drug abuse and time spent
in mental hospitals. What do you remember about that article?

JT: I actually don't remember reading it; I don't remember any
particular reaction to what they might have talked about. Just that it
was unbelievable and surreal to be 22 years old and on the cover of Time

LG: Were you comfortable with your whole celebrity status?

JT: Uh, no. I can't say that I was very comfortable with it. I'm not
saying that it wasn't exhilarating. It was. And it was validating,
great you know. I don't know what it was about it. I was just.. felt a
little uneasy with it. (LG: Yeah.) I think it's typical of
singer/songwriters that they put their thing together in a private
place. (LG: Right.) I know my preparation for the years that I spent
developing my music and writing my first songs and stuff like that... it
was, like I say, a very private space. And to turn that around in a very
short period of time and go amazingly public with it is a huge
transformation, and it's something that people really need to adjust to.
It was great; those were great years. Without a doubt.

["Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" - original recording]

LG: ...James Taylor and "Her Town Too." James, what's the story behind
that one?

JT: Well Lisa (not Leeza), well I wrote that with John David Souther. I
remember I was over at his house. I was staying at the Chatteau Marmont
on Sunset Strip (LG: Oh yeah.) in Los Angeles. And a close friend and
his wife had divorced. And both he and I, both John David and I, had
been close to both of them and it was basically about what happens to
couples and how you sort of take custody of the friends after you break
up and stuff like that. So, that's what went into it. It was an
evening. We sat around playing guitar, throwing lines around and came
with this song.

LG: Is that how you usually write?

JT: Yeah. I mean it can be different ways too. Sometimes, I wrote a
song with Stevie Wonder once and he just basically got me a tape of the
music he had and I wrote lyrics to it. And it another case... a song I
wrote with Timmy Meir "Home By Another Way" which is one of my favority
songs (commentary: one of my favorites too!). He had written the lyric,
just sent me the lyric and I came up witht he music. [intro to "Country
Road"] Sometimes it means sitting down and generating it, and other
times it's fitting either music or lyrics to something that exists already.

["Country Road" - original recording]

LG: Direct from Hollywood, this is the James Taylor Music Special
brought to you by AT&T. We help put your world within reach. I'm Leeza
Gibbons from Entertainment Tonight.

James Taylor spent much of the 70s on top of the world professionally.
Albums like 'Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon', 'Gorrila' and 'Sweet
Baby James' captured fans with JT's delicate mix of acoustic guitar,
understated tenor and tales of inner torment. But it was his real life
struggles with drugs and alcohol that dominated the times. Well now
clean and sober for 10 years, James is an avid exerciser and a
self-proclaimed gym rat. James, nowadays would you say that exercise has
kinda become your "drug of choice"?

JT: Yeah, I think probably it has. I'd like to think it's healthy but
it's probably a little bit beyond that. I will probably be taking years
off my life at the gym. It's true it is, was, has been sort of a
substitute for chemical dependency for me I think. It came around.. my
interest in physical activity of various sorts came around the same time
as I cleaned up. So, it's probably accurate. It's good. You know the
other thing is that when you get to be 40 years old, the rest is boot
camp. From then on you're sorta just fighting it all the way.

["Sweet Baby James" - original recording]

JT: I wrote that song in the car.

LG: Really?!

JT: Yeah, I wrote that song in the car. [Background guitar music: "Like
Everyone She Knows"] On two separate occasions. One: on one occasion I
was driving down from Boston to.. actually from Cape Cod down to North
Carolina. My brother Alex and his wife Grant (indecipherable) just had
their baby which they named after me. I was going down there to visit.
I was sharing a house with my brother Hugh's girlfriend, Genie (sp?)
Smith, and Genie and I drove down the coast to North Carolina. And drove
straight through. And all this time this song was going through my head,
just playing word games with it, trying to work out lines and make internal
rhymes and stuff like that. So that by the time I got down to North
Carolina it was, oh, something like four o'clock in the morning when we
arrived. Nobody was up; I took the guitar out of the car, and I went
down to my old room where I'd grown up in and sat down with a little tape
recorder, and it was just... really ready to come out.
The second verse was again written in the automobile driving from
Stockbridge, Masachussetts back to Boston on the Mass. Pike. (LG: Yeah)
It was the first of December, it was snowing. The rest of it just came
out. You know it was like the first verse was for Baby James and the
second verse was for me.

LG: It's such an interesting story how you work as a songwriter. Do you
always sorta do it in sections like that?

JT: No, that's the way things usually work these days. Sometimes they
come all at once but mostly you get an idea to start with, and then you
have to go back and nail it down and sort of clear the time and do the
work. [fade in "Copperline"..] That's how I'm used to it these days.
In the beginning they just fell out of the sky or jumped out of a tree or
rose up out of the ground... you know, I couldn't stop it. But nowadays
they need a little coaxing, and other things will compete for the time if
I don't clear it out, so....

["Copperline" - original recording]

["Walking Man" - Live version]

LG: From the album "James Taylor Live" that's "Walking Man."
["Never Die Young" intro in background...] James, in addition to
being such a talented songwriter, you've had an awful lot of success with

JT: Rearranging songs is a little bit like writing it. You sort of..
you live with it for a while and I play it on the guitar and work out a
sort of different approach to it if I can. And if it's compelling enough,
if it stays around and eventually you play it in a sound check or
something [fade in "Everyday"] and finally say, "Well this is sounding
good," and work it up and do it on stage or take it to the studio or

["Everyday" - original remake recording]

["Fire and Rain" - original recording]

LG: From 1970 and the album "Sweet Baby James." One of James Taylor's
biggest hits of course, one of the most popular songs he ever recorded,
"Fire and Rain." We're going to have more of our musical special for
you. Hope you'll stay with us...

["Handyman" intro in background...] James, I think there's no question
that one of the reasons that so many people connect with your music is
because it *does* touch an emotional high or low point in our lives. Do
you write a lot during the ups and downs?

JT: Yeah, I think that that's probably right. And for me.. at least in
the beginning I used to probably write more often on emotional lows in
order to feel better. That's not so much the case anymore.

LG: Kind of a therapy thing.

JT: That's right. Sort of 'remedial' kind of thing. You know, if it
works don't fix it kinda thing.

["Handyman" - original recording]

["Mexico" - original recording]

LG: With Graham Nash and David Crosby on vocals and harmony, there's James
Taylor and "Mexico." What do you remember, James, about writing that one?

JT: That was a real surprise. It came really fast. It felt really good
to do. I was recording the album 'Gorilla' for Warner Brothers and I
needed a break. I went down to spend a long weekend in Mexico with some
friends down in Peurto Vaerta (how do you spell that?!), and while I was
down there, this thing just.. sometimes you go some place you know? That
happened with Baby Boom Baby now that I remember it. [fade into "BBB"] I
was in a hotel room in Rio De Jenero and the thing just.. I opened the
door to the hotel room, walked into the room and sat down with the guitar
and it's like the song was waiting for me there. And this was the same
thing. Time to write it I guess.

["Baby Boom Baby" - original recording]

For the past couple of hours you've been listening to a very special
Special, spending some time with one of my absolute favorites, James
Taylor. We're just about out of time but we wanna play one last song.
And let's do one that absolutely everyone knows. Talk to us a little
about how you came to do Carol King's "You've Got A Friend."

JT: Well, you know, I guess it was 1971 or so. Carol King and I were
sharing a bill at the Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles
and she playing this song every night.. and it was in her set. And I
would come out on the balcony, out of the dressing room, onto the balcony
there and listen to this song cuz I really loved it; it was great, and
said, "Gee." After hearing it a couple of nights I said, "Carol, you
know this is a *fabulous* song." And she had written "Will You Still
Love Me Tomorrow?" and "Up On the Roof" and you know what I mean... the
"Star Spangled Banner" for Christ's sake! So, telling her that you think
this is a good song, it means... I thought it was great. And I'd work it
up and was playing it in the dressing room the next night, and she said,
"You know James, that sounds good." And I said, "Yeah, it is. I love
this song Carol." And she said, "Well, should do this song!" [fade in..]
It's typical of her, but... so, that was a great thing.

["You've Got a Friend" - original remake recording]

LG: It was a number one hit from June of 1971. James Taylor and "You've
Got A Friend." So James when you look ahead, what's next for you? More
touring, maybe a new album?

JT: Well, I guess we'll see how that works. I think I'm looking at
about two or three years since my last studio release. Maybe two years
now.. yeah. I'm under contract to do a couple more albums for Columbia.
So, I'm looking forward to doing those. You know I don't write as
prolifically as I used to. So it'll.. that'll probably carry me for
another five years or so getting those records done. I have a tour
booked for next summer and some benefits coming up this fall. I guess
I'm just gonna soldier on a bit in this mode right now. It's hard to
know how long this thing lasts. I mean, when I started out, I would have
figured 45 would have been about the end of it. You know, just.. over
the hill.. to old to rock and roll, and just give it a break and move
on. But I don't want to stop; I don't wanna stop. I don't know how to
do anything else. And I like this.

LG: And we like what you do! It is such a delight to talk with you.
Thanks so much for spending time with us and being part of this series.

JT: Yeah, thank you. Oh, and my pleasure.

LG: The James Taylor Music Special is an exclusive presentation of the
Entertainment Radio Networks. blah, blah blah, blah, blah blah blah....



Feb 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/4/96
Thanks, Casey, for taking the time to post this interview.

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