Since 1997 Alabama-native and singer/songwriter Maria Taylor has been an important cog in the wheel of independent music.
Getting her feet wet as a teen in the much overlooked rock outfit Little Red Rocket, it wasn’t until Taylor met Orenda Fink and they formed the duo Azure Ray which put Taylor on the lip of many fans and critics. In her down time from Azure Ray and contributing to several Saddle Creek Records bands (her label home),Taylor has also put out three very compelling solo albums starting in 2005 with 11:11 then 2007’s Lynn Teeter Flower and 2009’s Lady Luck.
After a six-year absence Taylor paired up with Fink for Azure Ray’s Drawing Down the Moon, and has recently released her fourth solo effort Overlook.
“We spent a year writing and then recording Drawing Down The Moon. We toured the US, Europe, and Korea. I wasn’t even thinking about writing,” Taylor said. “Just taking in all the experiences and having a blast on tour with Orenda again after 7 years of touring solo. It was mid-December when I realized that I hadn’t written a song in over a year. I panicked at the realization and decided to try an experiment. I literally locked myself in my room for two weeks. Told myself that whatever I wrote would become an album (if I loved it, of course.) I bought a case of wine and never left my bed… except to occasionally go to the basement and record drums and then bring those tracks back up to my bed!”
Taylor did something else else for her new album. She went home.
After spending time in Atlanta with Fink working on Azure Ray, spending time in Omaha, NE – the home of her label Saddle Creek Records and Los Angeles not to mention touring the globe, the singer gathered her belongings and set forth to Birmingham, Alabama last year. Taylor packed her bags and left L.A. for Birmingham driving cross country to record Overlook.
“I drove and cried,” Taylor said of cross country trip from the west coast to the south. “I had no idea why I was leaving LA. I loved it there. Something was telling me to make this move and as it turns out, my life is starting to slowly reveal why…”
Once she got settle in Alabama, Taylor bought her first house but didn’t get to stay long. She was working hard on touring and promoting the new Azure Ray album. When Taylor did get back home and back to writing, her first song was “Happenstance,” a beautiful, eerie song, which leads off the new album.
“This song just came out almost written. It felt similar to the way I wrote the song “Clean Getaway.” They both just appeared like a gift.”
There is a line in the “Happenstance” which Taylor writes about always keeping a suitcase packed and ready to go. She says this is actually true, but it “may or may not be out of pure laziness to unpack.”
After the first song came, Taylor couldn’t stop her creative juices and spent two weeks in her bedroom writing and recording demos for Overlook. As her fans would expect the songs are poetically enticing with Taylor’s signature warm comforting vocals. Musically it is simplistic and raw with subtle acoustic guitars, drums and a lap steel. Overlook has a laid back Southern feel to it, especially “Bad Idea” which lends images of being on an old porch in New Orleans.
“My Dad and brother always have a banjo, guitar, or mandolin in hand and we always had front porch sing-alongs growing up…if not a southern thing…. definitely a Taylor thing!”
Once she was ready to record the new songs for Overlook, Taylor didn’t go back to the big city for that big recording studio polished sound. Nope, she kept it right in Alabama giving the nine tracks a down home feel. Taylor brought in seven local friends hanging out playing music, capturing the songs in their loose setting. She even brought in a local artist to design the album cover.
“It felt so great working with old friends and my family. It made this record really special to me.”
In making Overlook Maria Taylor made a lot of big changes in her life and it has seemed to pay off for her. Getting back to her family and those friends is what makes Taylor feel like she is exactly supposed to be.
“Azure Ray is in fact going to start working on a new record after I get some touring in to support Overlook. You never know where I’ll go…. but I’d like to keep my house here no matter what.”