Livingston Taylor’s voice is as warm as the summer sun and has an outlook that says life is good.
An accomplished singing-guitar/piano-man, Taylor’s hometown of Boston declared Jan. 18, 2017 Livingston Taylor Day.
He has played on stages across the world, with other major artists such as Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffet and Jethro Tull, and is a full professor at Berklee College of Music where he has taught stage performance since 1989.
With 50 years of making beautiful music, Taylor is coming to Salmon Arm to perform at the 25th annual Roots and Blues Festival, which takes place this weekend.
From top-40 hits I Will be in Love With You and I’ll Come Running, to I Can Dream of You and Boatman, the last two recorded by his brother James, Livingston’s creative output has continued unabated.
He is equally comfortable performing folk, pop, gospel and jazz, singing his thoughtful ballads, accompanied simply by his guitar or with full orchestral accompaniment. And other artists have seen the worth of his songs.
“Linda Ronstadt had some success with a couple of my songs and there have been other artists periodically who graced me by singing some of my songs,” says the modest man.
Award-winning director Tracey Anarella has teamed up with Taylor to create a documentary about the artist, his life, his career and amazing teaching at Berklee. Livingston Taylor – Life is Good is described as a unique one-off on the man who is “equal parts Mark Twain, WC fields, college professor and musical icon.”
Despite his impressive credentials, Taylor is a warm, compassionate human being, who cares about the planet and its people and making music that matters.
“Ultimately, inspiration for me, comes from two places – unfailing love for my beautiful audience and an abject fear of starvation,” he says, calling love and fear strong motivators. “”When one examines oneself and looks within, you find stories and situations and ya, certainly that need for release fuels much creativity. As I get older and more comfortable, I write songs less about my angst and more about the external, things that amuse me, characters I meet.”
He says that generally, his better songs begin with the creation of a melody, followed by the lyrics.
“Once I write the melody, I can wait for a nice idea,” he says. “Often they come together and occasionally, I write melodies to lyrics, but it’s not as successful as the other way around.”
So deep is Taylor’s own knowledge of music, he might just as likely treat his audiences to a classic Gershwin number or Broadway show tune.
It is a breadth and depth of knowledge he shares with his students at Berklee. He also teaches the importance of being driven to make one’s mark and to accomplish one’s goals in the early stages of career.
“As you get older, it gets less important, goals become less important and enjoying the journey becomes more important,” he says. “The only cure for old age is gratitude; it is so fun to have been able to study for a lifetime, that eclectic music, to hear students play and to come to a place like Salmon Arm and get exposed to more music. It’s been a wonderful adventure.”
Described as a natural storyteller, Taylor peppers his performances with personal stories and anecdotes in a warmth of style that connects him with his fans.
And Taylor is a fan of Canadian music and its relevance to the music world.
“I am continually amazed that Canadian artists seem to bring to the table a discipline and a precision that some American artists have as well, but seems particularly unique to Canada,” he says, pointing to Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. “There’s a real precision surrounding their craft that seems to be a real Canadian combination of passion and discipline, and it really informs North American popular music.”
While he has never met his fellow artists, Taylor will take part in “Bright Side of the Road,” a workshop on Saturday afternoon with Alex Cuba, Irish Mythen and Jay Gilday, from 1:20 to 2:20 p.m. at the Jack Daniel’s Barn Stage.
Immediately following that, he will head over to the CBC Blues Stage for a 3 p.m. solo concert and on Sunday evening on the Main Stage, will perform with several other artists in a special tribute to Leonard Cohen.
Another eclectic world of good-for-the-soul roots and blues music opens late Friday afternoon at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds, with entertainment, food, activities and, oh yes, shopping, for music- and fun-lovers of all ages.
Begin Saturday and Sunday get those bodies moving with gentle stretching, drumming and dancing hip hop, salsa or swing.
To get the lowdown on who’s performing, snag tickets or catch regular updates, visit www.rootsandblues.ca.