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Kim Taylor: Miracle Worker

Balancing music, college and family with a juggler's skill

By Brian Baker · October 13th, 2010 · Music
Kim Taylor is not content with a single dream. Her desire to live off her musical endeavors has largely been fulfilled with a steady stream of physical and digital releases (the latest being the gorgeously sparse Little Miracle) and the required supporting gigs, an increased profile from advantageous song placements on television shows (including One Tree Hill, Eli Stone and many others), frequent appearances with friends Over the Rhine as a backing vocalist/tour opener and her recently signed Revlon contract that will place a song from Little Miracle in an upcoming ad campaign.

Taylor’s musical accomplishments have allowed the Cincinnati-based Indie Folk singer/songwriter to begin realizing her other goal — becoming a scientist. Taylor’s University of Cincinnati studies will ultimately require her to don a lab coat rather than strap on a guitar.

“I love science so I decided to torture myself and get a science degree,” Taylor says over herbal tea at Sitwell’s. “I have this dream of being a working scientist and then in the evenings, at the campfire, working on music.”

Taylor’s new career path shouldn’t concern fans of her darkly meditative Folk Pop, short-story songs. She’s not abandoning her songwriting and performing activities; her musical conviction runs like a river through Little Miracle.

“I learned from (the 2008 EP) Greatest Story what works best for me vocally and I learned a lot from (producer) Mike Deneen,” Taylor says. “I tried to bring that to Little Miracle. I like how broken down it is, and the organ and piano pairing and that it feels almost unfinished. I didn’t go to New York intending to make a record. I go there two or three times a year to my friend’s studio to write, and I ended up making enough songs that I was like, ‘Why don’t I put out a record?’ ”

The September physical issue of Little Miracle came well after the album’s digital release last December; Taylor’s reduced touring emphasis due to school and home life proportionally decreased the need for actual discs at the merch table. But the prospect of out-of-town gigs showed Taylor the wisdom of having a disc for promoters, media outlets and after-show sales.

“I hardly sell any hard copies; it’s all digital,” Taylor says.

“I didn’t even want to release a hard copy, but I can’t tour at all if I don’t do a press campaign. So we did a deal with this company that’ll do a small batch (of CDs) at a time.”

The aptly titled Little Miracle packs a metric ton of emotion and reflection into nine powerful and relatively spartan tracks. The album’s stripped-back atmosphere was definitely a premeditated element when Taylor began the album process.

“I was more involved with this one,” Taylor says. “With (2009 full-length) Fading Light, I wrote the songs when I was on the road with Over the Rhine, then went straight into the studio with my friend Jimi (Zhivago) and I felt kind of confused and lost in the process. On this one, I knew what I was doing. I knew I wanted it to be stripped down. I have a limited amount of production skill and I wanted to do what I felt I could do. All the instrumentation was myself and Jimi.”

Little Miracle could easily describe how Taylor even has a music career. The native Floridian turned church choir and piano lessons into a performing career at 18, ultimately leading to her Cincinnati relocation, where she continued to write and perform. She met OTR’s Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, resumed her English studies and met her future husband.

After her son’s birth, Taylor felt disconnected from her muse and gave up songwriting, but the very act of letting it go unexpectedly revived it. A dozen years and nearly as many releases later, Taylor is writing for herself, maintaining a sustainable living and attempting to write (and co-write) songs specifically for other artists. Little miracle, indeed.

“I’ve always had a hard time with music in that I’ve never wanted it to be just about me,” says Taylor. “I like being the backdrop, and songwriting is what’s taking off for me, so it’s nice that I can do it as a day job and have the science work. I love with college that I have a project I can complete it and it’s done. Music is never like that. Creatively, you’re always having to stay open to channel a new song. I think I needed something to keep my feet on the ground, emotionally.”

As Taylor navigates her career, her songs are increasingly influenced by direct daily experiences. Given her English Lit background (she left UC as a junior when she simultaneously became disenchanted with the program and found out she was pregnant with her son) and her early desire to write short stories, it’s natural that her narrative songs are steered by her life.

“There’s been a lot of personal upheaval and I tend to write about that crap,” says Taylor with a laugh. “Unless I’m really interested in the subject matter, it’s like pulling teeth to write about it. ‘Fruit of My Labor’ is about my uncle, who was a Mexican migrant laborer. It was something I knew about and I always wanted to write a song for him and about him. He doesn’t do migrant work anymore but his brothers do. It’s a hard culture to escape.”

The most moving example of personal upheaval and being engaged in her subject matter is on the album’s title track, written by Taylor for good friend Lisa Kenney, mother of slain SCPA student Esme Kenney.

“I was part of all the people who went to court with her,” says Taylor, in a somber moment, referring to Kenney’s confessed murderer’s trial. “That was definitely in my brain, the tragedy of that, and I wanted to write a song for her.”

When Taylor completes her studies, she’ll be one of the first in her family to actually finish college (“We’re entrepreneurs, not college people,” she says) and she anticipates finding a practical application for her degree. She’s also confident that her music career will continue, altered slightly by scheduling constraints but renewed by new, unique life experiences.

“I think with Indie musicians, it’s totally normal to feel like you could be a scientist and also have a successful Rock band or records that do well,” Taylor says. “As much as I enjoy songwriting, there are so many other things I want to do. I think it will feed my songs down the road.”

For more on KIM TAYLOR, visit kim-taylor.net.



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