James Taylor Network
Fan community dedicated to singer/songwriter James Taylor.
James Taylor Network
Fan community dedicated to singer/songwriter James Taylor.
Interview / Tour 2018 / UK 2018

Fifty years after he signed up with the Beatles, Taylor is returning to London. He’s not stopping yet.

James Taylor’s home is in the highlands of Massachusetts, two hours west of his Boston birthplace. As I speed there in the extreme chill of an April that thinks it’s January, a frosting of snow makes the Berkshires positively dreamlike. It’s a perfect setting for the man dubbed “Sweet Baby James” in a song some 48 years ago.

We talk in the barn studio where Taylor now makes all his recordings, next to the house he shares with his third wife, Kim, and their 17-year-old twins, Rufus and Henry. In this remote, beautiful estate, Taylor, newly 70, seems ever more the statesman of American song.

So how is he adapting to septuagenarian status? “It’s too early to tell,” he deadpans. “Of course, the main thing you learn when you get older is that you’re the same person you were when you were 18. When I was 18, I thought a 70-year-old person was a different creature completely, with whom I had nothing in common.”

Taylor’s most recent studio album, his 17th — the splendid Before This World, from 2015 — may prove to be his final set of new songs. In the studio, a prime spot has been given to a chair sent by Billboard in commemoration of his first No 1, complete with the chart marking that success. The staircases are lined with platinum discs: here a letter from Paul McCartney, there a picture of Taylor performing at Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

When he comes over in July for a short solo itinerary that includes guest spots on Paul Simon’s farewell tour in Dublin and Hyde Park, it will be 50 years since his momentous visit to London, during the period when he won the lottery and lost the plot.

His psychiatric and drug problems predated even his creative pre-eminence: Taylor had already spent time in a Massachusetts institution before a wildly inventive but disastrously heroin-fuelled year in New York. Then, in 1968 in London, he fulfilled every budding singer-songwriter’s dream when the Beatles signed him to Apple and released his debut album.

“As time goes on, I’m more and more grateful and tolerant of my parents,” he muses. “I could never allow my two twin boys, or Sally or Ben [his children from his marriage to Carly Simon], to go to New York City at the age of 18 and live on their own, or then, a year later, go to London with just a guitar and some traveller’s cheques. My parents didn’t know about drugs and rock’n’roll. They didn’t know how inevitable that was going to be, but they supported me.”

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