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Festivals / Interview / MerleFest 2017 / Photos

James Taylor didn’t just go to Carolina in his mind.

The acclaimed singer-songwriter returned to his home state of North Carolina for a special performance this past weekend.

“It’s just home on so many different levels,” Taylor says. “It’s a beautiful part of the world.”

We’re all familiar with Taylor’s love of the his southern heritage from his music.

“Copperline” and of course “Carolina In My Mind” feature our beloved state. What’s not as well known is Taylor’s deep southern roots.

Taylor describes his father’s connection with North Carolina in a single word: profound.

“His forbears in the mid 1600s settled and founded the town of New Bern on the coast and then a branch of the family headed west and settled here, in the western part of the state,” Taylor says.

While Taylor himself has become an icon within the Carolinas, his father also has a historic past.

Isaac M. Taylor was Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

“He and a man named Doctor Barry Hill essentially built it from a two-year premedical program to being a full on medical school,” Taylor says.

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Festivals / MerleFest 2017 / Photos

It was singer-songwriter James Taylor in the collective minds of North Carolinians on Friday — thousands of them.

Taylor, performing with a cadre of other renowned musicians as part of a special set hosted by bluegrass icon Jerry Douglas, was the big draw on the second day of MerleFest, the four-day roots music festival held every year on the bucolic grounds of Wilkes Community College, set in the Brushy Mountains.

If it’s possible for an outdoor show on a sprawling college campus to be standing room only, the Transatlantic Sessions Tour set was as close as it gets.

Fans were crowded in from the green plastic chairs up front — reserved and packed full — to very nearly the back of the field that stretches out behind the reserved seating. And when Taylor finally took the stage about 45 minutes into the two-hour show, that entire crowd was on its feet.

“What a wonderful evening,” Taylor told the crowd at his first-ever MerleFest.

Not one to keep the eager masses waiting any longer, Taylor launched first into his famous ode to his home state, “Carolina in My Mind.”

Next, Taylor played another song written about the Tarheel state. “Copperline” was written, he said, about a rock quarry not far from the home his parents built outside of Chapel Hill.

Two crowd favorites, to be sure, but it wouldn’t have mattered much to festivalgoer John Simpson.

“Whatever he wants to play,” said Simpson, who grew up in Raleigh and considers Taylor a “local boy,” following his career for decades.

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