Monday, April 18, 2011

ARTIST FEATURE, "TAYLOR CARROLL, THE DISCOMFORT ZONE"



When Taylor Carroll was fourteen years old, a casual viewing of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop turned into the obsession of a consummate, physique athlete. Taylor immediately set upon a course to master the push-up, the sit-up, the curl by thousands of repetitions, each one a little better, each one a little stronger, and each one more confident than the previous. Purchasing workout magazines, reading relevant articles, and anally following instructions for muscle-building techniques, Taylor emerged, almost surprised, three years later, seeing, as it were for the first time, the transformation that ornate discipline and tedious routine built.

Scant resources at his disposal, Taylor has accomplished a similar feat by his success in music production. Building business from the ground up, Taylor has created his own contacts (often leading to dead ends), aligned with collaborators (who have often stiffed him), maintained extensive (and often confusing) networks, developed budgets (often working under budget), learned industry-level techniques (often while on the job), apprenticed himself to the greats (often for free), and submitted to strenuous weeks at a time in the studio (often alone). Taylor has constructed the environs of a boot camp, personally customized to reign in the slippage of weak resolve, to augment the superiority of rare skill sets, and to squeeze out of him every possible ounce of productive energy.

Taylor Carroll grew up in the Memphis music scene, drumming and playing guitar for acts like Cayerio, After Edmund, Air Five, Day of Fire, Our Hearts Hero, Pillar, and the Grammy & CMA award-winning Peasall Sisters. In addition, he has produced projects like Kassi Moe, The Wager, Brett Manning. Taylor brings to the production industry a rich, musical legacy, keen attention to production detail, and infectious enthusiasm. Each summer with artists like Toby Mac and the Newsboys, Taylor volunteers at Camp Electric, a music camp that teaches lyrical and instrumental craftsmanship to aspiring, young musicians.


However, what is rarely seen or appreciated of production geniuses is the behind-the-scenes rigidity this choice of career in the start-up phase demands. Money. Money is scarce. Taylor has gone two-week bouts at a time with one meal a day, consisting of a granola bar (two if he was lucky) and, perhaps, a protein shake if there was extra money in the coffers for it. Many times he has numbed hunger by glass after glass of water. Time. Time is money. The studio was Taylor’s cell to which he was tethered for days at a time, sleeping in cramped studio chairs, couches, floors in order to oversee, to guard, to protect his project.

And what about the payback? For all the work he has done, disappointments have been a normal part of the job. Countless artists have left Taylor midstream, leaving behind masters representing countless, fruitless hours, leaving behind unpaid debts to be counted against countless hours of scrupulous work, and leaving behind expensive studio costs supposed to have been paid with money gotten from finished projects. Record companies have connived to block Taylor out of the legally binding terms of artist contracts. Along with production experience, Taylor has developed a keen understanding of the fickleness of human behavior.

And how does he do it? What is his secret? Taylor’s edge is his commitment to discomfort. He described to me in original "Taylor-made" analogies that he does not just try to be better than the day before. Rather, he focuses straight ahead, steadily ticking off the benchmarks of progress, but never staying too long to recover from exhaustion, to relish in an old victory, to strike an equilibrium of deceptive comfort. The fickleness of fidelity, the sting of betrayal, and the lost honor of comradeship have been an emotional toil that has far outweighed the agony of sleep deprivation, hunger, or financial straits. Yet it has also contributed to the very steeling of Taylor’s bones, hardening his mental faculties into the likes of a war machine.

While Taylor is not a marginal guy, he definitely occupies a tight margin, a unique niche, a rare work ethic. If little sleep, little money, little food, and little comfort are the prerequisites for eliciting that clean production sound, that golden EP, that peerless album, then Taylor is first in line to give it up. Check out Taylor at taylorcarroll.com. You can also find Taylor at myspace.com/taylorcarrollmusic and singingsuccess.com. Check out Taylor's drumming for Pillar in the following video.


2 comments:

  1. I'm going to have Damon, my favorite guitarist, read this post, watch the video, and be aware that success doesn't come cheap.

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  2. I've watched this guy many many times in the studio and he's no joke. I've spoken with him on the phone while he was driving hours to and from gigs. He is a Marine in the form of a producer.

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