An Interview with Singer/Songwriter Chris Taylor about his new album, “Creatio Ex Nihilo”

Chris Taylor

An Interview with singer-songwriter Chris Taylor about his new venture, “Creatio   Ex Nihilo.” by: Bill Mallonee

1. Chris let’s talk about the new album. It’s ambitious and a significant departure sonically. I’ve known you for years. The “old Chris Taylor I knew” delivered Folk, Pop and Rock with a heart-on-the-sleeve stance. Those are your wonderful “signature” sounds. (You can agree or disagree, btw!)
For those of us familiar with your past work, how would you characterize Creatio Ex Nihilo’s palate?

CT: I do agree! I come from a sort of unlearned, self taught, rag tag, rock and roll vibe through the years of my music. I think skill level on your instrument, mixed with the players you have available to you at the time, help dictate your musical style to others. As far as dreaming up Creatio Ex Nihilo, I was reaching for sounds I heard in my head like daydreams or distant sounds always out of my reach, in my own mind. So I felt it was time to strive for that, sonically speaking… and I knew that I had a few musicians who could help me achieve it.

2. Creatio Ex Nihilo has sonic textures and aural landscapes that sound like someone entering a different world. There’s a dream-i-ness there. It’s understated, lush and pensive. Pop superstructures & like arrangements are discarded. New layers of sound are explored. Is this an experimental record for you?

CT: I’m in a position of being able to do whatever I want to do. Musicians can do that in the beginning of their career and if they because very successful and sustain a massive career… they could do that again. Many years ago, I felt like a hit a ceiling where I was just stuck on Groundhog’s Day, career-wise. All the gigs felt small and similar to each other. I didn’t sell very many records… I wasn’t advancing or moving up… I was just being consistent and willing to play and keep recording. I’ve dreamt of making this album for many years. I did it for me, more so than for anyone else. It was as if my soul needed it as much as my body needs a shower.

3. Another question for you, Chris,
Upon first listen, I sensed that there was very little framework surrounding the songs; They were more like musical explorations. I heard things like that in a few of 70’s sorta of art-prog bands and even in Pink Floyd.  Even though much of that music came out of the so-called drug culture, I think ultimately it was a search for peace & transcendence. I sense that on Creatio, as well.
There is a noted leaning on the sonic textures of guitars and keys and as you said, less dependency on the lyrics and song structure. The musicians take their time forging an idea and getting it from “A” to “B.”
So: Is there an “average Chris Taylor fan,” and if so, how would you prepare him/her to receive” Creatio?

CT: Great insight and a very good question! To tell you the truth, I’ve no idea if there is an average fan of mine… I’ve been in a creative bubble for years… not selling many records and starting to not worry so much about selling records… just making music I love. Some things about the business of music fade away and the creative aspect comes to the forefront. So if you’re a casual fan of mine… or a die-hard fan… If you’re going to take a listen to Creatio… It’s like entering one of my dreams I’m having just before the sunlight rises through the windows of my room. There’s no hits, no catchy jingles… just moods, meditations & melodies, tapestries & textures… and my soul laid bare under it all.

4. I first heard music akin to “Creatio” back when touring the UK in the late 90’s. “Chill” music was the very term. I was attracted to it’s subtle textures and the mix arrangements were fantastic. Lyrics were typically downplayed, but your lyrics are one of the many strengths you’re known for:
On Creatio, given the different approach, did you find you wrote a different type of lyric and, if so, could you be more specific about that. Did the approach make it easier/harder to convey your themes?

CT: Because I only play rhythm and percussive type guitars & keyboards, I really focus on getting a lyric that is coming from a place that is genuine and has got some soul to it. I’m not going to dazzle anyone with my solo’s or fretwork, so the songs become all about the lyric, arrangement and dynamic feel. They’ve got to stand up in a solo live setting… and if I have a band, I can morph them into something else all together. With the songs on Creatio, I started humming musical ideas I heard in my head and capturing them on tape. They were lead parts for whatever instrumentation I would later choose… So a guitar or saxophone would replace my vocal. And the few lyrics that are on the album were never actually written! They were sung live on the microphone as I made them up… like some sort of subconscious thing coming out of me. I kept the bits that I felt weren’t a nuisance to what was already happening within the songs. The first song on the album “Look Me In The Eyes” this lyric just came out like a blast of a gun. I’m scat-singing and all of the sudden I sing “look me in the eyes when you tell me, I want you to see, my heart break.” And I remember this moment in my life that line could pertain to – and it was the saddest lyric I’ve ever written. But if I had a pen and paper… it would never have been. Funny thing, that lyric is surrounded by this joyful chord progression and sung with this beautiful melody with harmonies… so it doesn’t seem sad at all. I love how music works like that sometimes.

5. Chris, did you find that in writing the lyrics for Creatio that you were pushed to “conjure” a different set of images, different word play & phrasing than on your more acoustic/pop recordings? I ask because, in my own writing, I’ve always tried to make the tenor of the words and delivery fit the vibe of a song. The two things, music and lyric, should be married, and (ideally) should re-inforce the over-all mood of a song. You seem to have ably accommodated your lyric gift to the new approach I find on Creatio. Care to discuss?

CT: Yes! Lyrics are always flying through my head, scattered, in and out of focus. The music helps them form and take shape. On Creatio… I really wanted the music to do the talking so I knew if I was going to write any kind of lyric… The less I said the more powerful each line would become. It’s kind of like when you’re watching an intense drama… Great actors can say so much without saying anything. They could give a look or a movement that could explain so much to the viewer. My job on this record was to take layers and layers of sound and texture and weave them into sonic tapestries that revealed a side of my spirit that I’ve never put out into the world. Any lyrical or poetic statements were just signposts to give people a bit of direction but they are very much open to their own personal interpretations.

Brilliant. Chris, thanks so much for your time, your thoughtful answers and of course your great work! All the best to you and the new album!  ~ bill mallonee

You can listen to (and purchase!) Mr. Taylor’s new album at:
https://christaylor.bandcamp.com/album/chris-taylor-presents-creatio-ex-nihilo

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