Taylor Martin was born September 2, 1980. Raised near Richmond, Virginia, this life-long lover of music began playing guitar at the age of 14. Taylor remembers, “After I got the basic chords down, I was already into writing songs. I was real shy about my voice, so I would walk down to the James River, sit on a rock, and just play and sing until it got too dark or cold.”
As soon as Taylor could drive, he began going to hear live music nearly every night of the week. The local bands around Richmond at the time–bands like Agents of Good Roots, and Walter Bell and the Latin Jazz Unit were early influences. “I would go see everything: Ravi Shankar, Magraw Gap, Pat Metheny, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
In 1999, Taylor moved to Logan, Utah, a small town in the northern part of the state. “Moving from the South to the Rockies was a huge culture shock for me,” recalls Taylor. “There wasn’t much music at all in Logan. I made friends with a few guys that played bluegrass, recorded a bit, but mostly just played in the canyons by myself.”
Then Taylor met his first song-writing partner, Dave Thompson. The two formed the band Ghost Mules and wrote a collection of original material. They performed regionally for several years. After achieving some success in northern Utah, they began producing a record at Avon Sound Recording, run by producer and engineer, Ned Gines.
The project fell through, but it produced another opportunity for Taylor. Gines had heard Taylor playing old jazz and country standards in between takes. He approached Taylor about recording a record of standards. “I love the classics,” says Taylor, “and when Ned asked me to record songs like ‘All of Me’ and ‘Pretty Peggy-O,’ I jumped at the opportunity. ASR was a state-of-the-art facility, and the community around it was such a great family. Not to mention the fact that ASR is in a valley called Paradise that is powerful and serene in its beauty.”
It was at ASR that Taylor began to learn the skills of a studio musician, writer, and performer. After a two-year stint of recording and learning, Taylor made the difficult decision to leave his sanctuary in the Rockies and return to the South. He felt the need to return to his roots in the never-ending quest for his musical identity.
Return to the South
Taylor had been hearing people talk about Asheville, North Carolina for some time. “A friend of mine said it was the best little West Coast mountain town in the East. I figured it would be a good transition for me, so once again I plunged into another musical paradigm.”
Almost immediately after moving to Asheville, Taylor met Chris Michael, a bass player from Asheboro, North Carolina. Taylor describes Michael as an important influence in his development as a songwriter. Michael and Taylor began to perform both as a duo and with various bands for the next several years.
It was during this early Asheville period that Taylor began to blend musical styles: the style of music he grew up with in Virginia; the western spirit he experienced in Paradise Utah; and the sounds of Appalachia. “I don’t recall exactly when or why it happened, but I just started hearing songs in my head,” says Taylor. “Chris had taught me an invaluable lesson in songwriting: rely more on personal experience than on imagination. Looking back, it was a real artistic awakening for me.”
Friends of Taylor told him about a producer in town named Eric Willson. Willson had been Ricky Skaggs’s sound man for ten years. “I heard the High Windy album, ‘A Greater Storm,’ that Eric had produced for my friends,” recalls Taylor. “It sounded great, and I knew right then that Eric was who I wanted to work with. We met and I demoed songs for him. That was the beginning of my first real album, ‘Engine’.”
Taylor toured for three years with the material from “Engine.” He then released his second album, “Heartache or Bust.” Since that time, Taylor has been playing nonstop across the Eastern seaboard. He has performed at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and the Suwannee Springfest in Live Oak, Florida. He also sat in with national touring acts Donna the Buffalo and Mountain Heart.
Taylor continues to write and record in Asheville.