Monday, July 18, 2011

The Local Artist Speaks: RACHEL TAYLOR BROWN

Rachel Taylor Brown is one cool chick. She is clever and witty; she writes good song. I've talked with her on social media and the likes but have not crossed paths quite yet. And, I can't wait because she is quite something and admired by those who know her.

She has a new CD coming out on July 29 at Mississippi Studios. The name of the CD is World So Sweet and I encourage you take a listen when you have a chance.

Meet....Rachel Taylor Brown!

How long have you lived in the Portland area?
All my life. But for four years in Norwalk, CT, just outside NYC. I was born here, at Adidas Headquarters! It used to be Bess Kaiser Hospital. I grew up in unincorporated Gresham, a mile from Boring where I spent my youth picking berries. I used to walk the train tracks into Boring for fun. For. Fun.

Give us a brief history of your band/project:
I've been a musician forever but only started performing my own music and recording it ten years ago. I started playing piano by ear and singing when I was a kid, learned a little sight-reading in H.S. and got nudged to get my BA in Music then fell into classical (singing) gigs for many years--Cappella Romana, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Trinity Consort. I was terribly unfocused--I really do mean "fell." But I'd been writing songs ever since I could remember. My first was, in fact, composed in Mr. Saukaye's berry field, in Boring. It was called "The World's In Consternation." I remember being overly proud that I worked the word "consternation" in there, a word I read and had gone out of my way to learn. I was an insufferable child. Not much has changed as I'm an insufferable adult, too. Though I now favor simple over wordy in songwriting (though clearly not in answering simple questions). I crept into making my own music after a long isolated spell after a nervous breakdown. I was shaky and had no idea how to put together a band or make a record. I tend to work project to project, so no formal band. Most of my work is pretty private, isolated. Which I like. Some talented players have joined me over the years. My only real band now is Ben Landsverk, so talented. He and I have been doing duo shows for awhile. But I sometimes have arena rock needs, so I have an exceptional group of musicians joining me for the upcoming album release show, incl. Leigh Marble, Lisa Stringfield, my sister Katie Taylor, Jeff Langston. And Ben, of course. "World So Sweet" is my seventh album--the fifth i've made w/ my good friend Jeff Stuart Saltzman.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?
Betty's Wooden Shoe Dance. I can still play it. It is an earworm for the ages.

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?
The Press Club. They've been so good to me and I love the staff and owners. I've happily played there enough that I consider it home. It's a charming place. I feel charming when I play there. And I feel charmed when I hear someone else play there.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?
Wendy Haynes (Sophe Lux), Kaitlyn ni Donovan, Leigh Marble, Michael Levausseur (Michael the Blind), Brothers Young, hurtbird, Menomena, Ali Wesley, Drew Norman (Professor Gall), Susannah Weaver (Little Sue), In Mulieribus, Bowel Candy. And I'm sure I've forgotten a few and will go "doh!" later.

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.
I ride my bike a lot. I used to gloat that I never had to worry about a parking spot. Well, that's changed. Which is good, I guess; so many cyclists in Portland, you can't find a bike parking spot! I guess this could be a problem in Amsterdam, too, so it's not an "only in Portland" moment after all, dammit. I was so desperate for something to lock my bike to recently, I almost used a dog.

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without_____”
Jay and Katie (my husband and my sister). And their humor. And my dear family (esp. Kristin and Eric) and friends. And quiet. And fresh, cool air. And my bike. And brain. And sleep. And the sea. And books. And animals. And Firefly. And teevee. And quiet. And (despite my uneasy past w/ them) Oregon strawberries. And, of course, making up music. I love that.

Click here for a podcast recorded in 2009 that includes Rachel Taylor Brown: Mississippi Studio Session.

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