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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 09:09 GMT
Talking Shop: James Taylor
James Taylor
The star battled with drug addiction for many years
Singer-songwriter James Taylor has sold more than 40 million albums since he released his first record on the Beatles' Apple label in 1968.

He recently headlined a series of concerts with Carole King at Hollywood's legendary Troubadour venue - reminiscent of some of his earliest breakthrough performances in the US.

Taylor's new album, One Man Band, captures the singer performing classic hits like Something In The Way She Moves and You've Got A Friend at an intimate show in his home state of Massachusetts.

Did the Troubadour shows bring back a lot of memories?

They were amazing, but the last time we played there was in the early '70s and I don't have a particularly good memory of that period with everything that happened to me [Taylor was addicted to drugs, including heroin, for much of his early career].

But bits came back - the setlists and the people. It was where Carole and I sort of got our start in a way. We shared the bill, we shared a band. And hopefully we'll do it again. We'd love to bring it to England and Europe.

Carole King and James Taylor
Taylor's version of Carole King's You've Got A Friend was a major hit
Both the Troubadour shows and the One Man Band CD see you looking back over your career. Is it strange to revisit those early songs again?

It's true it does have a lot of looking back and examining things - but I play 50 to 75 performances a year and I always play a lot of the early stuff, as well as whatever's decent out of the newest material.

Have the songs evolved and changed their meaning over the years?

The second song in the show is I'll Never Die Young. And I thought that song was about a character looking at an idealised couple. He's made some sort of compromise in his life and he idealises these two people that made it up and out of the situation he's trapped in.

But recently someone in the audience said to me: "That song's about the death of a child". I looked at it again and I think that might be true.

In fact, a woman wrote a letter to me and said it helped her deal with the loss of a son.

James Taylor
Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000
That sort of reaction must be very satisfying.

It's the main thing. I won't finish a song if it doesn't mean anything to me - the motivation isn't there. But it's hugely gratifying if somebody else says that it's directly affected them.

How much has the recording industry changed over the last 40 years?

In the '60s it was a lot easier to get music heard. People who were in the music business were much more about the music and much less about the business. But as it became worth a lot of money, bigger and bigger corporate entities became involved.

It lost touch with its roots, essentially. It ceased to serve the public and the artists who depended on it.

Do you think that things can change?

There are greedy, short-sighted, self-serving people who grabbed hold of that business, and it's stopped being attractive to them. So it's shifting back to people who love music. It's an exciting time, but I wouldn't want to be getting started right now.

James Taylor
Taylor was Oscar nominated for his work on Pixar's Cars soundtrack

Your new album is coming out on Starbucks' record label. Why have so many respected artists of your generation - including Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney - signed up with them?

The main thing about Hear Music is that they're enthusiastic about it.

Warner Brothers has half of my catalogue and the other half is with Sony. I'm very much still tied to the fortunes of those companies. But that's no longer the only game in town.

What are your plans for 2008?

I'll make a new recording. I have a large band that has some of the best players that have ever drawn breath. Over the years we've performed lots of cover tunes, good time music and rockers. We're going to record all of those at home in the barn.

It's going to happen on 20 January and come out in the summer, although I don't know how yet. I guess we'll probably give it away. Then I'll start on a new album which I hope to finish in 2009.

James Taylor was speaking to BBC News entertainment reporter Mark Savage. One Man Band is out now.

Singer Taylor gets charity honour
21 Oct 05 |  Entertainment


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