Eric Taylor is a sage musician, a lyrical genius and a master of the guitar. If you're familiar with the intricate Texas singer/ songwriter jigsaw puzzle, you probably already know a lot about Taylor. If you're not familiar with Taylor by name, you've probably heard his songs performed by people such as Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. He has created a multitude of fans and devotees that are legends themselves in the singer/songwriter realm, artists who have long considered Taylor to be a teacher and a lantern bearer whose time is long overdue.
Taylor grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and started playing soul music in his early years, steeping himself in the rich cultural heritage of the black South. "I've written poetry all my life," Taylor recounts. "When I learned how to play guitar, it was a natural progression to write songs." After high school, a brief stint at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, just "didn't work out," according to Taylor.
"Music lured me away," says Taylor. "I thought I'd make my way to California like everybody else back then but I ran out of money and ended up in Houston." It's a good thing he never made it to California, because the musical environment in Houston during the '70s was just what Taylor needed to inspire him.
Taylor learned intricate blues guitar stylings from music legends Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi Fred McDowell while working at the Family Hand club. Later, he developed his own unique guitar picking style, that would be imitated by many of his contemporaries from the early Houston days, such as Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, and Nanci Griffith. "There were no lines drawn in the sand between musical genres in Houston back in those days," Taylor remembers. "You were just a musician. I believe so many great writers came out of that scene because you could learn from others. Isn't that the point of this whole thing?"
In 1977 Taylor was a winner of the "New Folk" competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Shameless Love, his first album, came out in 1981, and after a hiatus of almost 14 years, he returned with the self-titled Eric Taylor, released in 1995. His eponymous release was chosen as the 1996 Kerrville Folk Festival Album of the Year. Three years later he released Resurrect, and it was subsequently named one of the "100 essential records of all time" by Buddy magazine. Taylor has headlined the prestigious Newport Folk Festival, played National Public Radio's "Mountain Stage" and has appeared on both "Late Night With David Letterman" with Nanci Griffith and "Austin City Limits" with Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, and Robert Earl Keen.
"To say that Eric Taylor is one of the finest writers of our time, would be an understatement," Nanci Griffith says. "If you miss an opportunity to hear Eric Taylor, you have missed a chance to hear a voice I consider the William Faulkner of songwriting in our current time." Griffith has recorded several of Taylor's songs, including "Deadwood," "Storms," "Dollar Matinee" and "Ghost in the Music," which they wrote together. Lyle Lovett, who has recorded Taylor's "Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning," “Whooping Crane,” “Understand You,” and with whom Taylor co-wrote the immensely popular "Fat Babies," compares Taylor's narrative voice to that of Bruce Springsteen. Iain Matthews claims, "Once you become a Taylor fanatic, it gives one immense joy and pride to be able to enlighten others to the man's work."
2001 brought forth Scuffletown, and shortly following its release, Taylor was a featured artist on "Austin City Limit's" and NPR's "Morning Edition." The Kerrville Tapes (2003) is his first live album, recorded during three years of appearances at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival.
In 2004, heeding repeated requests by fans and media, Taylor re-mastered the vinyl Shameless Loveand reissued it as a CD with 2 never-released-before bonus tracks.
In the spring of 2005, Taylor returned to Rock Romano's Red Shack in Houston to record his 5th studio album, The Great Divide. Garnering rave reviews at home and abroad, The Great Divide quickly reached #3 on the Euro Americana Chart and in 2006 was named one of the Top Releases Most Played by Folk Radio.
Hollywood Pocketknife, released in 2007, is a 10-song collection that shows Taylor in his prime as a writer and performer, with his exquisite narrative style, his keen, studied observation of the human spirit, and his intricate, roots-driven guitar work. Produced by Taylor, Hollywood Pocketknife also features a stellar cast of musicians, including Eric Demmer (saxophone), David Webb (keyboard, Hammond organ), Mathias Schneider (lap steel), James Gilmer (percussion), Vince Bell (vocals), Steven Fromholz (vocals), and Susan Lindfors (vocals).
In January 2008, Eric Taylor and Hollywood Pocketknife were nominated for FolkWax's Artist Of The Year and Album Of The Year.
In early 2011 Taylor decided to bring together some of his oldest friends and favorite musicians for a live recording. In May 2011 we recorded 2 nights live at The Red Shack studio in Houston, Texas. There was a film crew and live studio audience. Nanci Griffith flew in from Nashville to sing, Lyle Lovett came in to sing, Denice Franke and Susan Lindfors Taylor came in to sing, Marco Python Fecchio flew in from Milan, Italy to play electric guitar, and James Gilmer joined in to play percussion. We captured 2 magical nights of music and friendship and Houston history. The performances are stunning, and this Live At The Red Shack CD is unlike anything out there. It's a combination live record / retrospective record / celebration of friends. Named One Of The Top 10 Albums Of The Year (Texas Music magazine) and Best Of 2012 – Live Album (Third Coast Music magazine).
In June 2013, Taylor released his 10th CD, aptly named Studio 10. Also recorded at the Red Shack, Studio 10 features 9 new songs penned by Taylor and a cover of Tim Grimm’s “Cover These Bones.” Eric Taylor’s compassionate storytelling and song theater at their finest, painting an always colorful cast of characters making it through this world. Some songs are tributes to friends who have passed – “Bill” (Bill Morrissey), “Francestown” (in a Dave-van-Ronk vein), “String Of Pearls.” Some songs from a woman’s perspective (“Molly’s Painted Pony,” “Adios”). “Reno” and “Dark Corner Ice Water” showcase the intricate narrative quality and unique theater aspect of Taylor’s writing that sets him apart. Two songs – “Tully’s Titles” and “Tully” – were written for the Storyworks.TV documentary film Road Kid to Writer – The Tracks of Jim Tully, and resulted in an Emmy nomination for Taylor for Music Composition in the summer of 2016.
A mesmerizing performer, Taylor has toured extensively in the United States and Europe, playing notable venues such as Club Passim, The Bottom Line, Caffe Lena, The Bluebird Cafe, Red Clay Foundry, The Ark, CSPS, Freight & Salvage, The Green Note (London), Paradiso (Amsterdam), Theatre Kikker (Utrecht), The Real Music Club (Belfast), Hotel du Nord (Paris), DC Music Club (Dublin), and The Bein Inn (Perth). Festival appearances include Kerrville, Newport Folk Festival, Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Boston Folk Festival, Glasgow Americana Festival (Scotland), Take Root (The Netherlands), and Roots of Heaven Festival (The Netherlands).
He has taught at the Kerrville Song School, and has conducted songwriting workshops throughout the U.S. and Europe, including Fulston Manor Performing Arts Centre (Sittingbourne, England), CARAD (Rhayader, Wales), Puget’s Sound Productions (Seattle, Washington), The Weem Inn (Aberfeldy, Scotland) and the The Barn Productions (Williamstown, MA).