For Steve Taylor, creative inspiration inadvertently starts with a full hard drive.
The Lake Orion Americana roots singer-songwriter surprisingly ran out of storage space on his digital audio workstation while polishing tracks this summer for his latest solo album, Beside Myself.
“I’ve had this thing for 10-15 years, and I got an error message that said, ‘Hey, You’re running out of space, and you’ve now exceeded the limit of this hard drive.’ I said, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to start deleting songs off here,’ and I put out a solo album in 2005 that I recorded in a similar fashion called And So On, and I thought, ‘I can delete tracks that have already been mastered and released,’” Taylor said.
“But I had all these other tracks on there, like ‘Do You Remember’ and some of the other ones that wound up on Beside Myself. I was like, ‘Well, I guess I should just finish these off, or I should just add something to these.’ We weren’t able to do anything; I wasn’t playing any shows. We weren’t getting together as a band, and every gig was cancelled. I felt like I needed that outlet just to kind of stay creative.”
As a quarantine-fueled creative project, Beside Myself features 10 poignant, acoustic tracks and B-sides focused on long-term love, delayed goals, deer-car crashes, childhood memories, peaceful lullabies and other classic life experiences. In a sense, it’s a closely cherished sonic scrapbook of Taylor’s musical evolution as an influential singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontman of The Steve Taylor Three.
“These songs were forgotten; they were songs that I had written for my wife or my neighbors. ‘Sleep & Dream’ was a lullaby I had written for my kids when they were little, and I used to sing it to them before they went to bed. And none of them had I ever intended to release. Some of them just started as demos so I could give them to people, and we could learn to play them live,” said Taylor, who recorded the project in a home studio located under his basement stairs.
“Some of them were already done, like ‘Do You Remember.’ I had recorded that and given it to my wife for our anniversary, but I hadn’t done anything else with it. I started looking to see how many of these were actually done and how many needed more instrumentation. I started counting them up and found there was a group of 10 that I could use.”
Do You Remember the Lake Orion Getaway?
The first of those fervent Beside Myself tracks includes “Do You Remember,” a loving, reflective tribute to solid marriages and close-knit families. Spirited mandolin strums, thoughtful acoustic guitar, lingering tranquil synth and echoey electric guitars surround Taylor as he recalls, “You with your brown eyes/Lookin’ back at me/You in your white dress/You made it look so easy/You with your tanned skin/And me with my long hair/Butterflies in my stomach/And butterflies in the air.”
“On this record, I really liked the way ‘Do You Remember’ turned out, and that was a very personal song. All those details were from our wedding, and that was one of the ones I had completed. It was just sitting on my hard drive, and that’s one of the reasons why I put that song first. I thought it would set the tone for the record,” said Taylor, who played all the instruments on the album.
As another tender, introspective track, “Tomorrow Becomes Today,” Taylor delves into his college music archives and transfers it to today’s land of uncertainty.
Breezy acoustic strums, mellow accordion and delicate drum brush sweeps fill Taylor’s mind as he ponders, “Driving home today/I never felt so far away/From everything I ever tried to be/And the traffic light reflects the unrequited urge I hold inside/And keep from everyone/Because when I speak to you/I wish I could say/I never planned for things to be this way/Though we often say/I’ll do this, be that someday/How easily tomorrow becomes today.”
“It never made it to any of the recordings, and I never had it worked out. I think my whole point of that song was trying to use the word ‘unrequited’ in a song. It was the first time I played a snare drum with brushes, so I just pulled the mic down, and I put in it my lap. I’m not a drummer by anyone’s definition, but I just liked the way the feel of that song worked out,” he said.
Taylor also brings a welcoming, lighthearted feel to “Lake Orion Getaway,” a fun escape artist anthem for covertly leaving neighborhood parties. Jovial accordion, vivid mandolin, warm acoustic strums, soft tambourine, smooth bass and gentle drums ease listeners into an immediate sense of social relief.
He cheekily sings, “Well, it’s one o’clock in the mornin’/The beer is mostly gone/And that game of left-right-center went on way too long/Now I’m tired and I’m drunk/I’ve got nothin’ left to say/It’s time to make a Lake Orion Getaway.”
“I wrote this song for my neighbors, and it’s about trying to sneak out of a party without getting caught. It was a joke amongst our neighbors. We moved into a Lake Orion neighborhood in 2008, and we became friends with a lot of our neighbors who have kids the same age,” Taylor said with a laugh.
“We’d hang out, have parties and say, ‘Where’d Ryan go?’ And then we realized he had basically snuck out, went home and went to bed. That’s what you do when you get to be our age, so we started calling that the Lake Orion Getaway.”
From Quarantine Love Song to New Material
Outside of making a “Lake Orion Getaway,” Taylor relishes the spirit of social isolation on “Quarantine Love Song,” an upbeat, romantic Steve Taylor Three anthem released in June. Along with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, keys) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion), it’s Taylor’s first new Steve Taylor Three track since dropping their reflective, heartfelt third album, Earn Every Scar, in March.
Buoyant drums, bouncy bass and lively acoustic strums reflect the bright side of stay-at-home orders while Taylor sings, “Sometimes I think it wouldn’t be so bad/If the world just slowed down/And I had some more time to stare at your sweet face/Without the distraction of the rest of the human race/Baby we’d have nowhere else to go/Honey we’d have nothin’ else to do/I want to be quarantined with you.”
“Once our dates got cancelled for recording, I had written ‘Quarantine Love Song’ and done it at a livestream show. After they lifted the stay-at-home order, we were able to get back together, and when we started rehearsing again Bryan said, ‘Let’s record that.’ Instead of having a new album out, we had a single about the quarantine,” said Taylor, who studied bass at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Taylor, Frink and Weaver also have started recording their Earn Every Scar follow-up release with producer Andy Reed at Frink Studios in Beverly Hills. They’re laying down a series of new tracks that expand and harvest the band’s timeless canon of countrified rock songs. It will carry forth the band’s musical spirit of bringing a laid-back, spring-like feel to everyday life.
“We’ve made demos of all the songs and sent them to Andy so he can listen to them and get ideas for different parts or production things that he wants to do. But one of the things that we’re going to try that we’ve never done before is we’ve got eight songs that are all full-band versions,” Taylor said.
“There are also two songs that are more acoustic-based, and one of them is a song I wrote that I play at a lot of the songwriter shows called ‘This Old House.’ It’s about my parents selling their house, and I’ve had that song for a few years, but people always ask for it.”