Steve Taylor follows a valuable piece of advice from his father.
The Lake Orion Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist carries an optimal load of “supplies” through life’s peaks and valleys with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion, vocals) on The Steve Taylor Three’s insightful new album, Travel Light, out Friday.
“Once a year, my dad and I would go hike the Appalachian Trail in the Appalachian Mountains. He would always talk about how you had to bring everything with you because you’re going to be up in the mountains,” Taylor said.
“You’d have to carry all your water, and you don’t realize how heavy water is until you carry it with you all day. The idea is you only bring what you need. I thought the whole idea of camping and hiking and having to carry everything in your bag is a great metaphor for life.”
Inside The Steve Taylor Three’s Travel Light “bag” resides a comforting assortment of gratitude, wisdom and honesty across 11 transformative tracks. Each one introduces a past, present or future destination along an unpredictable journey filled with heartwarming experiences.
“The older we get, the more reflection there is. I seem to be writing a lot of songs now about the passage of time and what it means. That wasn’t the case when we were younger,” said Taylor, who last released Earn Every Scar with his bandmates in March 2020.
“The simplicity of that phrase, ‘It Doesn’t Take Long,’ I try to take that title or that refrain and just come at it from family, relationships and everything. You realize when you get to close to 50 … I’m going to turn 49 here in a couple weeks and Bryan and Carey have already turned 50. You think, ‘Wow, 50.’ When we were younger, we thought people who were 30 were old.”
A Burden-Free Itinerary
Regardless of age, The Steve Taylor Three’s introspective title track provides timeless nuggets of wisdom within a harmony-drenched country narrative. A troop of revved electric guitar, stomping drums, glistening cymbals, radiant acoustic guitar, thoughtful bass, resilient banjo, grateful strings and buoyant mandolin rallies listeners in the moment.
Taylor sings, “When I was just a little boy/My father said to me/Wherever you may go/Is where you’re meant to be/Cause you can’t control the future/And you can’t run from the past/So live every day like it’s your last.”
“We’ve never named an album after a single song … we’ve never done the title track thing, but it seemed appropriate for this one. That was a song that I wrote for my dad,” he said.
After receiving fatherly guidance, the band seeks bravado and confidence on the Travel Light country-blues jam, “Big Dog,” as traveling electric guitar, bouncy bass, propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, sneaky electric guitar and bold harmonica chug into the next adventure.
Taylor sings, “I’m a big fish in a tiny lake/Cast your line, and I’ll steal your bait/I’m a jewel thief with a master plan/So keep your valuables far from my hands/I am all this, but so much less/Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“The lyrics are kind of ridiculous and tongue-in-cheek, and I think that’s the only song I’ve ever written where the lyrics were a complete first draft. I wrote one line without having any idea of what the rhyme was gonna be,” he said.
“At the time, we were playing a lot of festivals before the pandemic, and I was looking for something that people could hook into right away having never heard the song before. And with that 12-bar blues kind of format that sounds immediately familiar to people.”
Another familiar Travel Light destination includes “This Old House,” a nostalgic ode to cherished childhood memories, including “a million LEGOs,” “a favorite polar bear” and posters of “Van Halen by the window and Bon Jovi on the door.”
Pensive acoustic guitar, somber strings, soft drums, reflective bass and luminous electric guitar magically transport Taylor back to his beloved former home.
He sings, “The only home I ever knew/Child memories preserved/Every thought I ever had/Every song I ever heard/My dad called me up/Just the other day/He said we’re selling that old place/Mom and I are gonna move away.”
“My parents sold their house in Beverly Hills, which they bought in 1977. They lived there until five years ago. I always knew one day that my parents would sell the house that I grew up in, and I still wasn’t prepared for it when it happened. I wrote that song because it was cheaper than therapy,” Taylor said.
“Now, they have a condo in Macomb and a condo in Florida. They go back and forth, and they just got back from Florida. My dad loves ‘Travel Light’ and ‘This Old House,’ and I always tell them when they come see me, ‘I’ll play these songs, but I’m not making eye contact because I’ll never get through it.’”
In fact, The Steve Taylor Three retreated to a home-based studio, Frink Studios in Beverly Hills, to record Travel Light with Frink and Andy Reed as producers. They recorded 10 of the album’s 11 tracks last summer and fall in person while Frink and Reed finalized everything remotely.
“We were supposed to start recording this record in April 2020. We had dates booked, and we were all set to go, and then nothing. When things opened up a little bit more that summer, we got together and recorded a single, ‘Quarantine Love Song,’ which we tacked on to the end of this album,” Taylor said.
“This should have been out last year, but we were waylaid by the fact that we couldn’t even get together to record. We had a bit of a gap between our first album, Check Your Baggage, and our second album, The Tennessee Sessions, because that’s when Bryan was building his studio.”
Some of those studio sessions also featured a returning crew of collaborators, including Renee Paquette (vocals), Ron Rosco Selley (harmonica), Reed (vocals, guitar), Larry Labeck (pedal steel), Janet Sullins (violin), Cathy Franklin (viola), Sarah Cleveland (cello) and Tracy Frink (vocals).
“Renee was the lead singer of a band I was in called the Vudu Hippies. That band broke up in 2004, and she basically retired. She’s my favorite singer of all-time, so I always try to get her to come out and sing at a show or anytime we record,” Taylor said.
“She’s so creative, and she always comes up with a backing vocal idea that I wouldn’t have come up with. She makes me sing better.”
Upcoming ‘Travel’ Plans
The final stop on The Steve Taylor Three’s Travel Light itinerary will include an album release show Friday at Otus Supply in Ferndale. Labeck and Sarah Weaver will join the trio on stage while Detroit Americana quintet Church Mice will play afterward.
“We only played two shows in 2020 and maybe three shows in 2021. We really didn’t know how to play these songs, and we really had to spend the last month or so learning how to play this album. There are certain songs that we’re gonna be playing for the very first time ever on Friday,” Taylor said.
“We’re gonna do the whole album. The other thing we’ve always done is play at least one song that will be on the next album and do one song from each of our previous three albums.”
After Friday’s release show, the band will continue writing and recording new material for their fifth and sixth albums.
“We’ve worked up about half of the songs for the next record. I think sometime over the summer and maybe in the fall we’ll book some sessions with Andy (Reed) and start getting things together for the next record. I really just wanna keep moving forward,” Taylor said.
“I texted Carey (Weaver) the other day and wrote, ‘I just wrote two songs for the sixth record.’ The fourth record hasn’t come out yet, and the fifth record, we haven’t rehearsed all the songs yet. But I’ve already got these two songs I’m really excited about.”
Church Mice & The Steve Taylor Three
Friday, April 29 | Doors 7 p.m.
Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale
Tickets: $10/$20 advance, $15 door