June 30, 2015 | « back

FORBES.COM – The Story Of How James Taylor’s First Album Of New Music In 13 Years Was Finally Written

After a thirteen year hiatus of releasing original music, James Taylor, one of America’s greatest songwriters, is finally back to doing what he does best. The singer-songwriter’s seventeenth studio album, Before This World, is quite the glorious return to the music world. Though Taylor has been a major figure in the music world for decades, only this week has he secured his first number one album.

Even though he’s one of the most respected performers out there, Taylor hasn’t lost a single bit of his trademark cool demeanor, nor has he become any less humble than he’s ever been. During a performance and interview at iHeartRadio headquarters in New York City earlier this week, Taylor opened up about his lengthy career, and on why it took him so long to come back to writing and recording new material.

The legendary artist explained that he had to take time off because it just didn’t feel right to make music. In 2008, he released the album Covers, which featured his take on classics from the likes of Glen Campbell, The Temptations, and Leonard Cohen. While the record was certainly critically-acclaimed, it wasn’t the original compositions his fans so longed for. That wouldn’t come for many years, until the singer-songwriter finally forced himself to get back to work.

Surprisingly, the music for Before This World was demoed and ready to go in 2010, but it was the words that really stumped Taylor, and his creative block held the album back for several years. In order to write the lyrics for most of the new record, the songwriter had to seclude himself from the rest of the world and force himself to put words to paper, even if they didn’t all stick. He borrowed a friend’s place in Newport, Rhode Island, and he did almost nothing but work. In between weekly sessions on the coast, Taylor said he made sure he was always ready to record a melody or a bit of lyrics, both carrying a recorder on him at all times and even calling home and leaving a message on his own answering machine. Whatever it takes to write the best songs possible, I suppose.

Why did the singer-songwriter have to go through so much just to make Before This World?

“It took a lot of doing. I’m very distractible I guess” he joked to the intimate crowd.

At the age of 67, Taylor is still going strong, and his talent certainly hasn’t waned in the slightest. Though he had come down with a bout of laryngitis during the concert (which prompted him to only perform three of almost ten tracks live for the 150-plus audience earlier this week), Taylor still pulled off wonderful renditions of tracks from the new album (“Montana”), as well as his well-worn fan favorites like “Shower The People”. In addition to a slew of promotional appearances to support his new album, Taylor is also playing a sold-out show at Fenway Park in Boston, and he’ll perform at his annual Fourth of July show at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.