We spoke with MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger about his album Heart Like A Levee and the community of artists he works with from North Carolina.
You're currently based in Durham, NC. Who are some artists you're impressed with in the Triangle?
I might be slightly out of the loop here, only because I travel a lot, and when I'm at home I'm generally with my family and away from the madding crowd. But there are a lot of great artists that are based here that I look up to: Tift Merritt, Sam Beam, John Darnielle, Kym Register, Heather McEntire, Phil Cook. There are a lot.
Who makes up Hiss Golden Messenger on this tour?
This tour will be myself, Phil Cook, Ryan Gustafson, Scott Hirsch and Darren Jessee.
Heart Like A Levee's album credits reads like a who's who of North Carolina music. What's it like having such a huge group of creatives and friends record the songs you've opened yourself up on to write?
I'm very grateful for everyone that I get to play with. It's a family atmosphere because we've all been working together and putting in miles together for years now. Our spouses and kids and parents hang out together. There's a shared language. The thing that feels really special is that I have all of these intimate relationships with people that I play with and they also happen to be among the best musicians I know anywhere. That's a rare combination.
We know Heart Like A Levee was written from experiences and feelings developed while on tour. Since you're currently embarking on a new tour, can we expect some new tunes from you soon?
I'm maybe 75% done with the writing of a new record and I hope to start recording it as soon as I can. I'm itching to get to work.
What was the first record you remember buying or owning?
I think the first album that I recall actually scraping my own money together and going to buy on my own was probably Run DMC's Raising Hell. There are a few from around that time in my life. There was a band called TSOL in Southern California that I liked, and I remember buying their album Change Today and playing it to death when I was maybe...I don't know, 10 or 11? That was probably the first time that I sought out music that was on the fringes. I really had to search for it. This was back at a time when my music tastes hadn't gotten snobby yet, so I was buying, like, TSOL, EPMD and Eric Clapton tapes all at the same time, and I thought nothing of it. I've slowly gotten back to that.
What have you been listening to in the van/car for this tour?
Oh, boy. I'm not sure yet. We'll see what happens when I climb in the van. I have a great playlist that I'll share one of these days that is all stuff from the Smithsonian Folkways catalog that is just about as deep as it goes. This will be something that Smithsonian shares, I just need to write about this collection of music and I've been really...lazy's not really the word. Busy, I guess.
Any new artists you're really fascinated with recently?
I heard a recent Laura Marling song recently called "Wild Fire" that blew me away. First time in a while that I actually had to stop what I was doing in another room and come in to where the song was playing and sit down and just listen, and then listen again and again.
I care about musicians that seem to have gone really deep into themselves and seem to be doing something honest and vulnerable. I don't really care so much about music that is trying to be fashionable in a really obvious way. I guess that makes me a little bit judgmental and for that I apologize. We just have so little time on Earth, I guess I'm just looking to surround myself with art that I'm not going to mind being with forever.