M.C. Taylor on his journey and latest 'Hiss Golden Messenger' records
M.C. Taylor from Hiss Golden Messenger has been on a journey.
It was on a solo tour of the UK that a crisis over what he was doing and how he was doing it came to the fore. The result was a canceled tour, a homecoming and a recommitment to the music that has been core to who he is.
The latest "Hiss Golden Messenger" record is called "Quietly Blowing It" and it is a reference he applies to himself.
Taylor joined WUNC recently for a chat about that journey, his record and some holiday music.
This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.
When I think about the songs that you wrote for "Quietly Blowing It, I think you take a lot of big subjects that can work both externally as you look outward, and then you focus them inward... You did that on quite a few songs on this record. And I guess that's something that that you were really thinking about?
"I think that a song works when it's coming from a very small place. So, I'm trying not to write big, if that makes any sense. I'm trying not to write something that I'm hoping will resonate with an arena full of people; I'm trying to write something that is a very small and sharp moment that is very familiar to me. The funny thing about that is that, if any piece of art has a chance of resonating with a huge group of people, I think it actually is those moments that are so small and so personal and so so relatable."
When I got to "It will if we let it" — the sound of that song lifted me up before I even caught a hint about what the lyrics were. And part of it is, there's a great R&B feel there that I love. Do you set out with a sonic canvas in mind when you write?
"Sort of. I sort of have have an idea about what I want the painting to look like at the end. I'm a big fan of Curtis Mayfield. Curtis always sang in such a beautiful falsetto. He excelled at that sort of understated groove that is just like quietly trucking along — bumbling along, I should say. I think I probably said something like, 'Let's try this song and just think of how Curtis Mayfield might have done it.' Knowing that, we're not trying to make a record that sounds like Curtis Mayfield, but there are elders that came before us that have already been in the same territory that we are exploring. So, I think it behooves us to pay attention to what they what they were doing."
You're in a big box retailer in the lead up to Christmas last year, and you find yourself all mightily offended by what was coming through the speakers. How did that lead you to record your own versions of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," "Joy to the World" and others, including some new ones that you wrote?
"I wouldn't say that I was offended. I was just, I think, existentially flummoxed at the way that human beings can live with this profound denial. Maybe that's just the way that my brain is put together. I was in some big box store and I just sort of had this epiphany because they were playing this very — you know the type of music — very aggressive, brash, Christmas music. It's music that's meant to drive your heart rate up and make you shop with a sort of frenzy. And I was just like, 'Man, this is so not how I feel right now.' There's a lot of sort of deep emotions that come with this time of year."
M.C. Taylor records as "Hiss Golden Messenger." The latest records are: "Quietly Blowing It," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "The Sounding Joy."