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Taylor Pie prefers to play her folk-based original songs in listening rooms such as Hondo’s, where she recently held a release party for “Live At Hondo's.” The former lead singer for the Pozo-Seco’s now writes, records, and performs on Puff Bunny Records. Photo by Phil Houseal


Details:
Taylor Pie recently released her newest CD “Live At Hondo's” on Puff Bunny Records. Information at taylorpie@musician.org, or www.taylorpie.com.

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Taylor Pie

by Phil Houseal
July 8, 2009

Taylor Pie remembers the moment she fell in love with folk music.

“I saw this huge man standing on stage with an ax, singing and chopping wood,” the Texan singer-songwriter said. “I thought that is cool. It cinched me. Folk music - that is where I’m at.”

The man was big John A. Lomax, Jr., the year was 1962, and the stage was Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. The Lomax family was legendary for collecting, recording and archiving original American folk songs.

Music fans will recognize Taylor Pie as Susan Taylor, lead singer for the Pozo-Seco Singers, a Texas-based charting folk group that also featured Don Williams and Lofton Kline.

Many years after the Pozos, Susan Taylor was eating dessert at a club in the Berkshires, when she decided her name “wasn’t happening.” So she gave herself a new one.

“I always liked Taylor as a first name,” she said. “I don’t remember how ‘Pie’ came up. I just bet nobody had that name. Guess what? Nobody did.”

Pie, who graduated from W.B. Ray High School in 1965, traveled the arc all musicians know well. Playing for the joy of it as a teen, finding early success with the Pozos, writing songs for Bette Midler, Tanya Tucker, Mickey Gilley, and the Forrester Sisters, stints as a studio musician, grinding out gigs in small clubs and bars. Now she has come full circle and is playing music once again simply for the joy of playing.

With her early introduction to folk music, it is not surprising that Pie approaches her writing from the folk angle.

“Folk music is where I’m at,” she explained. “Folk music is the music of the folks. It is not necessarily real polished, but always from the heart. It is songs sung around the campfire, or when working, or to put babies to sleep. Your song erupted from you because you were doing a task. Words would come; music would come, and that’s what I loved about it.”

She picks up her mandolin and sings a song about losing her dog.

Jubal, Jubal, Jubal won’t you come on home, boy
Jubal, Jubal won’t you come on home

By the second refrain she has coaxed the crowd into singing along with her. By the last verse, she has them crying and laughing with her.

Now when Jubal got old and ready to go
I took him on a walk down Dry Creek Road
I was his best friend and I didn’t walk fast
I dug his grave in the shade when he breathed his last

Her songs start and end with a story, and often she adds comments along the way. An evening with Pie is like spending time with friends, swapping lies, telling tales.

It pains Pie what happened to her beloved folk music as a popular genre. It all changed in 1968.

“Folk music became very political. That’s what made it popular, with folk anthems by Dylan and Baez. But after the shootings at Kent State, every booking we had on campuses was cancelled. Colleges were afraid the music would inflame the students.”

But what popular culture listens to doesn’t matter to an artist as restless as Pie.

“My problem is I get really bored with myself quickly. It has made me eclectic, which commercially speaking kills you, but I’m totally satisfied with it. I learned a couple of jazz chords so I wrote a song using them so I can practice them. Or I’ll use the mandolin for a color and a tone. I’m looking for a feeling about a song. So I’m having a great time.”

Pie shared a note she got from one fan who bought her CD.

“He said he went home and put the album on, and it ‘didn’t knock my socks off.’” She shook her head. “I thought, buddy, why’d you bother to write that? But then he went on to say he listened to it again. And he listened to it again.” Her voice became a whisper. “Then he said, ‘I realized this is not an artist you can just put on in the background and expect to have your socks knocked off - you really have to pay attention.’ If that’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, then that’s my failing. I’m not going to blow you away with color and lights. But if you are willing to come and listen, you are going to enjoy the show.”

Having played the big arenas, Pie now looks for “listening” rooms where folks can sit close and sing along.

“For me it’s ‘resonating,’ that is the word,” she said. “I want to write something that when it’s resonating in my heart and I’m singing it, I want that feeling to come out and touch other people the same way.”

“I can provide everybody with something they can go away with and feel good.”