We talk with the former The Voice contestant about his latest album, Good Old Fashioned Pain, available now.
After touring for six years in his alternative country band, Young America, folk artist Taylor Alexander moved to Nashville, where he busked on the streets for money. Later, Alexander would go on to turn chairs as a contestant on Season 12 of NBC’s The Voice, choosing to train under the tutelage of Adam Levine.
Now, the Georgia native is taking a new spin on his folk roots with his latest album, Good Old Fashioned Pain, available now.
Recently, we talked with Alexander about the album.
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on the new record, Good Old Fashioned Pain. What were you most excited about releasing it and what do you hope listeners will get out of it?
Taylor Alexander: I'm just excited to finally have these songs out in the world after such a long process of writing and recording and planning. I hope listeners hear the stories in each song, and just enjoy the record as a whole.
C&I: What’s the journey of this album been like?
Taylor: We started recording it in October of 2017 and would record it piece by piece when we could afford it. Most of the time in between recording and releasing was really me and my wife working extra hours and saving money for the next session or for mixing and mastering, so it ended up taking almost two years to put the album out.
C&I: What were your creative influences and inspirations for it?
Taylor: I think at its core it's an album about me learning how to grow up. The songs deal with things like not sweating what you can’t control, being grateful for what you have and where you are, and being honest with yourself. These are the lessons I was learning as I was writing these songs.
C&I: How does this stand out from the lineup of your other music?
Taylor: This is my first album, but I think it's a good picture of what I'm trying to do as an artist.
C&I: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you start with the lyrics or the melody first? What instrument do you compose on?
Taylor: The majority of the time I start with one line — a hook or something — and work from there.
I’ll sit down with my guitar and a pen and paper and treat it almost like a puzzle, working backward from the hook. For some reason that’s the way that comes most naturally to me. On occasion, I’ll write an entire melody first and try to find words that fit, but I find it often feels forced that way.
C&I: Any favorite stories about how certain songs on Good Old Fashioned Pain came together — stories that reveal the mysteries and/or craftsmanship of the songwriting process?
Taylor: The song “Hole in the Wall” was inspired by this tacky ceramic plate that was hanging up in an old apartment that I shared with four other guys. It had been given to us by one of the roommates’ girlfriends, and on the front, it said: “God Bless This Lousy Apartment.” It struck me as funny at first and then the more I thought about it the more it made me reflect on my attitude toward that place and time in my life, which I had been kind of bitter about at times. Instead, I started looking back and being grateful that I had a cheap place to live that allowed me to be in Nashville and pursue music. A lot of the lines are a nod to these small, minor annoyances that you blow out of proportion when you’re fixating on the negatives and missing the big picture.
C&I: Is there a specific song your fans have really taken to?
Taylor: I’ve been trying to get a feel for this the last couple weeks and the encouraging thing is that everyone seems to have a different answer when asked about it. As a writer that’s always the goal: I hope there’s something in each song that will resonate differently with different people.
C&I: How about a particular song on Good Old Fashioned Pain that you’re most proud of?
Taylor: I’m really proud of how “Sorry for Growing Up” turned out. I was a little nervous about putting a weird piano ballad at the end of a country record, but it just felt like the best way to tie the album together. I think lyrically it’s some of my better work.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make it on the album that we can expect to hear later on down the road?
Taylor: There were definitely a few that didn’t make the album because I felt like they were dealing with some different themes that would fit better on another project. But maybe I’ll play a few of them live soon.
C&I: What musicians and songs have been influential to you? What’s on your playlist these days?
Taylor: One song that springs to mind immediately is “Girl From the North Country” by Bob Dylan. I heard that song in like 9th grade after really only being familiar with heavier music, or at least totally unaware of folk music. That song just floored me. I spent the whole next summer trying to learn how to fingerpick so I could play songs like that one.
Steve Earle’s new album of Guy Clark songs, Guy, has been getting a lot of play lately. I’m a big fan of both Steve Earle and Guy Clark, so getting to hear one great pay homage to his mentor is really cool. They've both been hugely influential for me.
C&I: What’s something about you that people don’t know or are surprised to learn?
Taylor: I'm slightly obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and I probably find a way to talk about it in every interview I do because it’s had a profoundly positive impact on my life. I’ve been training for a couple of years and I can’t get enough.
C&I: What can we expect next?
Taylor: Hopefully lots of shows! I want to get on the road, play as many places as possible, and share these songs with everyone that I can.
For more information about Taylor Alexander, visit his website. Photography: Courtesy Joshua Black Wilkins.