Maria Taylor

One Half of Azure Ray Discusses Her Solo Album

May 02, 2005 Web Exclusive Photography by Bill Slitzmann Bookmark and Share


Sometimes, you just can’t catch a break on tour. Maria Taylor, one half of the Southern-gothic pop duo Azure Ray, thought she had scored a deal by landing a cheap room for her band in a Houston Doubletree hotel, and they limited their post-show partying to pizza and watching In Good Company on TV. But right as she was about to explain the jitters of recording her first solo album, the genre-hopping and sweetly wistful 11:11, the room proved to be less of a steal than she thought.

“Oh my god, I think I just sat in dried throw-up,” she laughed, audibly squirming over the phone. She didn’t know who was responsible. “I get so sick from these hotel rooms, they’re so dirty.”

Her first record without Azure Ray bandmate Orenda Fink, however, is full of squeaky-clean folk and electronica-tinged pop songs about being in love on the road and falling out of it in right in front of the person you’re in bed with. We talked with her about the future of Azure Ray, the romantic side of Haitian priests and the best way to swindle Saddle Creek into putting out your record (hint- buy them booze!). 

Under The Radar: You’re a guest voice on nearly every Saddle Creek album that’s come out recently. Was this album a chance to assert your own identity within that community?

Maria Taylor: I don’t know, it certainly wasn’t intentional. I didn’t write it any differently than the last Azure Ray album. I started writing the songs just after we got off tour, and we were burnt out and needed a hiatus. After tour there’s a lot of downtime, and that’s when I’m most prolific. Again, it was nothing intentional. But my whole life I’ve written with a friend or a boyfriend, and I’ve been growing as a person. But I was just writing new songs, and this was an occasion to take my brother and sister on the road and have fun. It’s not like I wanted to prove my independence or anything.

UTR: Was it scary or liberating to be the only person in control of the writing?

Maria: I was apprehensive. When you do anything by yourself, you’re more vulnerable, and I was afraid they [Saddle Creek Records] wouldn’t want to put it out. I got my friend to ask Robb Nansel [head of Saddle Creek] in a bar, after he had a few drinks in him (laughs). But I was too afraid to ask him myself. In Azure Ray we always wrote independently anyway, so the process was the same. Only this time I couldn’t ask Orenda’s [Fink, Azure Ray] opinions. It was scary, but it’s a growing process and I feel good about it. I don’t know if we’re going to do another Azure Ray album, and I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t writing music and touring. I don’t know what else to do. But I’m so happy with my band for this tour [which includes her brother Macey, sister Kate, and Denver Dalley of Statistics and Desaparecidos] We rock out more, it’s more dynamic. We turn on the distortion pedals, though there are still the quiet songs without drums. But we’re having more fun on stage and laughing a lot, it’s not always so serious.

UTR: What does this mean for Azure Ray?

Maria: I’m not sure. We’ve been making music and spending every day together for twelve years. But it’ not like we don’t like each other anymore, and I’ll never say never about another album. If I do my solo album and I’m miserable, we might do another Azure Ray album. But what I want to do is to let every day surprise me and not think about the future too much.

UTR: How does Orenda feel about the record?

Maria: She likes it, she has one too that’s due out in August or September on Saddle Creek. She went to Haiti and it really affected her, so she got a group of Hatian backup singers on the album. Three songs have this world music feel to it with beautiful string arrangements. But I think people will understand Azure Ray more, and you can see what we each bring. We’re still wonderful friends, she got married [to The Faint’s Todd Baechle] and I was a bridesmaid. She had a Hatian priest perform the ceremony.

UTR: 11:11 is a pretty dense record instrumentally. How involved were you in arranging all the parts?

Maria: It depends on the song. I demoed every song beforehand as best as I could and gave it to Mike [Mogis, producer] or Andy [LeMaster] and asked if they could test it out. Sometimes I’d leave the room and Mike would add something and I’d come back and say, “Oh, what’s that?”

UTR: The most radical stylistic departure is probably “One for the Shareholder,” which pairs this very sexy beat with some fairly acidic lyrics. How did that come about?

Maria: I had nine songs and was writing the last one, but it wasn’t getting anywhere. Mike already had the music written and asked if I wanted to write a melody over it. It didn’t sound like anything else on the record, and it was really fun to write. The lyrics aren’t supposed to be vicious. It’s about a hypothetical one-night stand, the way you go back and forth in your feelings. It has nothing to do with love. The music was so different, and I thought it served the lyrics in some way.

UTR: “Xanax” seems to have a social angle on it, where you talk about being afraid of “buildings crumbling down,” yet it’s framed in a very personal context of anti-anxiety medication.

Maria: That one was very literal, about everything I’m afraid of. I take medicine for anxiety. I have friends in New York, and whenever I visit them [that fear] is constantly on my mind where it never existed before 9-11. I just have this fear of dying. I have panic attacks in the van whenever I’m not driving. I’m the biggest grandma, I’m always hitting the imaginary emergency brake. I travel so much because it’s part of my job, so every day the chance increases, but you can’t be afraid to live. That was my therapy song, just to get it all out there.

UTR: It seems that after a few years into every artists’ career they begin to explore and question the creative process itself and what they really mean when they write- is that what you were doing in “Song Beneath The Song?”

Maria: That was just describing what somebody said about a certain song. They said it was a love song, but when you strip it down you find a double meaning.

UTR: What song are you talking about?

Maria: (Laughs). I can’t tell you that one.

UTR: “Nature Song” was written by your former bandmate in Little Red Rocket [Maria and Orenda’s first band], Louis Schefano, what was the appeal of covering that particular song for you?

Maria: Louis was my first boyfriend, we went out for six years. That song is about a certain time, and it put me back there, made me think about those years. It was always one of my favorite songs, and he had never recorded it, so I asked if I could.

UTR: Obviously, you’re close to Conor Oberst. What does his recent coup of the pop charts mean for the Saddle Creek community?

Maria: It’s more of a family love, we were all so proud. When he sold a hundred thousand records we threw this big formal party, where we invited friends from around the whole world and everyone came to Omaha. All of the bands are doing so well, like Cursive and The Faint, and everyone loves each other. It boosts your confidence. I think it’s a real healthy thing, everyone’s supported, but not in a competitive way.

www.azureraymusic.com
www.saddle-creek.com



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Blog Literature
May 3rd 2010
7:05am

Since the basic purpose of the internet is to share the knowledge and to communicate with each other, I can say that blogs and forums are playing one of the vital role in sharing the knowledge and to communicate with each other.

seo
April 6th 2017
11:27pm

amazing article post by you i really excite to read your other post

Digital Marketing Course Jaipur
April 7th 2018
12:11am

Amazing article got some new insights

White Marble
July 27th 2018
9:46pm

Great post thanks for the time & information