He wrote the song Wild Thing. He’s been a golf pro, and a whiskey salesman, too. His talent for counting cards got him barred from some of your better blackjack tables. He penned Angel in the Morning, and his 1973 album Chip Taylor’s Last Chance was judged as one of the best albums of the year by Rolling Stone. You know of his brother, the actor Jon Voight, but you might not know of Chip Taylor, the veteran singer-songwriter and excellent raconteur. In advance of a pair of Canadian concert dates, Taylor spoke to The Globe and Mail from his apartment on New York’s Upper East Side.
IN HIS WORDS
Because I’m an outsider to the music business, I’ve never been too big on awards and such things. But I was excited to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2016. It felt good. Rachel Platten sang my song Angel in the Morning, and she did a wonderful job. Then the grandkids and I got up and sang Wild Thing. I also got to meet Elvis Costello and Diana Krall. That was nice.
It’s a funny thing with songs. To me, they’re blasts of emotion. What I’m looking for is a chill, even if I don’t know what’s going on in the song or what it’s, quote-unquote, about. If I don’t get that chill, I won’t continue writing the song.
One of the favourite songs of mine is He’s a Good Guy (As Well You Know). I like playing it. It consistently gives me a chill. But I like the hits, too. It’s not like I get up on stage and think, “Oh, I have to do Wild Thing again.” I enjoy doing it. You play them for different audiences and you get different reactions. Angel in the Morning, the same way.
These days, I’m interested in presenting my more recent body of work, and threading in some of the well-known songs from my past. I recorded my new album, Whiskey Salesman, at a local studio. Every night, I would go down to Parnell’s, a bar a block and a half from my apartment on the Upper East Side, where I’ve lived since 1970. There’s a seat at the bar where I always sit. They save it for me. If I look up, there’s a little television that has the Golf Channel on. That’s my peace. My dad was a golf pro, and I was for a bit.
I used to go to Parnell’s to listen to music. But now, since Spotify’s been around, I go there with my earbuds on and listen to other artists. It’s an interesting thing. Where radio helped me originally was other people singing my songs. Then as a recording artist myself, with Americana radio, they would play my solo albums. With radio, the people I work with would look for the hit, which usually would be an up-tempo song, or mid-tempo. But now on Spotify, you find out what the fans really like – not what they’re told to like. It’s something to see.
The sales today aren’t what they used to be. And the money you make on Spotify is not going to replace 70,000 albums sold. But what something is worth, how can you say?
I’ve had some viral hits, with songs that would have never got on the radio. I’m sort of in the mix of what’s going on. You can look on Spotify and see what songs of yours people are playing. I love what they’re listening to. I love what’s on top of my own charts. There’s a beautiful spirit to these kind of hits, and it’s very rewarding to me.
Something of mine that I love and that means so much to me, other people have heard it, and it’s moved them. Forget the money. That’s priceless.
Chip Taylor plays the Casbah, Hamilton, April 23, and the Dakota Tavern, Toronto, April 24.