When Steve Taylor
took the stage to kick off Creation Festival Northeast
as the very first band, audiences probably made their conclusions about what they were going to hear pretty quickly. On the one hand, the older music fans in the crowd likely expected some good throwback tunes from a "classic" Christian artist. On the other hand, the younger fans either expected a crusty bunch of rockers who would make their parents happy, or simply had no concept of who Steve Taylor was.
In just a few seconds after the first notes, all expectations were rocked—as was the crowd. At age 55, he had as much energy as most of the bands of teenagers and twentysomethings that graced the Creation stages. He performed not just as a seasoned veteran, but as a reinvigorated musician, more passionate perhaps about his craft than ever. Young and old found something to love together.
It's been 20 years since Steve Taylor released his last solo studio album, Squint
, yet he has hardly been dormant. In the last two decades, he has worked as a producer, started (and closed) a record label and directed two feature films (The Second Chance
and Blue Like Jazz: The Movie
But creating and performing music has never been far from his thoughts. And now, with his new band—Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil—he's back to show that one of the most outspoken artists in Christian music (classic or otherwise) still has more to say.
I sat down with Steve after his impressive opening set at Creation Festival Northeast.
That was an awesome set. How did it feel to be back?
It felt good. A little odd, but the band was so good it kept forward momentum going.
Your band included one of the most recognizable faces in Christian music, with Peter Furler on drums! That was a surprise to a lot of people. But you guys have been working together a long time.
I felt like he should have sung the whole set, but he wanted to play drums!
So what's the story? Why are you here? What's going on?
It took so long to get Blue Like Jazz funded that I was just getting frustrated, and I remembered that when I made music it was more instant gratification than spending seven years trying to get a movie funded. Peter and I were still collaborating on his solo work and Newsboys at the time. I can't remember if he floated the idea or if I floated the idea that we should get in the studio and start making some music—because I was not enjoying sitting around waiting for money to show up.
I called up John [Mark Painter] and he was into the idea and then someone suggested we should call Jimmy Abegg. Of course he was friends with all of us. We holed up in John's studio and just started making music and it was great fun. I think the idea was to record enough to put an album out. Then the [Blue Like Jazz] Kickstarter campaign happened probably like a month before we would have had that record finished. So 10 days into that it's like, "I've got to go make a movie." It's been like nonstop until just a few months ago.
We got back together and we've been working on Peter's new solo album as well, but now that that's finished we're going to try and finish up an album and get that out sometime in the fall.
So… you're back in music. What's the story on directing?
I'm still planning on hopefully, Lord willing, getting another movie made, but this was my chance to take a musical sabbatical.
What are you writing about? What are we going to expect from this new music? More of the same as far as your style, which is some of the most original stuff out there?
It might feel kind of like a logical progression. It was 20 years since I did the Squint album. That's a lot of time to listen to new music and have a lot of new influences. The last solo album that I did, I had fantastic musicians, but it was more a solo album, and this is really more of a band so we write the music together and all the lyrics.
Does the band have a name?
Peter is under contract, so I think to keep everybody happy at the record label they felt better if we were calling it under my name. So we're calling it Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil.
So Peter is part of this band?
He's been making the album with us.
Does it feel like you're starting all over again or does it feel like you just hit pause and you're just resuming?
Yea, that's a good question. It's been so long that I guess musical instincts… we'll they're just different. It's been a long time since I made an album, so the band becomes one kind of filter and all of the stuff I've been listening to since then becomes another kind of filter. Hopefully it still feels connected to what I've done in the past, but doesn't feel like a rehash. At least that's the goal.
Lots has changed. Technology alone has changed.
Yes, it has. And part of the fun is we recorded it as a three-piece and tried to stay fairly true to that. So we try not to pile on too much stuff just because we can.
How did you feel about the reaction of the crowd tonight?
It was good! I was happy with it! I was surprised a few people actually knew the words and sang along in the right places and all that stuff. It was good.
There are some songs that no matter what you're always going to play? What's resonating?
A lot of putting this set together was what would sound good with a three piece. The last time I was on tour it was two guitars, so Jimmy was covering double duty, but John is such a fantastic bass player. He's able to cover stuff that a normal bass player wouldn't cover, either. We probably started with a set list of 14 songs and we knew we had 40 minutes so we just whittled it down to stuff that sounded best and we cut out any slow songs.
It was good. The band was tight. They were great. When can we expect this music out?
We may end up doing some kind of like a Kickstarter campaign in August or September just to be able to finish it up. I used to be pretty well off until my movie making habit started. Now I have trouble funding the occasional date night. But Kickstarter is also a good way to let people know that something's coming. We'll see about that.
Editor-in-Chief Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and a church staff member. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at his home church in the Portland, Ore. area. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.