Artist: Dudley Taft
Latest Album: Simple Life
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
TrunkSpace: What would first-time listeners learn about you in sitting down and going through your latest album, “Simple Life,” front to back?
Taft: I think they would probably find me to be a rocker that has a lot of blues influence. I‘ve sort of straddled the blues/rock line to the point where all the blues guys are like, “Well, you’re way too rock,” and hardcore rockers are like, “Well, that’s too bluesy for me.” So I’m right in that zone right in there. And I think it’s probably apparent, although this is definitely more of a rock record.
TrunkSpace: “Simple Life” is your sixth full-length solo album. Has the process changed for you at all in terms of bringing songs to life?
Taft: Oh, I think my songwriting has evolved a little bit, but it’s not that much different. I don’t really set out with a purpose, like, “I want to write a song about death or sex.” It just sort of ends up that way. I record ideas on my iPhone, so if I have just a little idea, I might be driving and it might sound like (mimics a beat). I just try to capture all these little ideas. They’re like little plants and then I water them. I play them and I see them grow a little bit and I’m like, “Well, this is kind of cool. And what kind of vibe is this?” I try to follow the vibe for each song, maybe more than I did at the beginning.
TrunkSpace: Because you were still finding yourself as an artist in those days?
Taft: At the beginning, it was like, “Well, I definitely like to rock, but I want to be a part of this blues world” because I was a guitar player. In the late 2000s, the late night rock ‘n’ roll scene was kind of dead, at least in Seattle. It used to be when I first started playing there in 1990, there would be two or three bands and the place would be absolutely fucking packed. People were going and this was even before Alice in Chains blew up, Pearl Jam, and all that shit. And then, you know, flash forward to 2006 and we’re playing some venue and there’s seven bands and there’s like 50 people there. It was like, “Well, this fucking sucks. So either I’m going to do bluegrass, which I can’t, country… eh, or blues.” So I wrote a few things that I thought were sort of my take on blues, and I guess in a way I still will come up with some rifts but – that was a very long–winded way of saying it has changed a bit. My records are less blues now and more just what I’m doing.
TrunkSpace: As you’re out in the clubs now, do you see rock coming back? Is the scene doing better today than what you were seeing in 2006?
Taft: Oh man, that is hard to say. I think it’s interesting because… here’s an example. I subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine, and I think they were kind of on the skids in the past few years, and then there was somebody else invested and the Jann Wenner guy is executive editor or whatever the fuck, but you look at that and it’s like they’re trying to keep some of the guys like me who have been reading Rolling Stone since we were teenagers. The British invasion heroes and Southern rock heroes and grunge heroes, whatever you want to call them, versus new artists like Billie Eilish, which I’ve only known about through my daughters. But there is some in there. It’s just hard to tell.
Last night I went and saw a really cool band called Bishop Gunn and they opened for the Stones for a few shows. That’s an example to me of younger guys – and I’m going to guess that they’re 28 to 33 or something – playing rock with a blues influence and sort of something for my age group. I’m sort of right in the middle of baby boomers and whatever they call them, generation Xs, but it’s like, “Who is left?” Foo Fighters? Who got through the system before streaming destroyed the record labels? Those are the bands that are still touring now.
TrunkSpace: And in many ways, those bands have had to diversify. Maroon 5 isn’t just a band anymore, they’re a brand that drifts into different areas of media.
Taft: Sure. And you have to do that because the pipelines no longer exist – the old pipelines. I think it makes it harder. I’m excited by guys like Gary Clark Jr. and I like The Raconteur’s new album, The Black Keys. They’re very interesting to me, but I don’t know that I can really tell, at least in the US, that it’s a different ballgame, which is probably why I go play Europe more than any of the US.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned dropping song ideas onto your iPhone as they pop up. Are you someone who can shut off your creative brain or is it always on?
Taft: Well, it’s interesting because my brain is very much a songwriter’s brain. I work on my songs and I finish them and then it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a tour coming up too. I don’t want to play those songs.” (Laughter) I want to write some new ones.
I don’t listen to a lot of music. I’m kind of always working on something.
TrunkSpace: Which must be one of the areas where technology benefits artists, because who knows how many great songs were lost to the universe before there were devices in all of our pockets to record ideas onto.
Taft: No doubt. I remember seeing some interview with Stevie Wonder – it was a long time ago – and he had one of those micro cassette machines and he just kept it with him all the time. He has an idea, kaboom, play and record and off you go. And I never really thought about it that way. Before the iPhone, when I would write a song, it would be something where I’d sit down and play on the guitar and I’d kind of remember it and come back to it and then kind of keep it going. But I didn’t record it in any way. I mean, I would goof around – I had one of those four track cassette decks – but if you were out and about and you got an idea…
The worst one is jogging.
So I’m out running and I got this fucking great idea and it’s like, “Oh my God, you’ve got to hang on to it until you get home.” A lot of times I would remember what it looked like to play on the guitar, but I would forget the rhythms. So, thank God for the iPhone. When it’s time to work on demos for the new album, I just pull up iTunes with all my voice messages and I just start going through them. I go, “Oh fuck, that’s cool. Let’s learn a drum beat that’ll kind of work with that.” And I just throw a loop up and then just kind of start going that way. It’s cool, and sometimes it will be like, “Whoa, what the fuck was that? That was me?” (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: A gem comes back to you. Something kind of cool about that.
Taft: Yeah. Or you know, just some random idea I thought of while I was getting dressed in my closet or something. And Hendrix said it, “I don’t really create anything. I just catch it from the sky.” I think that’s where all the coolest songs come from is letting your mind relax and just letting it be creative.
Catch Taft’s latest creation from the sky, “Simple Life,” available now.
Very cool interview! I was wondering if the breathing exercises and meditation affected your songwriting process.
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