A Conversation with James Taylor
Mike Ragogna: James, you're on tour in support of President Obama's reelection, coming off of your pretty memorable performance at the Democratic National Convention.
James Taylor: Well, you know, it was in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2008, we did a lot of work for Obama in the campaign in North Carolina, which was really rewarding... to see North Carolina go for Obama the last time. It was by a very slim margin, but it was all the more exciting because of that. I'm a North Carolinian, and I went down with the idea that I'd sing "Carolina In My Mind" to open the last day of the convention and it was great.
MR: And, of course, there's that "Romney and Bain" parody.
JT: That's right. Jimmy Fallon got pretty close there.
MR: With there being so much at stake in this election, how is it hitting you personally?
JT: Well, you know, I react very strongly to who our leader is, and for a long time, during Cheney and Bush, I really felt bad. I couldn't help it. But then, it was such an amazing change. The country sort of reinvented itself and just turned around in such an amazingly short period of time. I went from feeling very ambivalent about my country to feeling fiercely proud of it and still am. I really think it's amazingly good fortune that we have this family in The White House. It has a very profound effect on me, who represents us; who we choose as the leader means a great deal to me. So I feel incredibly strongly about Barack Obama and that he's the right man for the country in a very critical period of time. We really need to give him another four years to continue the work that he's done and to help turn us around and keep us headed in the right direction. It's really a very critical and pivotal election this time. There are always aspects to being a celebrity or being a show business person and using that draw for political or social purposes. I don't do it lightly. As a citizen, I feel so strongly about the essential goodness and capability of President Obama that I'm really willing to make pretty much any kind of effort and sacrifice they ask of me in trying to keep him in office. That's what it comes down to.
MR: James, has the reception been great at these concerts as far as enthusiasm for his reelection?
JT: Yeah. Yeah, it's been amazing to go across the country involved in these. Some of them have been fundraisers, some of them have been political rallies, some of them have been a sort of pep talk to the troops -- the people who are putting in the shoe leather going door-to-door trying to get people registered and trying to get people to the polls. Iowa, of course, is casting the first votes in the nation today, and Iowa really is one of the best States in terms of making sure that people have a voice and get out there and are able to cast their vote. That's a wonderful thing, that early voting, that goes on from today until October 6th.
MR: Well, this conversation is being recorded in Iowa at the Midwest's only solar-powered station, so thank you, James, for saying nice things about our State.
JT: Yeah, you bet. I think it's good. This early voting is a great chance to get out there and make sure your vote is cast. We really should have it all over the nation.
MR: I've already interviewed your son Ben a couple of times, who was very quick and pretty spiritual. I'm curious if he's accompanying you on some of these tours.
JT: The last tour that Ben and I did together was not last April, but the April before. Ben and I were on the road for about a month and a half and played about thirty gigs together. It was great. We made the time. We planned it out well in advance and had been working on doing that tour for about a year. In a way, it's hard to do anything spontaneous for me these days because that's just the nature of my life at this point. But Ben and I do get out on the road when we put our minds to it.
MR: James, I ask everyone this question. What advice do you have for new artists?
JT: Oh, man. You know, the main thing is to remember why you're an artist and not an investment banker. It's soul food. You have to celebrate and enjoy the fact that you've made the kind of decision with your life to dedicate it to your art. I also think it's important to try to keep your overhead down; in other words, find a version of what you do that you can do in as simple and as direct a way as possible. The other advice is that if you're a musician, get yourself in front of as many people as you can. Play whenever you can get an audience. Do it!
MR: Nice, thanks. James, I want to wish you all the best with your campaign tour and beyond. It's great that you're out there participating in the process, that you "Stand and Fight."
JT: [laughs] The democrats and the people supporting Barack Obama represent the largest grassroots effort that has ever happened in this country. It's really an amazing thing to be a part of, and, really, this is a once in a lifetime thing and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm so glad that I can be a part of it. I just urge everybody listening to get to the polls and vote. Register and vote. It's the minimum duty that we have as citizens. This is what our democracy requires of us, so get out there and cast it.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne