In 1991, Ed McMahon told the band Moment of Silence they had won the $100,000 Star Search grand prize (for those of you too young to remember, Star Search was the precursor to American Idol). Moment of Silence is long since defunct, but its lead singer—local musician Tom Taylor—is still going strong, having played all these years and just releasing his first solo CD, Human, in over a decade.
Taylor recently performed a song from Human on KIVI Channel 6 (and explained that $5 of the sale of each CD will go into a fund that benefits American soldiers and their families). For Taylor, the local TV appearance is just as important as those that led to winning Star Search. Everything between those different performances has brought him to where he is today: a talented singer/songwriter on the cusp of, quite possibly, something big. But no matter how big he gets or how far he goes, it's hard to imagine the humble, slightly reserved guy ever being anything but.
Taylor grew up in Spokane, Wash. After attending college in the West, he moved to New York. "I lived out there for 15 years," he says. "That's why people out here don't know me. I did all my music and my touring out there. I was in between things and my brother said I could stay in his house in Boise. I thought I might stay a year, but five years later, I'm still here and I love it. Boise's a great place to be from." And, for Taylor, a great place to play music.
During the past couple of years, Taylor's been a notable member of Boise's music scene as the front man for the SuperVapors. Seldom would a week go by in which the band had fewer than three or four gigs. Taylor said he enjoyed playing and honing his chops, but soon discovered his heart was in his solo work. The more he worked on his own music, the more he realized that's where his passion lay. He's starting to see some recognition not only for all his hard work, but also for the company he keeps.
Taylor's friends play a big part in what he's already achieved and what are sure to be his upcoming successes. His CD release party is September 28 at Reef. Joining him and his guitar on stage will be "Banzai" Bob Peters on drums, Steve Fulton on guitar and Jake Ransom (of Crash Four) on bass. Some of Taylor's friends are famous outside of Boise as well. He recently finished recording a song, "Tracks of Color," with Tim Stearns. As well as having been Moment of Silence's keyboard player, Stearns is a musical editor and programmer who has worked on a number of films, including two Lord of the Ring movies, The Good Shepherd and The Last Mimzy. "I did 'Tracks of Color' for my buddy Federico Castelluccio [Furio Giunta, The Sopranos] for his directorial debut," Taylor says.
"It's funny," he says. "My solo career is great, but in the long run, what really might pay off for me is film and TV. I'd love to tour and support my solo stuff, but I'm just waiting to see which door opens widest."
Taylor's becoming something of a local celebrity as well. Seeing a local musician performing on a Channel 6 news show is not common. Taylor's friend, weatherman Scott Dorval, had encouraged a colleague to listen to Taylor's new CD. There was something about Taylor and his music worthy of a little air time, apparently. (You can watch the performance of "Count on Me" online on the Channel 6 Web site, Todays6.com.)
The folks at radio station 94.9 The River thought so, too. Taylor was sitting at work last week with The River playing in the background when his manager said, "Hey, Tom. That's your song."
"It was pretty neat to hear it," he said. "On the East Coast, that happened with another song I'd done, but this one meant more. I think this is the best CD I've ever done."
Taylor's new release is 13 tracks of pop-infused tunes clearly reminiscent of his early '90s beginnings (it's impossible not to make comparisons to Toad the Wet Sprocket,) for which Taylor makes no apologies.
"I used to apologize up and down [for making pop music], but now I strive for that. I love that [type of] music. That's what I listen to, and I realized I wanted to create that kind of music. And it has messages that don't beat people over the head. That's huge with me. If someone will listen to it and go, 'I love that song,' but they don't know why, that's great. But if they listen to the lyrics and really appreciate it, then that's great. Everyone's at a different level in life or at a different stage of consciousness, and I never want it to be where people say, 'That's getting a little too deep.'
When you're younger, you don't know why you're [making music]. Or you do know and it's one of two reasons: fame or women. I'm to the age where I know that's just an illusion and there's a much deeper purpose to it. Fortunately, some young artists are getting it at a younger age. And you know what else? Because of my age, I don't take everything personally. If people don't like [my music], that's fine. There are plenty of people who do. When you're younger, you take everything so personally. You think, 'I have to change my entire style of music' because someone didn't like it. Now, I've got it. I perform and play what I enjoy doing."
Taylor says that along with his inner changes, outside forces have changed the way he looks at music as well. He recognizes the huge effect the Internet has had on music, and the access that people have to once untouchable rock gods has really changed the way we look at musicians.
"I think because of [the Internet], we don't have these huge stars any more. In the music business, there's not as much money, but more people can fulfill their dreams and support themselves. It's weird. There are so many great artists and so many great songs that there are more opportunities if you put your mind to it. You don't have to have that half-a-million-dollar backing any more like you did in the '80s to make it. And what is making it these days? A kid getting his first show at a club? That's making it. A lot of people are so let down because they put so much importance on the goal that, when they get there, they think, 'Now what?' It's the journey that's important ... all the stuff in between."
Taylor's CD release party: Aug. 28, $5, $10 for admittance and copy of the CD. Reef, 125 S. 6th St., 208-287-9200. For more information on the soldiers' fund, visit FreedomIsNotFree.com. Taylor's art can be seen at TomTaylorArt.com. Listen for Taylor on 94.9 Mon., Aug. 27, 8 a.m.