Willy Tea Taylor, the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World, was born and raised in Oakdale, California, and comes from a long line of cattlemen. He can lead you in a dance and tell you stories that’ll bring you to tears. He’s a hellraiser and a poet.
Willy Tea is currently best known as the co-frontman of the Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit. I had the opportunity to catch up with Willy to discuss his songwriting process.
Songbirds & Seagulls: What was the first original song you started performing?
Willy Tea Taylor: My first song was called “Candy Cigarettes.” It’s about growin’ up and bein’ addicted to candy cigs, but really it’s about bein’ addicted to childhood. I still play it every now and then.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Please tell us about your songwriting process. Does the melody come first? The lyrics? Do they come at the same time? If not, how and when do you decide to combine the two?
Willy Tea Taylor: Most of my songs come from waking up from a nap and taking a hit of reefer. Then I grab my guitar in that sleepy high and just start playing and chanting until a line pops up from my subconscious. Then I just start collecting the song.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Do you think your songwriting improves over time in a linear fashion, or do you think that some songs are just randomly better than others because of your inspiration or some other factor?
Willy Tea Taylor: I think I just get older and learn more lessons, making the songs richer in experience. But I still have some songs from the beginning when I was 21 (I’m 36 now) that still have some legs and people love them the most. My 3 year old daughter gets inspired and sings some of the deepest words. It’s just all around us all the time, it’s just tapping in is up to us.
Songbirds & Seagulls: What are the triggers that inspire you to write songs?
Willy Tea Taylor: I can go for months without writing a song, then I find a nap and use my method, then the pot gets stirred. Can’t explain it. Reefer and music are peanut butter and jelly to me, grape jelly with Cheetos crushed on it for crunch time. Inspiration indeed. I do write songs without reefer, also. It’s all just everywhere all the time. I just like it that way, I reckon.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Do you ever get that sense about a song that “this is a good one?” Have you published every song you’ve ever written, and, if not, how do you decide which ones are keepers? If one isn’t a keeper, do you ever revise it over time or do you just scrap it?
Willy Tea Taylor: There are very few I don’t keep. Some I lose due to interruption and that’s sad. I know there are some beauties that got away, sometimes they come back if I find the space again. Reefer tends to have that memory with me. If I’m driving around and find one then have to get out and do something, I’ll lose it. But months later, cruising the same road in the same frame of mind, it pops back up, like Walter the bass from On Golden Pond.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?
Willy Tea Taylor: Scott McDougall, Tom VandenAvond, Possessed by Paul James, The Harmed Brothers, Nathan Moore, Chris Doud, Ian Cook, The Haunted Wind Chimes, Joe Johnson, Drew Peterson, Come Gather Around Us, Jeremy Marcanti,
Songbirds & Seagulls: What advice would you give to beginner songwriters? Do you have any tips that you’ve found helpful over time? I know there isn’t a formula for writing a great song, but surely you could impart some knowledge to folks who are just getting started.
Willy Tea Taylor: Sing em. All of em. Don’t stop.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Did you have any mentors in your early career? If so, who were they and how did they help you?
Willy Tea Taylor: Reefer.
Songbirds & Seagulls: Have you been writing any songs recently? If so, do you have plans to record again soon?
Willy Tea Taylor: I’m making one right now with my band, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit. Also a solo one. Both out this summer.
Buy Willy’s music here: http://willyteataylor.bandcamp.com/
Like Willy on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/willyteataylor
© clementine cox 2012 (oh your darlin’ publications, vol. 8)
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