Born in Boston, raised in North Carolina, relaxing on Martha’s Vineyard and touring the world, singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor has been playing music since he was 13 years old. His relaxed stage presence and humorous stories shared with his audiences can belie his depth of knowledge and range of genres performed. He has been a full professor at Berklee College of Music for nearly 30 years, and has written Stage Performance, as well as two children’s books.
Last year, Livingston’s 50th year of making music was celebrated by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, both declaring Jan. 18, 2017 “Livingston Taylor Day.”
Janis Gibson spoke with him about his upcoming performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse on April 28, sharing the bill with singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff.
Janis Gibson: Is this a new tour or the continuation of an old one?
Livingston Taylor: This tour started in 1968 and I plan to go until 2048, then take a week off and start the second part.
JG: Will you be performing alone or with backup musicians?
LT: I generally perform alone unless it is with a student. I will share the stage with Karla Bonoff, and we will do a couple of numbers together. She’s a quality singer-songwriter, a wonderful performer and tunesmith I very much enjoy watching and working with.
JG: How many shows do you do a year?
LT: At present I do about 60 shows a year; it keeps me operational and fresh … you’ve got to do it to be able to keep doing it and it helps keep my stage presence strong and viable.
JG: What percentage of the songs you perform are written by you?
LT: That’s a good question; I’d say between 55 and 60.
JG: When you choose the songs of others to perform what do you look for?
LT: They must be interesting and intriguing, have a compelling storyline. I also like to have challenging chord changes. Lately I’ve been singing “Rainbow Connection” by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. It seems simple, but it’s a difficult tune to play and I like what it has to say.
LT: When you last appeared at the Ridgefield Playhouse in May 2014, you were promoting your CD Blue Sky. Are you promoting anything on this tour?
LT: No, I just want the audience to know just how enthusiastic I am about playing in Connecticut, and I’m excited about seeing Karla, which is a lot of fun.
JG: Why do you teach and how long have you been done it?
LT: Nothing is better than teaching to improve your own technique; it makes me a better player and performer. I’ve been teaching stage performance since 1989. I enjoy helping musicians develop their talents and performance techniques.
JG: What other projects are you currently working on?
LT: In August, Boston University will be hosting the first Livingston Taylor Retreat, a three-day festival of performance and songwriting, with a number of musicians offering workshops and master classes. It’s an intensive time to be with other musicians. It’s for people who are playing, or want to play, for the public and want to do it better.