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Maria Taylor

Maria Taylor: Change of Luck

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: April 22, 2009

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Maria Taylor
w/ Whispertown 2000 and McCarthy Trenching
Friday, April 24, 9 p.m.
The Waiting Room
6212 Maple St.

The first time I interviewed Maria Taylor in March 2002 she and her Azure Ray partner Orenda Fink were about to move to Omaha to become part of the city's then-burgeoning music scene.

Seven years later and Taylor is long gone, having moved to Los Angeles almost a year ago. And she's not alone. Over the past couple of years, Omaha has seen a handful of its biggest indie music stars leave for better climes, including Cursive's Tim Kasher, and more recently, The Faint's Todd Fink and his wife, Orenda.

So what happened to Omaha? "I don't know. That's a difficult question to answer," Taylor said moments after she and the rest of her band, along with tour mates The Whispertown 2000, took in Niagra Falls on their way to Cleveland for the evening's show. Taylor said that there are still some "core people" living in Omaha, but "you can only stay in one place for so long. When one person or two makes a change, that inspires other people. So I don't know."

Her coyness increased exponentially when the topic switched to the theme of her latest album, Ladyluck. Songs like the pop centerpiece, "Time Lapse Lifeline," paint a picture of someone looking back on a break-up, having come out the other side stronger for it. So who's the record about?

"Who do you think it's about?" Taylor asked, clearly smiling on the other side of the country. When I suggest Conor Oberst, who she's been romantically linked to since her move to Omaha in '02, I get nothing in return, even though I plead to be the one to finally tell the story. Taylor wasn't biting. "It's not about one person, it's about a lot of different change," she said. "I'm pretty revealing in my songs. You can speculate, but the general vibe of the album is about change in every aspect of my life, whether it's where I live, being on a new label or perhaps breaking up with someone."



When Taylor sings the chorus from "Time Lapse Lifeline," which goes "Though we dreamed a life / It was just like that / Was just like that / And just like that / And just like that / It's done," she does it without a sense of hesitancy or pain, but with resolve and acknowledgment and finally, relief. "I'm a realist," she said of the song's meaning. "You can make something great out of any shitty situation."

She's certainly made something great out of Ladyluck. Released earlier this month on Canadian label Nettwerk (home to Sarah McLachlan), it's the most tuneful, pop-oriented record of her career. For the album, recording sessions were split between Andy LeMaster's Athens studio and Mike Mogis's ARC studios in Omaha, with a couple songs recorded in Los Angeles. Taylor has performed with LeMaster in his band, Now It's Overhead, and with Mogis in Bright Eyes.

"I knew that I wanted to work with both of them," Taylor said. "It's fun for me to record with people that I'm really comfortable with. I like to go back and record in places where I've lived before, too, so there's that element on my record."

For one of the Athens sessions, she recruited old friend Michael Stipe, who in addition to singing helped her write album closer "Cartoons and Forever Plans." The song features a call-and-response verse that asks, "Did you know?" followed by a series of question enders, such as "Did you know / The first time you were in my sight? / And did you know / That look that I threw at you?"

"I had this song for two months and needed to fill in the blanks, but was too intimidated," Taylor said. "(Stipe) said, 'Do you want me to help you with the lyrics?' and I was like, 'Hell yes.' So we worked on it until 6 a.m. The sun was coming up and he was still writing lyrics. He kept changing them until the day he recorded his part."

After the album was finished, Taylor decided to make another change by releasing it on Nettwerk instead of Saddle Creek Records, her label since the Azure Ray days. "I felt it was the perfect time (to make the change)," she said. "First of all, I've been managed by Nettwerk for a few years. I got to know a lot of people on the label end of things. I was curious what the difference would be. The deal is the same 50/50 split. Hopefully I'll work with Saddle Creek again; hopefully there's no bad blood there. I love all of them so much."

In fact, Taylor said she has a major project planned with Saddle Creek in the near future. Late last year Taylor and Orenda Fink reunited as Azure Ray for a performance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles -- their first together since the summer of 2005.

"We just for the hell of it decided to play that show in LA. It was a reason for Orenda to come out and visit," Taylor said. "She and Todd moved out there and are just walking distance from my place, so we spend a lot of time together. We never said we were breaking up."

In fact, the duo plan on making a new Azure Ray album that Taylor said will hopefully be released on Saddle Creek. "We still have to write 11 or 12 songs and record them," she said.

But for now, the focus is on her new album and tour, with a band that includes drummer Mike Shackelford, bassist Nate Nelson, guitarist Tod Wisenbaker (also in Whispertown 2000) and Nebraska native Craig Reier on keyboards, who will be getting in married in Lincoln the day after the Omaha show. "His wife let him go on this whole tour and not have to deal with any of the wedding stuff," Taylor said, laughing. "He's going to walk in and get married and fly back and only miss two shows."

Taylor said the tour is a chance to return to the city that she called home for so many years. "I'm excited to come back," she said. "I still have some of my best friends in the world out there."

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Published in The Omaha Reader April 22, 2009 Copyright © 2009 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
















Maria Taylor Ladyluck

"I'm a realist. You can make something great out of any shitty situation."