‘I love to make music:’ Pandemic doesn’t stop Livingston Taylor from performing in Ridgefield
Even a pandemic can’t keep Livingston Taylor from doing his job. In an intimate show with limited seating at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Nov. 21, Taylor will spend his 70th birthday doing what he loves best: singing for audiences.
While at his age, he is considered in a high risk group for COVID-19, Taylor said he is pleased to come back to Connecticut to play a show. “I love to make music, I love to see whatever of my audience feels good about coming to see me and that’s what keeps me coming back,” he said. “Love the audience, love to make music ... it’s what I do.” Accustomed to a normally busy tour schedule that takes him around the world, Taylor has seen his planned tour cut way back this year but in the last few months, he has been eager to get back on stage. He has performed several shows in Massachusetts near his home on Martha’s Vineyard in an outdoor drive-in series this fall.
Known for hit songs like “I Will Be In Love With You,” “First Time Love,” and “I’ll Come Running,” the singer-songwriter thrives on performing live and last year released a five-disc box set of his live music. Born into a musical family, Taylor recalls doing “kitchen concerts” with his siblings as a young boy and from early on, had an appreciation for folk songs. He played the banjo as a child and picked up the guitar at age 13, recording his first album at age 18.
Taylor is equally renowned for his varied repertoire, his adeptness with both guitar and piano and his range of musical stylings from folk and gospel to pop and jazz. His relaxed stage presence intersperses songs with anecdotes and talking to his fans. He has talked about his storytelling as creating a space for the audience to come in and join him in a shared experience.
In this solo show, Taylor will perform from his extensive repertoire culled from over 50 years of making music. “At my age, it’s a mix of new songs, old favorites and songs that I’m known for,” he said. “It’s a smorgasbord of different things that I’m finding interesting...I just pieced together after working on it a long time, I finally got down that wonderful song from ‘Carousel’ written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein called ‘(When I Marry) Mister Snow.’ God, that’s a pretty piece of writing.” Taylor does not have a fixed set list, instead preferring to decide at the time what songs he will perform in a given show. Guests at this Playhouse show may hear this song or they may not, Taylor coyly says the song is a maybe and “in the running,” but fans are in for an evening of strong musicality.
Unlike his 2019 performance here, when he was joined on stage by Janis Ian, Taylor will perform solo this time, owing to the pandemic. Doing solo shows is something he is quite accustomed to and he looks forward to connecting with his audience in a quiet and meaningful way.
Another way he has been connecting with audiences during the pandemic is through a weekly Facebook show has been doing on Tuesday afternoons called the “Livingston Taylor Show.” He modeled the show after one he watched as a young boy, the “Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs Show,” which ran 1956 to 1962 from the Grand Ole Opry. “I think what has been most fun is to really speak softly and directly with my audience,” he said. “It’s very much a one-on-one experience where I get to look in the camera and really see the people who are seeing me.”
“It’s very intimate and close and it’s also very quiet. It acknowledges the fear and the sadness of the time and the uncertainty of it all,” he said. “I am not forced into a hyper place to attract attention and so it’s got a Mister Rogers feel to it, a Mr. Rogers for adults.”
Acknowledging the stress of the past year on so many people, Taylor says, “The job of my shows is to tell people that, to date, they have lived in the light of favorable stars and there is no reason to think that is not going to continue.”
Andrea Valluzzo is a freelance writer.