Maria Taylor: About the Album
Maria Taylor's breakup with Conor Oberst might not have been chronicled in the pages of US Weekly, but that doesn't mean we won't get any insight into the collapse of an indie-music power couple. Taylor's new album, LadyLuck, is a long, lovely goodbye to the bright-eyed one and an open-armed welcome to a fresh new future. Taylor's signature ceramic-smooth vocals give the record a springtime feel, and a rousing duet with Michael Stipe at the end of the disc leaves no doubt that Taylor is in a happier place. Accepting that life is complicated is a constant in these 10 songs, as is the realization that not knowing what's ahead can actually be exciting. As she notes on the title track, "It doesn't always work the way you planned it/I like it better this way."
Her romance isn't the only thing Taylor has put behind her recently. The former Azure Ray singer-songwriter moved from Omaha to Los Angeles 'bohemian Silver Lake neighborhood and split with longtime label Saddle Creek Records, choosing to issue LadyLuck through L.A.-based Nettwerk. "I've been working with Saddle Creek for years, and I've put out lots of albums with them. And, I don't know, I started thinking about what it would be like to work with another label," Taylor explains. "I was thinking about moving to California, and Nettwerk was there for me for the past couple of years, and once I moved here and I started to meet lots of people that worked at Nettwerk and lots of people on the label — I just really connected with everyone. They're mostly all girls, and they're all smart and wonderful women. And I was curious what another label would have to offer."
Ironically, LadyLuck is all about change, yet Taylor will be doing nothing but reliving this same set of songs in the coming months as she tours in support of the album. More pointedly: though the pale, willowy singer with a soft Southern accent has made a very personal album with LadyLuck, she is ambivalent about being asked about her personal life. "I'm so uncomfortable talking about that kind of stuff," she says, laughing. "Sometimes I think, 'What have I done? What have I done to myself? 'I feel sorry for myself and like, you, know, the other person. … He's way more private than I am."
Fortunately, the rest of us don't have to cope with such sticky details. We get to just enjoy the album. Here, Taylor very gallantly provides a snapshot of LadyLuck.
On the video for first single "Timelapse Lifeline," which features Taylor and a group of befrocked friends merrily smashing mailboxes and chucking water balloons like a wild bunch of lipsticked vandals:
I just wanted something lighthearted. My songs are serious. My pictures are serious, and my videos are serious. But I love to laugh, and I'm goofy and I like to have fun. And I definitely haven't shown that part of myself. Ever. It's kind of sad because I've been getting some negative feedback. People are like, "You're promoting this kind of behavior." And I'm like, "Don't you know about irony? Don't you know that we're just joking?"
On the message of the title track, which features the poignant lyric, "We were the wear in my favorite shirt/I still prayed we could make it work/We were the lair for the baby cubs/But I grew strong as I prepared for lady luck":
The music's kind of melancholy, but I feel like the intention is that even though it's sad, maybe it's better this way. I certainly feel happier. I think change can be good if you're in the right frame of mind. I hope that the songs could perhaps affect someone else's outlook if they were looking for a change of perspective.
On the orchestral marvel that is "Broad Daylight":
My friend Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes and the Mystic Valley Band) arranged all the strings and woodwinds for this record. He is an absolute genius, so I could hand him the songs and trust him to write string parts that would accentuate the sentiment of the song. Everything came out so much more beautiful than I had imagined. So far, every time when a string player plays, it's always brought tears to my eyes. I just can't help it. It's so beautiful.
On "A Chance." The song talks about "giving another boy a chance," which made us wonder if it was about cheating. But actually, it's a cover of a tune by former Red Rocket bandmate Louis Schefano, who also happens to be her first boyfriend.
We dated for six years forever ago. He was my first love and taught me so much about music and writing songs. I promised him that on every solo record I would cover one of his songs. His songs are amazing. So thanks, Louis!
On "Cartoons and Forever Plans," which ends the disc with more than an azure ray of hope: "And did you know my glass is never empty/And did you know I'm not as fragile as I thought/And did you know my love will never die."
Michael came to [LadyLuck coproducer] Andy LeMaster's house [in Athens, Georgia] at approximately midnight. Andy and I were in our pajamas sipping a glass of wine. Andy and I sang the melody over and over while Michael wrote out different lyrics for us to test out. We continued doing this until the sun came up. It was such a fun, memorable night and such an honor to make music with him. My favorite line is "Electricity favors us."