On this holiday edition of THE INTERVUE, our guest today needs no introduction, but we’re gonna get one anyway especially since he is getting ready to perform with Karla Bonoff for their “Home for the Holidays at The Birchmere, December 12th at 7:30 PM, and you can purchase tickets through Ticketmaster.
He is notable for his billboard hits “I Will Be in Love with You”, First Time Love” and I’ll Come Learning” among others. And for many years he has taught at the Berklee College of Music, but if you want to learn how to perform on stage, he has an online course which I highly recommend.
Let’s welcome back to TRR, Livingston Taylor!
Welcome back, Livingston!
Thank you, Dean. It’s nice to be with you again. Great joy to participate with you and be around your beautiful viewers/listeners.
Absolutely. Well, before we get started with our interview, I must wish you an early Happy birthday because it’s coming up on Tuesday
Yes, you know. I’ve been through 72 of these. And starting at about the age of six, they got pretty much the same. And so, I imagined before six there were so infrequent at that point. When you go from one to two, you had to actually live double your life before you had your second birthday. And now they come a little quicker.
It’s my 73rd birthday. It was November 21 1950. And I was very aware as a young man that when my 50th birthday would come in the year 2000. And I thought to myself, “can I ever imagine being a 50?” And the answer is that I couldn’t. And then I was and now I’m coming up on the 73. And yeah, it’s been like the song says “it’s been a hell of a ride”.
I want you to talk to us about the Home for the Holidays concert is coming up in the next few weeks. And your partnership with performing with Karla talk about that.
Well, first off, let’s speak about Karla Barnoff because she’s not widely known. I mean, she’s not known in the same depth as a Linda Ronstadt or a Bonnie Raitt. But Karla is this unbelievable songwriter.
Karla is one of those Laurel Canyon people who like Joni and, and Linda and others, just was a remarkable musical force. So, she and I are out on tour, and she uses me to be sort of energetic and enthusiastic, which I tend in that direction. And I use her to give an audience just unbelievably good music. And she has a wonderful energy as well. But boy, what a great songwriter
How did you & Karla meet to create this wonderful partnership?
First off, Karla and I, our paths have crossed just over the over the decades. We just happen to do a couple of shows together a few years ago, and our respective agents who are continually conniving thought, “Jeepers, that partnership works well. Let’s get them together and see what happens.” And my agent called me and said, “what I like to do this” and I said, “I’m all over that like cheap whiskey. I am on that.”
Well, I’m so glad to hear it. I’m so glad that you’re bringing the concert to the Birchmere, which I just attended a concert there. What is it about the Birchmere tbat keeps you coming back?
The Birchmere is one of these places that for whatever reason, it just works. It’s not the fanciest club by play but all the pieces fit. The sound is terrific. The staff is beautifully competent, and gracious. So when you get there as an audience member, or if I get there as to do a sound check, the sound people know what they’re doing. And so, things go easily and smoothly and its just a joy to be there.
It’s in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s in close proximity to Washington but not in the ferocity of downtown. So, it’s just a place that not only works but it has worked well literally for 30 years or something at that location
I don’t know but I do know its celebrating its 57th season this year.
Wow. You will I’ve been working my entire career at The Birchmere and they moved to that location and frankly, I’m not remembering when but I certainly worked there for a dozen times over the years.
Well, I’ve been keeping up with you, especially on Instagram. And a couple of things I found out is that over the summer, you recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra in London. Tell the viewers who have not seen what the project entails because I remember that there was a video of music release.
First off to work with an orchestra, you need good charts. So it just so happens that I have a dear friend by the name of Bill Elliott, and he played piano with me until the mid-70s. Bill also happens to be a terrific arranger. So, in the late 70s, the North Carolina Symphony hired me to do a Pops concert with them. And so, I hired Bill to write charts. And then we’ve just been doing these pops concerts.
So as we get hired to play with these symphony orchestras, and put on tuxedos, Bill wrote more and more charts, and eventually, we had 11 charts. And about a year and a half ago, I said, “Let’s hire an orchestra, and go record all of these.” We hired the BBC Concert Orchestra and went to London. At 11 o’clock on Thursday, June 22nd, London time, the baton went down and that entire 58-piece orchestra started playing, and I was along for the ride.
What made you decided to choose the BBC Concert Orchestra compared to the…
I would have loved to have done the Boston Pops. This had a couple of considerations. The main consideration being financial, once you had a certain level of quality. The BBC, like the New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, National Symphony Orchestra, a London Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Tokyo, there are a fistful of major cities who have major orchestras.
And it so happens that the BBC is on the payroll of the British government. And as a result, this was a project that if we went to London and did it there, we could expect not only world class playing, which we’ve got, but my office could expect a final bill that was less punishing than other places.
Well, that’s a great thing. How many compositions did you do for the orchestra?
We have 11 tracks. Now what you can do is you can go to just go on to YouTube and write in “Livingston, Taylor BBC orchestra”. And that’ll take you to the BBC Orchestra and we posted a song in October that is a song called “Glad I know You Well”. And we posted on November 1st another recording of a song called “When Sonny Gets Blue”. And these are not only the recording but full videos as well. I really didn’t know what to do with it. I just thought, “Well, what the heck? I’ll just put out one a month until they’re all released”.
Thanks for holding up your cup because he last time we talked about “The Livingston Taylor Show”, it was close to its 25th episode, that next time you’re about to your milestone, 100th Episode!
100 episodes of the TLTS, And that means 200 times of singing.
First of all, congratulations. Now, is there any big plans that are coming up for this milestone episode?
Yes it’ll be on the 21st of November. Both my birthday and the 100th anniversary of “The Livingston Taylor Show. You never know where it’s gonna go.”
I’m so glad that you’re hitting 100 episodes. I mean, for any medium 100 episodes, if you achieve it, you have done something great. You’ve done something brilliant. You make your audience happy. What you feel is the secret to its longevity because as I said, there isn’t a lot of shows don’t make it to 100 but you did.
First off, it’s very interesting. First, I love television. And I’ve always loved television. And many decades ago, this is before your time. But many decades ago, I was doing a show called “The Merv Griffin Show”. And I was on with a with an advice columnist of the day and her name was Ann Landers. There was “Dear Abby” and “Ann Landers”. And they were sisters. And they ran advice columns. Here I was this 26-year-old, and I’m doing The Merv Griffin Show with Ann Landers. And, and she gave me some advice.
And her advice was, “when you’re on television, always be informative”. When you’re on television, when you’re on any media at all, always give people information, teach them stuff, teach something like play music, speak about history speak about things you know, and it was wonderful advice. And so I really had this idea that I would do a show and I wanted it to be a retreat from the insanity of the day. So obviously there would never ever be anything a profane or toward it’s really amazing in the last few days, when you hear the coarseness of the words that people use in the catch willness with which they throw around at one another very destructive phrases. Words really, really matter. And words absolutely are a prelude to real, real violence.
Now, another picture I saw on Instagram was you in Morocco. And you work the World Central Kitchen, you had a picture of your Instagram using a paddle cooking looks like a very large dish. I want you talk about your involvement with the World Central Kitchen.
And what happened was my wife Gail and I had a trip planned to Morocco. They suffered that terrible earthquake. And we had had planned on traveling to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and going hiking. And then we’d join up with a tour group where I play music. We had planned to go hiking and when the earthquake happened, we just adjusted our plans kept the same flights to Morocco and volunteered for World Central Kitchen and cooked there for four days. And that was a wonderful experience. We were making what 17,000 meals a day.
So you had a 440 gallon pans. There were up 70-80 people. They’re all chopping, shredding, putting into coolers this hot Tajudeen. And then sending it out to distribution centers for earthquake relief. It was it was very gratifying. Yeah, glad we did that. Now I want to say that this was mainly my wife’s Gail’s idea
Now going back to the concert coming up on December 12th, are you going to be playing traditional standards or you’re gonna be throwing in some original Christmas music in the works?
I’m going to be doing both. Of course we’ll have things like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. There are a few nice Christmas songs. And then I’ve written a fistful of Christmas songs over the years. “Christmas is Almost Here”, pretty song. “My Perfect Christmas Day”, Oh, that’s a terrific song If I may say so and another one called “Hush Hush the Baby”. This is really a fun sort of Christmas-tinged show with Karla and me.
And one of my last questions to you is since the holidays are coming around the corner Thanksgiving, next week, your birthday is also next week. Christmas is a month away a little over a month. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
That’s an interesting question. One of the things that I really that I I love to do is I love if I can to sneak down to New York City and just wander around Central Park East in Fifth Avenue and Central Park South and watch that Rockefeller Center. New York really, really does a nice Christmas. The other thing is because there have been so many movies by the way. This New York Christmas is just as good as it gets. So to just stop up that Christmas feeling. The other place is to go is that up into Vermont, New Hampshire, Vermont. But again, no place has more dense Christmas feeling then Fifth Avenue Central Park South
See Livingston and Karla Bonoff at the Birchmere December 12th for their “Home for the Holidays” Show. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. And if you want to follow him, Livingstontaylor.com