By Rob Duguay
Special to The Independent
Hiss Golden Messenger is a folk music entity that’s as flexible as it is accessible. MC Taylor is a brilliant songwriter who cherishes the message being conveyed in music. His band is also a revolving act that’s around him as he’s the principle member. This style also gives Taylor the opportunity to perform by himself. This exact thing will be happening at the Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly on March 2.
Taylor and I had a talk ahead of the show about moving from coast to coast to start the project, his roots in different kinds of music, his own evolution as a musician and a new album that’s on the horizon.
Rob Duguay: You’re originally from California but you started Hiss Golden Messenger in Durham, NC. How did this journey start for you moving from the west coast to the east coast?
MC Taylor: I actually initially started the project in California and for the last year or two I’ve lived in California. Nothing much came of it before I moved to North Carolina, that’s where I started recording music under the Hiss Golden Messenger name and started playing shows.
RD: Before you started the current project, you were in the hardcore punk act Ex-Ignota and the indie rock band The Court & Spark. What inspired you to make the transition from those styles to this current folk rock sound you have going on?
MCT: When I was playing hardcore music, I was 18 years old and I think I had a different emotional makeup at that time than I certainly do now. I played that kind of music for a couple years as a lot of my peers did and I started to grow as a musician while the boundaries of that style felt a bit confining. It’s not the case for everybody, but for me there was a different kind of language that I wanted to use to express myself. After a few different types of music, I started The Court & Spark with some friends which in a lot of ways is similar to what I do now. I wasn’t as confident in my songwriting back then but a lot of the inspirations are the same now as they were then.
RD: With Hiss Golden Messenger having you be the central focus while collaborating with others, do you prefer that type of setting or did it just happen as you were starting this project?
MCT: When it comes to writing a song, it’s generally me by myself. Recently, I have started writing with other people but not a lot of songs have come from it. Only a handful of those are in the Hiss Golden Messenger catalog. I’m not against collaborating at all, I just feel like I’m able to say what I’ve wanted to say in my own music better when it’s just me but maybe that’ll change. I don’t know, I feel like evolving away from being a person alone in a room.
RD: You also ran your own record label, Heaven & Earth Magic Recording Company, before you signed with Merge Records in 2014. Do you think starting out with running your own label gave you more insight to that side of things?
MCT: Yeah, totally. When you run a record label by yourself for a little while you begin to understand where the money is going a lot better. Things seem to make a lot more sense financially after you have that experience for sure. At least in my experience, I can see how it all works way better than if I didn’t run my own label.
RD: Have you considered starting your own label again sometime in the future or are you content with being a part of Merge?
MCT: I love Merge, they’ve been amazing. They’re really hands off and I’m not chomping at the bit to start my own label again because I don’t have the manpower to do it the right way. I think everybody, including me, fantasizes about being completely in control of every aspect of it but right at this particular moment it’s not high on my priority list. Merge has really been a great place for me to be, I’ve been really happy with them and they’re super cool. The principal owners are Laura [Ballance] and Mac [McCaughan] from the band Superchunk and they get it, the run everything from a musician’s point of view.
RD: That’s awesome with how it’s a transparent and clear relationship with Merge rather than being left in the dark when it comes to how the label is run.
RD: Do you have any plans set for the summer yet with the festival season?
MCT: Yeah, we’re setting up our summer. There’s a lot of stuff that we haven’t announced yet. I have a new record coming out in September so everything is kind of moving towards that. The release of that record is the guiding star that everyone on my crew is looking at right now.