Taylor McFerrin Interview Early Riser BK Show

Taylor McFerrin‘s highly-anticipated first album Early Riser has FINALLY arrived.  To celebrate its launch, he’s performing on both coasts, with an incredible live show in Brooklyn last week, and another in Los Angeles this week (details here).  On his Brooklyn stage, Taylor was joined with special guest members from his former band RAHJ, vocalist Rahj Mason and Brockett Parsons on keys, the Grammy-nominated vocalist Emily King who sings on the track “Decisions,” and a freestylin’ Sahr Ngaujah from Fela! On Broadway.

We caught up with Taylor a couple days after the show (after he’s had a chance to let it marinate), to talk about his upcoming L.A. launch event, touring, collaborations, his four-year journey creating Early Riser and his guilty pleasure: videogames.

Read our interview with Taylor McFerrin here, enjoy the musical selections we’ve sprinkled throughout and pick up his album on iTunes, out now on Brainfeeder.  He performs on Friday, June 27 at Los Angeles’ Bootleg Hifi with special guests.

Throughout his Brooklyn show, Taylor would invite special guests to come up on stage.  The one person who didn’t show up…

That was Vincent Parker. He was the singer on the song “Broken Vibes” that I put out in 2008.  He’s also on a song on the bonus track on the Japanese version of the album.  It’s another song that we didn’t put out so I put it on there.

But yea, he had to work so I guess he ran a little late. I asked him to do it super last second.  I gave him some options on what we were going to perform. Either I was gonna make a beat from scratch and he was gonna sing whatever he wanted, or we were gonna do “Broken Vibes.” Who knows. For me, it was a really free night because normally at shows, I’m trying to hold down the show the whole way through, so I need to be ultra-focused.  This time, I felt like I was just having fun because I had so many people playing with me.

Special guests we can expect at his Los Angeles show this week, and the “real” show he’s developing for his upcoming tour

RYAT‘s gonna be there.  Hopefully I can get Thundercat there. I might have a drummer on the set.  Really, the real show I’m going to be working it out over the next three months. I’m starting to tour heavily in the Fall.  I put my record out in kind of a weird month, and you need a bit of a lead-in of hype before you get booked on the summer festivals, so I kinda missed that.  So my real touring is going to get heavy in the Fall.  So, the next three months I’m going to be experimenting a lot with the show.

But the big show is going to have me and the drummer Marcus Gilmore – he’s the drummer on the record whenever there’s live drumming. At a certain point, I’m going to want it to be just me and him.  I’m going to start introducing some singing to the show.  I’m already working on new material.  It’s going to be a blend of new stuff I’m working on, stuff from the record and a couple covers.  But the show just isn’t at that stage yet, which is why this show was sort of a mish-mash of jamming with friends ’cause I felt like that would make it more fun and probably a little better than where my actual solo set is at all on its own.

Touring for Early Riser

I’m going back to Japan for a couple shows.  I’m doing like a 6 or 7-country European tour.  That’s like a month-long.  And I have like 10 shows that are sort of one-off shows around the states.  It’s going to be an interesting year for sure.  I don’t think I’m going anywhere that I’ve never been before, even though it’s my first record coming out.  I think part of the reason why the record wasn’t coming out was because I was touring so much that I was feeling good about my career – I’m traveling, making money doing my music, this is my thing. But then, it felt like the gas was running out on that and I couldn’t just do that forever without a record. And also spiritually I felt like there was a big chunk missing from a personal goal of my life.  So, I’m happy to be finally be touring to support a real release.

Future & dream collaborations

I can’t wait.  It’s been so liberating to be done with this.  There’s been opportunities to collab with people, but I’m like I just can’t do anything with anyone until my record is done.  And that actually was kind of destructive in a personal way where it’s like I love making music with other people, but at a certain point, I knew that my album had to come first.  Nick Hakim lives up the block.  He’s a younger singer and I think he’s incredible.  He just came over yesterday and we’re gonna try to make a song in the next couple weeks.  My sister just moved to New York and I want to produce a couple songs for her.

I have a couple dream collabs: I would love to work with Erykah Badu, Little Dragon, Kendrick Lamar… those are kinda like I’m gonna make beats for them and make it happen.  But I think I’m gonna take like 6 months and make music for people I’d love to collab with, then get into the next record, next year.  Once I start making beats though, it could be for me or other people, but I don’t want a record to take longer than 2 years for the next one.  So, I gotta start getting my ideas together for it within a couple months.

Early Riser from beginning to end…

It’s been four years.  I put out an Early Riser EP in the Fall of 2010, and I thought I was going to finish the record within a year from that.  Then I had a lot of self-destructive issues.  Was forced to confront my own limitations.  It’s weird, certain issues of doubting myself kinda crept into my mind and it was really limiting.  But also, Brainfeeder didn’t give me a time limit, and I realize with this that I need deadlines.

One thing that helped me finish the record was there was going to be a big Brainfeeder festival in Japan and I could only go if I had an album out.  And they’re like, “if you turn the album in by like February, you could go on this…. The album will be out by then in Japan and it’ll be huge promotion.”  And I kinda had that opportunity in the year before and I missed it.  So, a couple things lined up for me that forced me to  be like “this record has to come out no matter what, you’re not going to be 100% happy with it no matter what” – but I ended being happy with the record.

It’s a good feeling to feel proud to share your music as opposed to being like ugh, I don’t really like this, but I had to put it out.  I’m satisfied with what it ended up being and it made a big difference for me.

Is Early Riser conceptually different than what you intended 4 years ago?

Yes, definitely.  I intended to do a whole album with no guests, and I wanted to sing on the whole thing.  But I wasn’t a singer up to that point.  I was like I’m gonna learn how to sing and do a whole solo joint, but I just wasn’t satisfied with how far I got with vocals.  That was probably the first two years – a cycle of being like “I’m not good enough to do this yet.” And that got to be depressing because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.  But it’s cool.  You have to learn that it takes a lot of time and focus and effort to develop your voice to the point to where you’re a singer.  And I know that because it took me like 10 years to get my production to a point where I was putting music out.  So, it was a reality check.

But, the benefit of not singing on the record was I think I was able to have a more diverse selection of instrumentals because I’m only comfortable singing on certain types of music.  But since I had the freedom to not be singing, I had the freedom to be more experimental, more out there that I wouldn’t know what to do if I was trying to do vocals on it.

He’s not a beat-boxer

All the drums on the Broken Vibes EP are beat-boxing, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out as beat-boxing because there’s a lot of instrumental stuff on top of it.  I purposefully didn’t beatbox on the Early Riser record because it’s not my first passion.  It’s always been meant to be a cool part of my show that I do at some point, but it was getting to the point where I was known too much as a beat-boxer for my comfort because I don’t consider myself a beat-boxer.  And I mostly don’t consider myself one because I don’t practice it at all.  There’s people that take it really seriously and work on a whole set and doing all this stuff, and I’m not like that.  I make beats when I’m at home with my equipment.  But, it is something that I enjoy to do in a show to mix it up and it’s fun.  I’m a pretty introverted person and it helps bring the crowd into the show a little bit because it’s an extroverted part of my performance.

Who’s that barking?

It’s my French bulldog. We named him after Lionel Messi, the soccer player.  So his name is Messi, but everyone doesn’t get the reference if we just call him Messi.


Taylor’s Best of Brooklyn

Well, it’s weird. A lot of neighborhoods have changed a lot.  Being at Lot 45, I didn’t know that area of Bushwick had turned into that at all. I lived in Fort Greene for about 8 years, and I felt so at home there.  That’s when I first moved to New York.  Probably Fort Greene Park was like my favorite place in the city.  They had the summer block parties.  That’s always been the place that felt most like home just because I lived there the longest. Out here in Bed-Stuy, there’s like Peaches and Saraghina – they’re like the only two restaurants basically.  And I lived with my fiance in Williamsburg for awhile.  Williamsburg is like my second home as far as neighborhoods go.

Taylor McFerrin Interview Early Riser BK Show 2

I’ve become such a homebody that I don’t have my spots that I got to all the time anymore.  But part of that was because I got sick of telling people about my record and it not coming out for years.  So I didn’t want to go out anymore and be like “I’m working on a record,” and they’re like “yeah, sure.” It kinda of started to feel like that.  My sister just moved to New York and she’s 10 years younger than me, so I’m trying to rediscover New York a bit now that I can show my face again.

Guilty Pleasures

I’m a major videogame nerd. I’m like on the Internet reading articles about games coming out.  I don’t necessary play everyday, but I buy a lot of games, and then certain ones really grab me and I’ll get hardcore into it.  I got a Playstation 4, but every time a new system comes out, it usually takes about a year and half before the real games start coming out.  So last system, I would say my top games were Skyrim, HλLF-LIFE2, Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us

Thoughts on FlyLo’s Radio Station in Grand Theft Auto V?

I’m extremely jealous that he got his own radio station. It’s so cool though. I just saw him in Japan and told him, “I’m pissed at you that you got that, man.”  But Gilles Peterson got his own station too.  I’m friends with José James, we’ve done some music together (see “Love Conversation“), and the craziest experience I had with the game:  I didn’t know Gilles had his own station, so I was playing the game and I changed the station and all of a sudden it’s Gilles talking and he’s like “Next up, we have José James.” And they’re playing José James.  And I’m like, these are all my homies in this game, and I actually got a little pissed they didn’t put one of my songs in the game.

I guess if my record came out the year before, I might have got a track in there…


  • Mac

    Excellent article/interview. And what a great album!! But he doesn’t want to take two years for a new album and here we are almost four years later! Although I’m aware it almost always takes more time than you think with a lot of things. Can’t wait for the next one, I’m kind of hoping it’s a continuation of the same style but I know musicians and artists gotta grow and expand their work and discography.

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