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Justin Taylor: Former Sam Grow Sideman Cuts His Own Path

by Mark Beeson

Sitting in the dressing room at the Bright Box Theater in Winchester, Virginia, we had the opportunity to interview Justin Taylor, the former Sam Grow sideman, about his new solo EP Hindsight. It was just released this month. Oddly enough, Justin was back with Sam Grow, filling in for two shows for former bandmate Mike Stacy.

Alchemical Records: You just released your new EP Hindsight, and it hit Apple iTunes last week. It must be a pretty exciting time.

Justin Taylor: We are officially on all streaming platforms. It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a week and a half, that’s for sure. The overwhelming support and love for the songs, it’s literally been non-stop since the day that I put it out. My phone was blowing up all day. Definitely something that was super special, it’s something I’ll never forget.

AR: I saw you getting a lot of love on social media.

JT: It was really awesome and surprising. I didn’t really promote it. I put some video teasers out there. It was kind of a word of mouth thing, “Hey guys, I’m doing this record.” Then word had kind of gotten around, then by the time I actually got it out, the amount of people that actually knew about it and were waiting for it was absolutely staggering.

AR: How did the whole EP come about? When did you start on it?

JT: Actually, it didn’t start until November. It was really funny, we made the decision in November, and I was still finishing up the Common Courtesy band, and that was starting to fizzle out. The problem was that I saw where my career was heading, and the thing is I kind of realized that the only thing that was the possible next step was for me to take that jump and just go for it.

I had five or six songs that I had written, three of which didn’t make it into contention at all for the record, and I only ended up putting the one that I wrote on the record. But don’t worry, we’re saving those for the next EP. They’ll come out soon.

Once that came about, I had already had some conversations with Sam Grow and Joe Barrick and a lot of my friends. There’s a lot of people involved with this project. Every single song on this record was a collaboration of all my friends, people that I’m close with. Even if it wasn’t a song I wrote, it’s so special because Sam and Joe and my buddy Aaron and my buddy Nick and everyone was able to be a part of it, it felt right and completely natural. I think it shows. It sounds like a very organically made record.

It makes sense because three of the songs were made in an apartment in Middletown, Delaware.

AR: You would never know. You listen to all five songs, I couldn’t tell you which ones were in studio and which ones were done in an apartment.

JT: I’ll give it away, and that’s in part to my buddy Nick Rehm and Aaron Maloney. Nick actually was the one who started “Over You” with me. Nick is an aerospace engineer down at the University of Maryland. His time is very limited as you can imagine, and Aaron ended up finishing that {song}. We recorded both of those songs within two days and then finished up the third song on the third day. Then I went down to Nashville and cut the other two with Joe Barrick and Ace down at County Q. Within two weeks we had the record made. And then we sent it off for mastering in December. We got the masters back the first week of January, we set the release date, and there it was, man.

I think it’s one of the quickest projects that’s ever been made for sure. But I like it, it was a hustle, but it was very fun to do for sure.

AR: It’s amazing that it’s not where you do the recording, but who records it.

JT: Absolutely.

AR: Let’s talk about the songs. Sam Grow was a big contributor on the album?

JT: Absolutely. He pitched me several songs. That’s part of the reason why there’s only one song that I wrote on the record. I have so many songs that he forwarded to me, where he was like, this would fit you. “Call Me Crazy,” “Over You,” “I’ll Let You Be That” and “Make Your Night” he had co-written with other people, and none of them had ever done anything with them. “Over You” is five or six years old which they were doing way before I joined the band as the fifth member. They were still a four piece on the Joe Nichols tour. That’s how old that song is.

Those four songs with “Found You” I felt just made a better record, and it told a better story as a whole than if I were to put all five that I had written just for the sake of saying that I wrote all of them. He (Sam Grow) does the same thing that I do. If I write something, and I’m just not too connected to it, I still demo it out. ‘Cause some stuff I wrote, where I was like, “No, this would better for a girl singer, more female side of the story,” then I’ll put it in the vault and lock it away and wait for the right time.

He (Sam) and Joe (Barrick) played on two of the songs down in Nashville.

AR: You can’t ask for a better drummer.

JT: He (Joe) asked me, “What do you want me to do?” And I was like, honestly, be Joe Barrick. He served those songs perfectly.

AR: When you’re recording songs that you didn’t write, obviously they have to resonate with you.

JT: Absolutely.

AR: I hear a lot of country influence in them, but I also hear hard rock.

JT: Yeah. There’s a lot of hard rock going on in that record. But that’s what I also grew up listening to.

Let me set the scene. I was four years old, Nags Head, North Carolina, sitting out there on the beach under a sun tent with my granddad. We were listening to the Doobie Brothers’ “China Grove.” That was the first song I had ever heard. But not only was it that, I was getting George Jones and Ray Flack, Doc Watson and Les Paul, and all that stuff from him. Shit, Johnny Cash. All those classics. The songwriters.

AR: He liked a diverse group of artists?

JT: My dad was the one that was more into the hair metal side of things. My dad got me into the new country, like Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. That was my dad’s kind of country. But he also loves Jim Croce, and things like that.

I remember the first time I picked up a guitar, he showed me the Guns n’ Roses and Def Leppard music video and cassette collection anthologies, and we sat there all night around Christmas and went through them.

AR: How old were you?

JT: Seven or eight. I saw Steve Clark playing in Def Leppard, and his guitar was five notches too low. He just had this thing about him. The way he played. Then I saw Slash, and I was like ooh, I got intrigued by the dark side and eventually found Under Oath and Slayer, Slipknot, Metallica and all that.

I like loud guitars and loud drums. Sonically I love it. I love that ferociousness.

AR: Speaking of Slash, I think he and Guns n’ Roses saved rock and roll. Hair metal solos were just obscene. Guns n’ Roses came out and you hear “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” that’s a guitar solo.

JT: Guns n’ Roses saved hard rock and rock and roll in general, and Pantera saved heavy metal, and country music is what saved good songs, good storytelling.

AR: So what’s next for Justin Taylor?

JT: Basically, we’re going to be touring the Hindsight EP for the next couple months. We have a single coming out in March. I’m not going to give out the title yet, but it’s a really fun song. Then around the July timeframe, we’re gonna put out another five song EP, and we’re going to be touring that until winter, when I put out another single. To have twelve songs out by the end of the year is the goal. It’s going to be on all streaming platforms. The July record is going to be fun. It’s gonna be more like summertime, kind of windows down, hanging out with a beer. Hanging out on the dock and doing that kind of stuff. Still that rock and roll vibe, but a little more party centered, I guess.

AR: So who’s going to be in your band?

The three members of my band that are backing me are my boy Curtis Lewis on rhythm guitar – who is also a United States Marine, which is bad ass – my brother Doug Haines on bass and Kenny Smith, formerly of No Green Jelly Beans, on drums. Southern Maryland boys hanging out, like Wes Rice and Moe Owens. If I do this for the rest of my career, they’ll be the three guys that are working with me for sure. I’m confident in that.

Listen to Hindsight on Spotify.

Mark Beeson

Mark Beeson is a musician, songwriter and studio producer/engineer at Fred n’ Elvis’ Guitar Lounge. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and is a die-hard Eagles and Penn State fan. Occasionally Mark will step and out conduct an artist interview when he’s not busy in his role as the art director and content manager for Alchemical Records.

Karen Yadvish

Karen is an avid music fan and guitar player and collector who has performed on stage with Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick. Karen is the Editor and SEO manager of Alchemical Records. Many people don’t know that Karen is a former genetic scientist who worked on the team responsible for sequencing the human genome for the first time.

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