Q&A: James Taylor on his 2024 U.S. tour, the possibility of new music and his legacy

LOS ANGELES — He’s gone to Carolina in his mind and on tour for much of 2024.

Not long after his 76th birthday, James Taylor & His All-Star Band will take their show on the road in the United States, hitting 24 cities for 31 shows in five months.

Over Zoom from his studio in western Massachusetts, Taylor tells The Associated Press “It’s been September since the last time I’ve been out.” That, he says, is “a long time for me.”

The tour kicks off in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl on May 29 and ends at Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, Virginia, on Sept. 15.

The tour hits Salt Lake City; Morrison, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; Highland Park, Illinois; Noblesville, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; North Little Rock, Arkansas; Thackerville, Oklahoma; Clarkston, Michigan; Darien Center, New York; Syracuse, New York; Bethel Woods, New York; Bangor, Maine; Gilford, New Hampshire; Lenox, Massachusetts; Philadelphia; Wantagh, New York; Saratoga Springs, New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, and Boston.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

TAYLOR: The audience, always. The event itself has never failed to supply the motivation and the energy that is required. You know, it’s very compelling to go a great distance and to find a crowd of people that have bought tickets to come see me and the band play again.

Over time, it’s something you learn to do, to keep your strength up, keep your health… also, I don’t do more than a couple of shows in a row without a day off. I’ll do more than that if I’m in one town, but generally speaking, we pace ourselves now.

TAYLOR: I definitely burned myself out a few times.

TAYLOR: I was trying to figure out whether or not it was 50 years or 50 shows that I’ve been playing at Tanglewood, and it turns out it’s both. 1974 was the first time I played there. It averages out to one a year, although at one point we skipped a whole decade.

We had an episode where one of my crew members, in a fit of pique, drove a truck across the Tanglewood lawn and made a mess of it. He was told he had to get the truck off the lawn because it had been raining and it was making an imprint on it. As we were breaking down after the show, he was driving out there to unload the mixing board and stuff. But he put it in reverse, stomped the accelerator and tore a great trough, a great furrow in the Tanglewood lawn. And they never asked me back. It was only when (my wife) Kim came along and resurrected my reputation that I was allowed to come back.

It’s been a great privilege… It’s turned out to be a great thing for me, to play Tanglewood every year.

TAYLOR: This is the time of life when you feel like you ought to get in touch with a lawyer and make a will. You see, the older generation, the people that were your friends and mentors, sort of checking out one by one. It is a time when you feel as though things are being summed up a little bit and you start thinking about, the whole thing as a totality. You know, a line from one of my songs, “Copperline,” is “I’m only living ’til the end of the week,” and I think that really does describe me.

But, you know, it is a period of time when you look back and see the whole thing, it’s important not to internalize that idea of being a big deal. It’s important to focus on what it is that you do — and that thing as a craft that allows you to have your place in the world.

TAYLOR: As time goes by, I think it’s wrong for people to judge other people and even to evaluate them, and yet it’s something we constantly do, and we can’t avoid it. But we should mitigate it by knowing that when we judge someone, we’ve got it wrong. They know who they are, and not we. But, of course, in a million ways, all day long, we evaluate ourselves and other people and it’s complicated. It’s not up to me determine what my ultimate position in popular culture turns out to be 50 years from now.

TAYLOR: I see people selling the rights to their catalogs. That baby boom generation musical expression, which happened between ’62 and 1980, that sort of 20 years of amazing activity that happened, I was in the center of it and actually got my start in London with the Beatles. So, I had a real sense of this generational phenomenon that the music that I was part of, was a big feature in the landscape and we were communicating to each other. We invented a kind of music there. It was predicted by rhythm and blues and folk music. And those two resurgences sort of fueled it and supplied it. It was big.

You see those people now, being in my sort of age group generally, selling the rights to their catalogs and sort of evaluating what their life’s output was worth. You know, David Bowie ’s went for like 250 million. I think (Bob) Dylan… got like 300 million… (Bruce) Springsteen is said to have gotten more than that, like half a billion or something. It’s sort of like monopoly money.

TAYLOR: I feel like I’ve got another one in me — sounds like an egg — but I’m writing a little bit.

And as to what I hope people take away from live performances, I hope they take away a sense of connection. You know, live music — the thing that I’m so attached to about it, why I can’t let it go — is that there’s something (that) happens when people come together for a couple of hours for two or three hours and have a sort of collective experience.

It’s indescribable. You prepare for it, but when it happens, it’s spontaneous and, in a way, unique. I love it when that happens, and it does most nights.

TAYLOR: If someone comes sniffing around, I’ll get in touch.

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