If you have not heard his angelic voice before, then you really need to get up to speed with Alexis Taylor. He is the lead singer of Hot Chip and now he has stepped out on his own for a third time with his latest album, Piano.
This album is a simple affair, breaking it down to the basics of a man, his voice, and a piano. It is a deeply personal opus where Alexis soulfully sings his way through genres spanning from pop to country.
It is by no means a departure from his well-established and beloved musical style. It is just a more revealing exercise in which he strips his creative process down to highlight the sweetness of his unforgettable voice and unique heart.
With much excitement and admiration, Magnetic Magazine stole a moment of Alexis Taylor's time to talk about this new album. Without further ado, here it is.
Your album almost exclusively consists of one of my favorite voices in the entire world and just a piano. What brought about such an intimate affair as your solo album, Piano?
The piano seduced me and the affair began immediately. It lasted over a year or so and then came to a sad end one day, but luckily I kept a good audio diary of the ups and downs. Quite a detailed one.
I was sort of seeing this really beautiful ribbon microphone in the same time period also, so it would not have worked really in the long run. I am now on the rebound, looking for other pianos everywhere I go. I'm usually disappointed.
That one just wanted to stay put but I like to move around a lot. My fault, I guess.
This album is extremely personal and wonderfully private. What compelled you to open up and graciously let us all in?
It was cheaper than psychoanalysis, just about.
I am not sure - to me, it doesn't feel any more revealing than the lyrics of, say, "Don't Deny Your Heart" by Hot Chip, but I guess the music is quieter and less busy so the focus is on the words and sentiment. I was just in a place where I wanted to reduce things down to these elements - and perhaps wanted to remove all attempt at a busy and cluttered production.
How did Piano come about exactly? Did you just feel the time was right to open up the Alexis Taylor vault and let it all out?
I was thinking about it for a while - to be it seems obvious to make a record like this. I like the space in records like Plastic Ono Band or More You Becomes You, Mark Hollis, Nebraska, loads of fairly empty records.
The dearly departed Prince had also set out on a man and a piano tour. What is it about this minimal musical format that draws great talents such as yourself to attempt it? Is it an exercise in confidence in your talents, your voice, and creativity? Or is it something you just simply wanted to do?
I wanted to just have less going on musically - and put a focus on the sound of the voice and the piano. I guess for Prince he wanted the freedom to drop into anything from his catalogue but present the songs in a new light. That was similar to my approach actually!
Your voice is arguably one of the most iconic out of the contemporary singers making music today. When in your life did you realize you could sing?
My mum sang and my brother too. I started singing my own songs about the age of 13 or 14 I guess? At first, my voice surprised me (and others) as it was/is fairly androgynous sounding. But I grew to get used to it and like it. Some people are into it. As far as I can tell the people who run Norman Records who I often buy records from absolutely hate my voice and found this album unbearable. Won't be giving them my cash anymore!
What is the essence of Alexis Taylor?
I have no idea how to answer that really. I like soul music and country music a lot. A man in the street today was dancing to hillbilly country music playing through a loudspeaker. His dancing and the music was so funky. The essence of Alexis Taylor might be believing that these worlds of country and soul are very much connected and wanting to make something of my own which is related to that, through pop music.
What guides your songwriting process? It always strikes me as so human and personally resonant.
Ah, that sounds about right. I do want it to have that feel. I want it to be direct and resonant with other listeners and feel true to them. I am guided by song ideas which start in dreams or in small, unconscious thoughts and scraps of lyrical or melodic ideas. I try to record every idea so I can develop it if it feels right.