San Francisco based Singer-Songwriter, James Taugher, has been sharing his happiness inducing soul music all over California and has gathered a tight knit fanbase in every show he has held. I had the immense pleasure of catching Taugher live in various local shows. From seeing him opening for Reeve Carney, attending his album release show and catching him opening for Communist Daughter this past January.

One of the many things that have always stood out to me about Taugher is the endless passion that oozes out of him each time he performs and it creates this contagious joyous bubble that envelops you whole. The magical atmosphere he creates is not only addicting but leaves you intrigued to know more about the singer behind the music.

(Read more at our Lofty Expectations Album Release Show Review)

Late January, I was granted the opportunity to do a phone interview with Taugher in which we spoke about topics ranging from his musical beginnings, his influences, his shows and his music.

For those not familiar with Taugher’s music, it cannot be categorized in one specific genre, Taugher describes his music as “A little blend of soul, funk, a little bit of folk and R&B”. I would also add a bit of rock and roll which is felt immensely during his live shows.

His Beginnings

In his early beginnings, Taugher was fascinated by playing the drums. “I actually started on drums [I was] a drummer first and I played drums when I was a little kid and I never really enjoyed it as much as I wanted because there was not a feeling of instant gratification and you kind of don’t have patience when you’re a kid. It’s a lot of technical stuff, anything I would play on the drums, I couldn’t hear what I was playing.”

Taugher would later on discover his love for guitar playing.” When I was about 11 or 12 years old, at that point in my life I was obsessed with the blues, all blues music. My mom’s boyfriend at the time had bought tickets for him and her to go see Eric Clapton in concert, he ended up getting really sick, so he had me take his place and when I saw Eric Clapton live, I was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar. After that concert, I wanted to play the guitar and my dad bought me a really cheap guitar at Costco and I was instantly able to hear what I was doing, which I really liked.”

A few years later, Taugher would discover his passion for songwriting. “When I was 16 or 17, I realized that I was so in love with music in general that I was no longer willing to have a passive relationship with music, that I needed to be pro active and make something that I wanted to hear.”

Taugher spoke about another life alternating moment that made him reflect on his artistic career: “I’ve always done it on the side, but as far as committing more to it, a year ago, from this past October, I got in a really bad motorcycle accident and I was hospitalized for two weeks and almost my entire right leg is filled with metal and it’s pretty much a fake leg on the inside, on my right leg. Up until that point, I’d been working full time, doing tech work full time and I kinda had a moment in the hospital of if I’m going to do it. If I didn’t feel like I tried it and did it and committed to a little more, I feel like I would have some regrets.”

His Influences

Artists often influence other artists from past or present, when asked who were his musical influences, Taugher answered: “I would say the very first artist I was obsessed with was Elvis (Prestley), and I was seriously obsessed with him. Like, I would dress up like Elvis for Halloween, I had the Elvis hip shaking clock, I had a collection of Elvis movies, that was my first real obsession, Elvis.

When I was pre teen or in my early teens I was really obsessed with both Blues and Hip Hop, I listened to Nas, Tupac, DMX and tons and tons of Hip Hop while also listening to tons and tons of old Blues, which is funny because my (music) style is maybe representative of my obsession of both Hip Hop and Blues.

Throughout my life, my mom has always introduced me to classics like The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Al Green and then in late high school and college, I got really into Indie music. I really loved Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, M. Ward, more like Folk, Indie Electronic kinda stuff. But I say my biggest current influence, modern influence is, I’m obsessed with Anderson Paak, I absolutely love him. My biggest inspiration is D’Angelo.”

His Songwriting

Every songwriter has a unique songwriting process, I asked Taugher about his songwriting process.”Usually, almost always music comes first, almost always. Almost always it starts with a melody. So I’ll hear a melody. I’ll have a melody in my head and I build something around it and what usually happens is I’ll have a melody or a rhythm and then I’ll just kinda free form on top of it and I’ll start writing down the words that keep coming up and based on those words. I’m obviously singing these words free form with this song for a reason, feeling a certain way, and so that kinda starts to take shape based on the words that keep coming up when I’m free styling on top of something, But almost always it comes with music first.”

Taugher goes on to add, “that’s not always been the case. When I first started writing, I would write almost like a poem first and as far as my words go. They are a lot different than what they used to do. I used to write very poetic, very kinda interpretive and now I try to keep it simple. I try to keep simple imagery, simple words that people can relate to and people want to sing. Sometimes I’m inspired by things that happen in life, like any other songwriter and sometimes I’m inspired by the song itself.”

When asked if extreme emotions play any role in his songwriting process, Taugher replied: “Yes, Almost every songwriter or artist, I can almost guarantee that everyone will tell you the same thing, that writing happens in the most darkest times, even happy songs. I write more when there’s sadness whether that be happy songs or sad songs and music writing is also motivated by peers, If I go to a show and I’m blown away by someone and I’m like “I’m going to go home and write for hours” because this person has inspired me.”

His Motivation

Being an Artist is not easy and can be challenging at times so I was curious to find out what motivates Taugher everyday. “It’s the same answer as it’s always been, which is wanting to create something I want to hear. First, It’s a therapy thing for me, it’s very therapeutic way of expressing myself in a very unique and distinct way, to me. If other people find similar therapy through something I’m making, that first started as therapy for myself, then that’s extremely motivating.”

“It’s also about chasing this feeling about making a hit, but not making a hit that’s all over the radio. Although that’s great, but a hit in the sense of people remembering that song or you, yourself wanting to listen to that song multiple times.”

His Songs

When I asked Taugher what song of his is the most meaningful, he responded that “there’s the sad and meaningful gut punching ones, real personal ya know, there’s others that are more fun to play.”

“”Glue” is very personal and very meaningful to me. I had a breakup with a girl that I dated for many years. I’ve never done the whole break up-back together thing, I never quite understood that and with this relationship we broke up several times and got back together several times and it’s each time we weren’t solving the real problems, we were just trying to patch them up, stitch things, piece things together, like glue. That song encompasses almost the whole entire relationship, it’s about letting go. I think that it resonates with people too because I feel like they feel that way about relationships that they had and didn’t work.That song, more than others, puts me in a zone. It’s almost a reminder to make sure to fix the problems, the root cause and not just patch things up.”

“I also wrote a song that hasn’t been recorded anywhere that I wrote when I was 16 that I still play at acoustic shows and it’s called “Somewhere Else.””

His Challenges

The life of an artist can be challenging as it can be rewarding. When I asked what is the most challenging, Taugher answers without hesitation: “Remaining true to yourself because with any successes or failures you have, it’s really easy to lose yourself and lose your truth. One of the scariest things about being an artist is a musician going by their own name, which I never wanted to do and then did, is that you’re putting yourself out there and even though I have a guitar to hide behind, it’s still you, your name, your feelings or your efforts and if those are not accepted or reciprocated, it’s like you feel like it’s a reflection of yourself.”

His Performances

If you have been fortunate enough to witness Taugher in concert, you have experienced a musician who’s wears his heart on his sleeve, who plays with such undeniable joy and happiness it’s contagious.

Taugher can go from playing a heartbreaking slow song to rockin’ and dancing on his hip hop folk-laced rock n roll songs flawlessly. “I’m absolutely trying to play with the audience as much as possible. I am not a fan of going to see shows where the artist goes up there, plays each song and says nothing in between each song and then they leave.”

“Music is a shared experience and so where there are times where I lose myself, I always try and keep a finger on the pulse of the audience and you can sense when you’re on stage whether you’re losing somebody or getting somebody so I try having a little bit of both.”

(For more read Reeve Carvey and James Taugher Team Up to Blow Your Bind on Tour)

His Advice

Taugher shares his advice to the many aspiring artists out there who are still grasping for the dream. “Make sure you always have fun doing it, make sure you don’t play by the rules and be honest with yourself. That is a really difficult thing that all artists have, being honest with themselves. What I mean by that is, sometimes artists are too honest with themselves and they don’t go anywhere because maybe they did one mistake. Then there are artists that, frankly, are pushing the same content down people’s throats that isn’t really going anywhere and sometimes you need to be able to suck up pride and know what works and what doesn’t. You learn a lot of that when you’re working on a record, specially because you end up throwing away songs that you put so much effort in but you have to be honest with yourself with what works and what doesn’t.”

His Future

Taugher possesses a multi dimensional talent that can break down music barriers and genre labels and create his own joy provoking signature sound. What lays in his immediate future is up to him.

“I have a bunch of music coming out soon that I have been working on that’s different than this record (Lofty Expectations). I kinda set out to make a throwback, soul feeling record and I want to continue having that vibe but a lot of the music I will be having out now is much more funky, R&B, almost hip hoppy. I want to be able to make more music that’s way fun to see live and way fun to perform live. I definitely want to focus on making fun music that people want to dance to, that people want to see and what comes with that is making sure that live shows are as fun, crazy and well rehearsed as possible.”

As we conclude our Interview, Taugher continues to tell me that he cannot promise on specifics on how many upcoming EPs or festivals he will be a part of, but he does leaves me with these parting words, “The only thing I could do is make good music.”

Follow James Taugher on his Official Site now!

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