I first head the man sitting with me today on MySpace many moons ago. I was just trying to find new talent and I was listening to anything I could get my hands on. And when I came across this young man’s profile I was immediately intrigued. Having a sound that you are not used to hearing these days, he brings a jazz meets progression funky beat to your speakers. Playing shows almost every night on every corner of the world I am pleased to sit with him today. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Taylor Eigsti.
I am pretty sure I can’t pronounce your last name correctly. Any tricks to help me?
Eigsti = Ike’s Tea.
Where are you from originally?
Menlo Park, California.
What is your first memory of music?
Seeing my sister play keyboards with the Doobie Brothers when I was 2 and 3 years old.
When did you know that you wanted to make a run at this as a career?
When my dad told me that I didn’t have to pay to perform and that I could actually GET paid to play music! I was 8 years old and made my career choice on the spot.
Any other jobs or is music it?
Music is it. Performing and giving masterclasses and workshops, although I also do visual art, coach football when I can, and try to involve myself in different fund raising efforts for several causes.
You play nearly every night. You ever get tired of being on the road?
Well, its harder living in New York, because in New York you never really feel like you’re at home; it feels like you are still on the road because there’s so much going on. I’m a bit of an introvert, so it’s nice to be at home composing when I can.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
All of the musicians I work with, and the people that I aspire to follow career-wise. Also my good friends and family.
Tell me a little bit about the guys behind you.
They vary every single time I perform, so it would take quite a while to go through all of them! All I’ll say is that I’m extremely lucky to play with some of the most inspiring musicians in the world, who are also very inspiring as people, and I am constantly learning from them.
I am bad with age but you do not look like you are only 23 years old. What is it like having had this much success at this young of an age?
I’m 24 now. I was very fortunate to get an early start on my career, and I’m glad that I took opportunities when they came up. I really feel that really really working your ass off constantly, surrounding yourself with positive encouraging forces, and allowing opportunities to present themselves, leads to a fun career in music. I’ve never panicked at any point, and I’ve trusted in the universe to allow opportunities to happen. I’ve been really lucky that it has worked out so far. I’ve had some tremendously low points and difficult situations, but I always have to just know that somehow there will be a better situation around the corner.
Describe your genre in one word.
Can’t and won’t. (Laughs) I’m trying desperately now to create good music that can be defined more by it’s emotional effect than by the category it’s placed in because of the structure of the music industry.
Your image is spotless. What came first? The image or the music?
Not sure about having a “spotless image”. All I care about is the music that I’m trying to make, and whatever image that record labels have to put out is more their business than mine in a way. They could dress me up like Richard Simmons if I get to make the record I want to make musically.
You are going to Tokyo this year. Will that be your first time over seas performing?
It won’t be the first time, but I’m really excited to be back there as part of Reuben Rogers’ band with Eric Harland. Japan is an extremely culturally saturating place, and it’s always a trip to get to see a culture that is so different from what I’m used to.
Let’s say someone offers you a $250,000 record contract. The album is some one else’s lyrics and it is a rap album. Do you do it?
Well, I don’t think my voice would work real well in a rap context, but that sure is a nice budget!
You were on the cover of Jazziz Magazine. What was like for you?
It was pretty cool, and I’m thankful to that magazine for the opportunity to promote my music in that context. Anything is welcome that helps get the music out there more. I sure wasn’t too excited about the fur-sweater picture they used of me, but again that’s one of the things that’s entirely out of my control.
Is MySpace good or bad for musicians?
Good, I think. But I’m really late in answering emails, so it makes me feel like more of a flake. But it’s just another way for people to get their music out there, and its a nice (and free) resource for people who want to have a page where they can post their music, and everyone can access it.
You have been to Indiana a few times. Any chance we will see you in the city of Indianapolis any time this year?
I hope so! I should be there in at least some context within this year. I was in Indiana last summer, and enjoyed it amidst sporadic rainy weather.
You are already on your 6th album. Where does all this new music come from?
Right now I’m working on my 7th album, and its an entirely new concept that moves a bit farther away from straight-ahead jazz than I have ventured before. My new band is called “Free Agency” and it is a blend of elements from different genres that I like. My goal was to assemble a “team of elements” that are usually irreversibly tied to certain genres, and put together the team that I want through a process I call “musical free agency”. I define that as the ability to put together music without the usual restrictions and unspoken guidelines that dictate conformity within certain types of music. The rhythms come from Rock and R&B, the harmonies come from classical orchestral music and modern jazz harmony, and there are 2 vocals with a symphony orchestra. My biggest musical goal is to create a band that makes music that is centered around emotions, (like film music), but has a driving pulse, adventurous unconventional harmonies, and a lot of energetic improvisation throughout. I want it to be accessible, but unpredictable.
Where does your inspiration come from when you sit to write a new song?
I’ll never quite know. But the closer we are to living entirely in the present moment, the easier inspiration seems to flow through us.
What is the biggest crowd that you have played for?
Other than some TV or Radio things that have
reached a lot of people, I’d say maybe the biggest crowd for a concert was playing at Grant Park in Chicago at the Chicago Jazz Festival with Dave Brubeck. There were about 30,000 people there I think, and it was a really fun moment. We had two pianos on stage, and we were re-creating some of his original Octet arrangements that were really revolutionary when he composed them about 50 years ago, and remain innovative and groundbreaking today. It was a real honor to play some of that music with him.
(Laughs) Actually also in Chicago! Once when I did a week at the Jazz Showcase, there was a nice crowd there every night except the Wednesday, where I think there may have been 3 people in the audience for the late set.
Staying single while out on the road?
I have before, and it can be fun that way, but now I’m in a wonderful relationship that’s about to reach the 3-year mark, and I’m extremely happy to not be single anymore.
Let’s get some pizza. What toppings?
Onions, black olives, and pepperoni. That’s all you really need. I don’t know why people start throwing the kitchen sink at pizza anymore with Cilantro and a bunch of other garbage. I like it pretty simple.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully doing a lot of concerts with my band Free Agency, and also with my jazz trio and quartet. And I’m also always down to be involved with other people’s projects.
What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?
For encouraging unconventional thinking within the music world, and writing / performing / teaching music that is unique and exciting.
I always let the artist get the last word. Go.
My website is tayjazz.com, and I am getting better at making sure it’s updated all the time with new art, projects, music clips, and concert schedules. It’s also an easy resource for anyone who wants to contact me about anything.