The Hughes Taylor Band is primed to release Modern Nostalgia, an ambitious collection of songs recorded at the storied Capricorn Sound Studios. Assembling a truly impressive array of musicians to bring his sonic vision to fruition, Taylor leads the charge with blazing guitars and a bluesy style that checks all the boxes for classic rock aficionados and modern Southern Rock enthusiasts. Taylor and company will mark the release of Modern Nostalgia with an anticipated performance on Friday, July 9th at the freshly renovated Historic Grant’s Lounge in Downtown Macon. Preorder Modern Nostalgia and get tickets here!
AI- The Hughes Taylor band got to be musical guinea pigs for the newly renovated Capricorn Sound Studios. Were those sessions what make up the new album Modern Nostalgia?
HT- Those sessions make up one of the songs.
Tell me about going back in and recording the bulk of the record. Did you do all the rest of it there at Capricorn?
Yes, for the most part. The album has 12 songs. We recorded the first one in December 2019. That one is called “Trouble”. And then we recorded the other eleven in January of 2021. We had three days, and we recorded eleven songs for the most part. All of the rhythm tracks– the drums, the bass, the keys, almost all of the rhythm guitar parts, and a lot of the lead solo, that was done in those three days, and then I brought it with me to my home studio to mix it. I recorded a few overdubs, I redid a lot of the vocals, I added some backing vocals and one or two extra guitar parts here and there. So for the most part, the whole album, especially the rhythm part, like what makes the core of the song, was all recorded live in session those three days.
First time you went down there, kinda breakin’ it in, gettin’ your sea legs within the room, did you tell yourself then that, “If I ever get back in here, I want to do this.” And then were you able to, in fact, take more advantage of your second time there?
Yeah! After we recorded “Trouble”, the intent was to come back after our UK tour and write and record the rest of the album Spring of 2020. That was my original plan. When the pandemic hit and that was no longer a possibility, I pretty much spent the whole year writing the album. So I had a lot more music and was able to fix it. But I always had the intent of going back to record the rest of the album at Capricorn.
When we went in there in January, like I said, we had three days to do eleven songs. We got the drum parts done the first day for all eleven songs! That was pretty great! We went in with, for the most part, a very clear idea of what I wanted. The first day we went in with a very clear, “This is what we’re doing, this is how we’re gonna record it, and these are the parts that I wanna get.” And then the next two days, I kind of had a little bit of wiggle room to just explore a little bit, which is what I wish I could have done more of, but given the time restraints, that was what we did. But yeah, that was the intent was to go back and record the rest of the album.
You brought up your tour in the United Kingdom. Tell me about the vibe at that point in time. ‘Cause you were there when the very first rumblings of COVID-19 were beginning to get out everywhere. I don’t know that there was any real fear at that point, but from your perspective– being in a foreign country at a time that really was the preview of a worldwide, global shutdown– tell me about that experience being there. Did you know it at the time? Did you have a feeling that something big was about to happen or was it just all the fun you wanted it to be?
We had no clue! Or at least I didn’t. Because we were on the road and everything, I don’t think anyone in the two bands were aware of the severity of what was going on. Especially ’cause it hadn’t hit the UK at all at this point, or at least that we were aware of, you know? So we didn’t know! We got back, and we knew that somethin’ was going on in the east. I remember my drummer, probably the last of weeks of the tour, was just keeping an eye on things sayin’ there’s basically a severe flu goin’ around in the east– but we had no clue what it really was! I don’t think a lot of people did. Definitely, it was a shock when we got back! We got back the last week of January, and I think that they started to shut down international travel those first couple of weeks of February. And then that first week of March was when the shutdown hit!
So you might’ve gotten really lucky! Had you gone a couple of weeks later, you might still be sittin’ in England!
I was incredibly grateful! Once we realized what was going on, we got back in and went about business as normal. Our first couple of gigs back in the US, we were on high alert as far as be safe, probably don’t get too close to people– but just treat it like a bad flu season. When March came, we played our last show March 13th or something like that, and anyway, it was crazy how quickly things progressed after that! But yeah, up until we got back, we had no idea what was goin’ on.
Talkin’ about the UK trip, you were able to record some of those shows and actually released that as an album recently. Tell me about doin’ live shows there. Was that your first trip out there?
It was incredible! I had been to the UK before, but it was not for playing. My grandparents took me out there as my high school graduation gift. They took me with them on their Scotland trip, and I did a little bit of venturing out myself just kinda on my own. So I had been to the UK just a little bit, but not relating to music. When we went out there to actually tour, it was a little bit of a different experience because you’re not just a tourist, you’re working. But it was so incredible the way the audiences responded to live music and how passionate everybody seemed to be about it!
We played a couple of shows in York that weren’t on the scheduled tour. We did just a couple of bar gigs with the other musicians from [Heather Findlay’s] band. They invited us to their shows and invited us to come play. When we were there, it was crazy that the crowds were super, super enthusiastic, and then they would ask, “Where are you playin’ next? Where can we see you next?” We told them, and you know, when that happens here, especially short notice, somebody says, “Where can I find you next?” You tell them, they say, “Well, I’ll try and be there,” and the loyal fans, obviously, there’ll be there. But for the most part, when you hear, “Oh yeah, I’ll try and make it,” it’s more like, “If it’s not entirely inconvenient and I’ve got nothin’ else goin’ on, I’ll be there.”
It seemed like when we were in the UK, everybody there was like, “Where will you be next? Okay, well, I’ve got somethin’ planned, but I’ll reschedule. I’ll be there.” And every single person who said that they were gonna be where we were gonna be playin’ next were there! It was just crazy! I’m sure a lot of that is more a reflection on the band that we were playing with– their fan base– but it’s still something that I had not quite experienced up to that point. I’m at a point now, and I think it’s almost helped by the inability to see live music over the past year, now, over here, there’s a lot of people that are the same way. They see me and they say, “Where will you be next? I’ll be there!” And that’s really cool, but up until the UK, I had never seen that before. Especially that intent on it. It was a pretty neat experience!
Not being able to see live music over this last year, being estranged from that, forced into not being able to perform, not being able to see shows… As an artist navigating the pandemic, I’ve seen some of your streaming shows that you did. You had a weekly online residency that you were doing, and there was the Quarantine Concert Series. That was something for a lot of artists, an ability to connect with fans and with people all over that nobody really had before the pandemic. The technology was there, the option was there, but for the most part, no one really took advantage of it. And then once you couldn’t tour anymore, once you couldn’t go do club dates or theater dates, that kind of put everyone on the same level when it came to reaching an audience. I dare say that you weren’t going to see U2 doing streaming shows from their living room– I don’t think that they did– but other artists could do that and find new avenues of revenue and a new audience for their music. Is that what you found?
Yeah, and it was a godsend to be able to do that, to still be able to play and connect with people! And then also to grow my audience on this new platform in a way that, like you said, I hadn’t thought about before. Even though the technology has been there, I hadn’t seen really anybody doing livestreams because it just wasn’t really a thing. When I was able to do that and still be able to play for people, that got me through and a lot of musicians through a very, very difficult time. It was really cool to be able to reach people I hadn’t been able to before and also to reach people that I simply physically couldn’t reach before because of distance. I had some people that would tune into my livestreams, which pandemic or not, they wouldn’t be able to go see live shows anyway because of either physical limitations or things like that. So that was a really neat thing. And still is! If I do get downtime sometime in the near future, it’s definitely something I’ll come back to for sure.
That was gonna be my next question because I feel like the next phase– people going back out on the road, gettin’ back in the clubs, back on stage– the way that things are going to change going forward, I personally don’t understand how anybody could think we can go back to normal, to doing things the way that they were before. Do you feel better prepared for what the next stage of your career in the music business, in general, is gonna be?
I don’t know. I don’t know what the next stage is, and I feel I’m not alone in that thinking. Not just the unknowns of where my career is gonna be as an artist at this level, but with the state of the world too. [We’re] still in the state of not sure, almost a wait and see sort of mentality. I honestly don’t know! As far as being better prepared though, I think so. In part, I have a much better online presence than I have in the past. So whether I’m actually touring and playing physical venues or setting up some sort of online revenue streaming thing, I do think I and a lot of other musicians probably have the tools to keep our careers sustained at least in short.
Let’s go back to the album, Modern Nostalgia. I want to talk about the players on the record. Tell me who joins you for the album. Who is the Hughes Taylor Band on the record?
It’s a pretty extensive list of people!` First off, I’m super grateful to have everybody I was able to work with on this record! Besides myself, I have twelve other people that have some sort of part on the album. That’s more than I’ve ever worked with before, which is really, really neat!
On bass for eleven of the tracks, I’ve got my friend Ben Alford, who was the bassist for the Highway 41 Band. He’s been playing with me over the past year and a half now. I’ve got Gregg Sassman, who’s the drummer from the Highway 41 Band. He plays drums on four of the tracks. Jonathan Benton is a drummer friend of mine. He’s probably the one that I’ve known the longest on this list as far as musicians go. He was my drummer for a while, and then he moved out to California. When he came back last year, we started playin’ together a lot. So he’s on seven of the tracks, I think, playing drums. And then Nate [Lee] and Adriana [Thomas], they’re the ones who toured with me in the UK, they’re on “Trouble”. Nate plays bass and does a little bit of backing vocals on “Trouble”, and Adriana does drums and most of the backing vocals on “Trouble”.
I’ve got Tom Wilson on keyboards on all the songs that have keys. He played the organ, played Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and piano. So he was a big part of this record! I’ve got my lovely wife, Evie, singing backing vocals with me on the fourth track. That was a lot of fun getting to work with her! She actually also wrote the lyrics to one of the songs on the album, which is cool getting to write like that! And I got to co-write with Nate, my “Trouble” bassist on a couple of the songs, which was actually my first attempt at co-writing with anybody. That was a fun experience getting to do that! Other backing vocals, I have Jessie Albright, who is a friend of mine up here in Dahlonega. She and I have known each other for a very long time and I’ve been wantin’ to do somethin’ with her. So I invited her to sing on the three of the songs on this album. And then Emily Lynn, who I met on tour with Heather Findlay in the UK, is the backing vocalist in Australian Pink Floyd, the Pink Floyd tribute band. She sings on five of the songs. There’s a lot more backing vocals on this album than I’ve ever had– ever! I’ve got my friend, Sam Nelson on saxophone on “She’s My Everything” My friend, Sean Williams, Macon native, plays percussion on “Dreamily” and then my father-in-law, Evie’s dad Zoltan Somogyi, doin’ the whistle on “Waiting”.
Not to downplay anything else, but the coolest thing to me is that this is going to be your first vinyl release, correct?
Yes! Somethin’ I am so excited about, somethin’ that’s a lifelong dream that I’m finally getting to realize! I’m stoked!
Is there a timeline for the vinyl? I know that things are running behind for everybody in that arena right now. Will you have copies of that when you get ready to do the album release on July 9th?
No. In fact, because of the supply chain being the way it is, and every pressing plant that I’ve talked to being backed up for months, what we’ve decided to do instead of delaying the release so that we have the vinyl for it, I have pre-orders set up right now. You can pre-order the vinyl, and when you do that, you can get your name in the liner notes since we haven’t sent ’em off to be pressed yet. The deadline for that, I’m thinking is gonna be the release date. So if you pre-order up until the release date, you’ll get your name in the vinyl!
I just sent off 20-something CDs today. We’re halfway at my goal, which is really cool, on what I was hoping we’d be at by this point. So that’s fantastic! If you pre-order the vinyl, you get a CD before the release date– somethin’ I think is a really cool situation. In order to compensate for the ridiculous lead time on when the vinyl is gonna be here, you get a free CD before it’s released and your name and the liner notes!