“Songs of Instruction” is Kim’s latest album. She no longer owns a coffee shop.
Kim Taylor is a writer.
She’s also a singer, musician and coffee shop owner, but in her mind, she’s a writer.
Writing has given way to performing recently, though, as Taylor prepares for a string of dates with four singers called All the Lads and a Lady, that includes an April 1 stop at the Northside Tavern. Along the way, she joined her friends Over the Rhine at the Canal Street Tavern Saturday; she made her fourth trip to the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, March 19; and her song “Days Like This” was featured on the CBS-TV show “Flashpoint” March 13.
Is she really ready to give up the stage for the solitary life of a writer?
“It’s not stage fright,” she says, weighing the question for a bit. “Part of me really loves the stage, but I really loathe the self-promotion factor. I would love not having a face attached to (the songs).
“That’s my goal, to be a good writer, not even a good singer because my voice is going to let me down,” she continues, blaming it on the aging process. “Songwriting will fold into other writing. I write poetry, stories. Writing is what keeps me excited.”
It’s a bit ironic that Taylor is looking to the day when she is strictly a writer because that is what brought her here from her native Florida in 1996 when she enrolled at University of Cincinnati to study English literature.
“I was clueless in Florida,” she recalls. “I floundered, I was trying to write and I played music, but nothing came of it. So, I applied to two grad schools, UC and one in Boston. I had one friend in Cincinnati, and it was cheaper than the school in Boston, so I came here.”
It was the right choice. Although Taylor will never know what life would have been like in Boston, she found kindred souls in Cincinnati when she met Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine, one of the city’s most popular bands. They asked her to sing with them on tour, which rekindled her desire to play music.
Grad school was eventually put on hold, and Taylor became a working musician, writing songs that range from the ethereal (hints of Bergquist are evident) to rockin’ tunes that sound almost familiar (that’s a compliment), but strikingly original. She has released two full-length albums – the latest is 2006’s “I Feel Like a Fading Light – and two EPs, including 2008’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
She is quick to credit those who helped for their generosity. One of the first was Ric Hordinski, who played with Bergquist and Detweiler in the original OTR lineup.
“When I was putting together my first band, I reached out to Ric,” Taylor says. “First show I ever did was the Cammy Awards (a now-defunct showcase of local music), and he played with me.”
Hordinski returns the compliment. “Kim is very talented, she has a great natural voice. And she doesn’t get much credit for it, but she’s a really good guitar player, very innovative.
“She is so musical. The depth of some of her songs is incredible, it sounds universal but also very personal.”
Hordinski introduced Taylor to other musicians, including drummer Josh Seurkamp, who played in Katie Reider’s band, and bass player Amos Heller, who is now on tour with Taylor Swift. Taylor has played with many others over the years, as well, including Billy Alletzhauser of the Hiders and bassist Jesse Ebaugh, who is now in the Heartless Bastards.
But a musician’s life rarely takes a linear path: Point A (the beginning) to Point S (success) is filled with bumps, sidetracks, non-musical endeavors and false starts.
Eventually, that path led to Taylor’s first album, “So Black, So Bright,” which she released in 2002. Concentrating on music at that point, she recorded an EP, cleverly titled “Extended Play” in 2003 that she submitted to SXSW. She says she was surprised when organizers invited her to play in 2005 (Hordinski, Seurkamp and Heller went with her), but she has since become a semi-regular.
“It’s a valuable showcase, but it’s completely crazy there,” she says. “I like Austin. I have a group of friends there who always come to see me, which I appreciate. But then I’m coming home.”
Family and friends trump career for Taylor. She lives in Wyoming with her husband Daniel Carlson and 10-year-old son Griffin, and in 2002, she and Carlson bought the Pleasant Perk coffee shop in Pleasant Ridge, which is a parallel world to the music business.
“The shop serves a lot of purposes for me,” she says. “It quickly relieves the tension when I come back from playing music. It’s a small community, and we’re in each other’s business all the time.
“I’m just fascinated by other people’s lives.”
The comfort of the coffeehouse and her family are the main reasons that you won’t find Taylor on the road for more than the few dates at a time.
“It’s really easy to live in a glass house with any kind of art that you do,” she says. “It’s good to have something in the real world. If I was constantly touring, I wouldn’t be able to keep the shop.
“This way, I get to come home (from the road) and just be a mom.”
Taylor is more than a mom, of course. And she’s more than a singer, writer and shopkeeper. Bergquist explains what she is.
“She’s a Renaissance woman,” Taylor’s friend says. “In this type of (music) career, survival is tricky.
“The best ones are the unlikely ones. If you want to be a big star, you move to Nashville or L.A., but Kim works hard at her music and keeps things in perspective. I love her for that.”
As do a growing number of less famous fans.
This story appeared in The Enquirer in 2009.