Luke Taylor on Songwriting, Collaborating, and Being a Musician During a Pandemic

Dec 5, 2020

Western Kentucky musician Luke Taylor has played with several local bands, including WKMS veterans Leonard the Band and The Cuttin' Jessies. Taylor's solo album was set to release as COVID-19 shuttered venues nationwide in early spring. He speaks with Tracy Ross about making music during a pandemic; his new rock band, Pep Talk; and finally releasing his self-titled EP. 

After COVID-19 effectively put a halt to Taylor's solo release plan, he and his musical partners turned to outdoor venues to safely perform in public. "I played with the Cuttin' Jessies at the downtown pavilion in August. That was cool because it was just us two...we're kind of quarantine friends...no one was really around. But other than that, I've been doing a lot of writing."

With a new rock band, Pep Talk, underway in addition to The Cuttin' Jessies and his solo work, Taylor has no small shortage of projects to inspire new writing. Taylor says he's spent most of his time during the pandemic "trying to get better. As a musician, you're always trying to get better. You have to do your chops and make sure you're getting good and not regressing."

Taylor's love of multiple projects spanning genres stems from a life-long love of music and being around like-minded people. "I just love playing with people. When I was in the Navy, I didn't really play with anybody. When I got out, Leonard the Band and Red Ember were the first bands I saw. I was like, 'man, I could play music here.'" 

"Me and Steven [Phalen, of The Cuttin' Jessies] have been friends since the 7th grade. We were both in the Navy together. He got out a year before I did, but whenever we both moved home at the same time...that's when I bought the banjo. We decided to go that route, and it just kind of stuck -- kind of pop-y, folk-y with the banjo. We have fun. We like to get loud -- with two people, as loud as you can."

Pep Talk, Taylor's most recent project, takes a heavier musical approach. "Recently, I've been playing with a lot of pedals with my electric. A lot of those are turning into the pep talk tunes. With Pep Talk, I feel like I can be a little bit more expansive with my creativity. I can do different, more jazzy stuff, like with different jazz progression chords and be a little bit more progressive with Pep Talk."

Taylor attributes his ability to write across multiple genres to his personal music taste. "I listen to so much different music and have so many different influences," he explains. "One day, I'll want to write a folky tune that might sound good with The Cuttin' Jessies or solo. Or I'll want to write a nice rock tune; this might sound good with this new band I've put together. It's whatever I'm feeling. It's all what feels right."

The recording process for Taylor's solo project began in 2018 with Shelby Preklas at Paducah's Loud and Clear Studios. All release dates and shows were effectively cancelled, but the music remained. "I had the band behind me: Jacob McCallon and the Banks Brothers and Zack Winding from Leonard the Band on keys."

"[The release dates got] cancelled, and then Todd Birdsong contacted me about the Jessies. At first, I wasn't sure if the Jessies could do it because of scheduling conflicts, so I had told him that I have this band that I've been trying to release this EP for for the longest time. If you would be willing to take a chance and have us perform there, that would be awesome. Todd, being one of the nicest people I've ever met, took a chance, and he really enjoyed it." 

Pep Talk and The Cuttin' Jessies were both featured in video performance series from the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center, Stage Sessions and Inside Out, respectively. 

Roughly nine months after COVID-19 first shut down venues, tours, and shows, Taylor has finally released a new EP under Pep Talk, The Luke Taylor EP. "You can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Google, Soundcloud, Youtube, all of it. You can go out there and check it out."

"Hopefully, when this is all done, and we can get back to playing, I want to get sme shows going. Hopefully get some charity shows going. Get everybody out and playing music again. Get the scene going back," Taylor concludes.