Taylor Pie is a folk artist/songwriter and record company owner, who now resides just outside of Nashville Tennessee. In the mid 1960's, Taylor was a member of the popular folk group Pozo Seco Singers, which was a Texas born trio that produced many albums for Columbia Records. Country star Don Williams and New England based Ron Shaw were also members of the group. Following Pozo Seco, Taylor moved to the northeast and had a stint in New York before locating to the rich folk scene of the Berkshires. Through the years "Pie" (as she likes to be called) has written many classic folk songs. Some of the artists that have recorded her songs include: Bette Midler, Tanya Tucker, Mickey Gilley, and many others. Pie has released a few wonderful solo albums through her record company "PuffBunny Records". Today Pie maintains a nice balance of running her horse farm, and performing and producing live music. I recently spoke in depth with Pie about her career.
R.V.B. - Hi, Bunny Pie
T.P. - Bunny Pie is good enough for me. Haha
R.V.B. - I have to get used to saying that... although I love the name. What is the story behind it?
T.P. - It comes from a little record company that I had started with some friends in Texas, about 2007, called Puff Bunny Records.
R.V.B. - How about the "Pie" portion?
T.P. - I've been Pie so long. I believe it started when I left New York City in the 80's, and went to the Berkshires. The climate for folk music was still really good in western Mass at that time, plus it was beautiful in the Berkshires. I lived in Pittsfield at first, and then I found an apartment complex that was on 183 near Interlaken, that was part of an old horse paddock... near Stockbridge. They made it into 4 apartments. It was really rural living and that was heavenly. It was a fabulous time in my life.
R.V.B. - Stockbridge is Americana at its fullest.
T.P. - Oh yeah. As a folkie, I could travel around and pull in around a thousand a month just playing little places there. There would be good crowds... good music... and I would carry my sound system around. That's when acoustic music was really in. It didn't really shift until the end of the 80's.
I've done some interviews about the Pozo's and I've never asked if you've heard the 3rd album. It's always been my favorite album. A lot of people don't know about it because there were no hits off of it. After the second album, we actually changed producers and that with the changing music scene, Columbia just kind of dropped us.
R.V.B. - They did that with a lot of folk artists at the time.
T.P. - Oh we weren't the only ones. We were fighting for our life. I remember sitting in Clive Davis's office and saying "How can you expect us to get on the charts, if we get to a gig in Florida at a college, and they don't have the record?"... because they've been trying to get it, and it's not available.
R.V.B. - I guess they only pressed a certain amount?
T.P. - Exactly. Then they stopped shipping them. They were moving more into things like acid rock. The format was changing. We weren't a commodity anymore. I had never really thought of it that way. It took me years to realize that I shouldn't take it personally... we were simply a commodity. We were musicians making joyful noise.
R.V.B. - I enjoyed listening to "Shades of Time".
T.P. - I loved the album. I loved working with those guys from Canada. it was a special album because it wasn't in Nashville and It was out of New York. We had a whole new set of people who really seemed to know what we wanted to do. "Let's make a recording that's classic in nature." Something that will be good years from now. Not just, oh yeah, that sounds like the 60's."
R.V.B. - You obviously came from the folk roots. I listened to the second album " I Can Make With You" recently, and I heard a little bit more "pop" on it. Do you find that also?
T.P. - The guy that was producing us - Bob Johnson - was really "ramping" it up. He was trying to promote us into the pop realm. I never felt that's who we were really. We lost an emotional touch with each other. Elliot came along and said "I know what you're trying to say." Now I say to the younger guys, "Do you know what it's about guys? It's really not about you. Yes... be a good musician... be a good singer... if you can, but it's always about the song. Make people hear the song". When we did that 3rd album... "Bye Bye Love" is not a happy song. It was in the pop world. "Why don't we do it like it should be felt". I thought it was a great... weird kind of take on it. We were creative on that album. On the others, we weren't allowed to be creative. We were told "You're going to sing this song, by this writer...
T.P. Yes. The Paupers was their name.
R.V.B. - How did you get hooked up with them?
T.P. - Through Elliot. They had a few hits and were a 60's kind of group. Brad Campbell - the bass player - went on to own a hockey team. Adam - the harmonica player - went on to be a backup musician in New York. It was a really great group. They weren't there playing as studio musicians, they were there to be creative. You lay out your canvas on the floor and say "Here's my idea. We're making a pencil drawing here. What do you feel?".
R.V.B. - There are a lot of songs on the CD. Were there some outtakes on it?
T.P. - No. Everything was actually released. We made the third album and it didn't have a single. So they said "Let's cut some more singles". We threw out some 45's but they didn't do anything. This was all done to satisfy our contract.
R.V.B. - Let's talk about the good stuff... tell me about your farm.
T.P. - I live in paradise, here in Tennessee. I've been here for about 30 years, in this 1927 farmhouse. I have 3 horses that are mine and 3 that belong to the neighbors. They don't live there anymore, so my horses can wander to the neighbors pasture... and I don't have to pay the taxes. The horses all graze together. I have 2 dogs... 2 cats... and all the natural birds. I have too many maintenance items to mention. Hahaha
R.V.B. - I like the fact that you get out and mow yourself.
T.P. - Absolutely. This whole thing about going to the gym... how much money does it cost? All you need to do is work a little harder. Find a job that works your upper body. Do it well... do it slowly... and use it like yoga. To me, physical work is like yoga.
R.V.B. - You're in the outdoors with beautiful scenery. We mow our own lawn here also. It's good for you.
T.P. - It sometimes makes me feel a little sad to watch people constantly sitting somewhere with electronics in their hand. I hear there's this big movement now, going barefoot. Really??? I've been doing that since I was a baby. Hahaha
T.P. - I used to but I have not had a chance to keep a garden. Now that I'm getting a little older, I'm thinking I'll have one again. It will not be as big as I used to have them. I remember when my grandmother first saw this house when I bought it in the early 80's. She looked at the old house and the 50 by 50 foot garden I had and said, "That house is going to kill you, and the garden will finish you off." Hahaha
R.V.B. - Do you have a big tractor?
T.P. - I don't, but I'm about to buy a new riding mower. When the muffler fell of this last mower I said, "That's it". I was trying to wedge that thing in there so it wouldn't fall off.
R.V.B. - How many acres do you have to mow?
T.P. - Not too many... about 2 down here on the bottom.
R.V.B. - The horses take care of the rest? Do you ride them?
T.P. - I used to. You get to be a little long in the tooth and you start to worry about those injuries.
R.V.B. - I guess in the latter stage of life you don't want to fall off a horse.
T.P. Exactly. I have a little spotted paint that's a good saddle horse. A lot of friends come over and ride her, so she stays in good shape. Every now and then I ride her down the road. I don't take her up the hills or anything. I love the feeling of riding on the road and you get the wind in your hair... looking up in the sky... and hearing the birds...
R.V.B. - Are there any wild varmints that stop by?
T.P. - I saw a coyote not too long ago and I was glad my dogs were in the house. When I came back from Texas, a blue heron met me at the creek bridge, that I cross. I saw a couple of beautiful owls the other day when I was checking on the horses. We have some wood ducks that are having babies in the creek that runs in front of the house.
R.V.B. - There's a lot of maintenance to a farm.
T.P - Oh yes. It's a big deal. You have to stay with it every day. When I bought the farm, I really wasn't performing anymore. I was concentrating on my writing and going to Nashville. My friend Jerry Askew - down in Chattanooga - who was with a group called Cumberland Trio - a folk trio - discovered I was up this way and remembered meeting me back in the 60's. He called me up and said "Why aren't you performing?" I said "I sing and write with my friends." He said "You need to get out there. He's the one who encouraged me to put together my first solo album, and get out and promote folk in a different way again. I'm kind of hooked now until I just don't want to travel anymore. I feel that coming up in the not too distant future.
R.V.B. - It's good that you're still creative and still have the juices flowing. Was there anything that sparked you into wanting to play the guitar?
T.P. - I was living in Oklahoma when I was a kid. I was born in east Texas but we moved to north eastern Oklahoma, because my dad was in the oil business like one of my grandfathers. We were about 13 miles from Tulsa in Broken Arrow. The music down there was so hot on the radio. You would hear everything from Wanda Jackson - playing the Kings Ballroom - to Elvis. That was back when radio wasn't segmented and categorized. Anything that people liked, they put out on the radio. It made me really eclectic as a listener, and I liked people like Elvis, who came out with one guitar and started singing. I loved his movies and I thought "I wanted to do that." My dad said I could play the guitar, but he started me out on a lap steel. I agreed... I was around 9. I Thought "I don't really want to play this, I want to sing and play". My guitar teacher - Dick Gordon - his son carries on in his name now in Tulsa. He runs 4 or 5 Dick Gordon Studio's... Dick took me under his wing and said "I got it. You want to sing and play." I wanted to be Elvis. It's so cool to sing and play like that. I've been singing for my family since I was really young because I could carry a tune... and I remembered lyrics. I was so shy that I would stand behind the kitchen door and sing through the cracks. I had to learn guitar to play and sing. That's how I got started with Dick. He put me on stage when I was about 9 years old singing Elvis songs and being silly as a little kid. From there it grew. We moved from Tulsa when I was 15 to Corpus, and the folk music thing hit heavy and hard. That's how I discovered folk music. It was forever for me a love. I still love folk artists today. I find them refreshing and different from everything you hear in the pop market. There's a new idea... a new way to say things... good melodies... good harmonies... I'm still a folkie.
R.V.B. - The pop music scene is all manufactured in the studio and half the people can't perform them live.
T.P. - It has really become that way and it's just very sad to me.
R.V.B. - So I gather you started networking yourself around and learning more and more songs in Texas. Eventually you started meeting up with people?
T.P - I did. That's been great fun.
R.V.B. - Did you go to open mic's and sit in?
T.P. - I didn't have to do a lot of that. When I lived in New York City, some people would say "You could be an actress". I said " I really don't think I want to be an actress". They finally talked me into an audition for a play. It was the most horrible experience I think I ever had. I had some really horrible ones like when the Pozo's played Ravinia Park in the 60's at the peak of our career. We were opening the stage for Nancy Wilson. I'm 19 years old and I'm going to myself "This is so amazing". We go out on stage and we look in the audience and frankly, most of them looked like her family... not ours. We're three folk musicians... three guitars... and a little bitty microphone between the three of us. We had to hold our guitars that were not plugged in singing (she sings)"Time, Oh Time", and the audience starts going "Nancy, Nancy".
R.V.B. - Oh boy.
T.P. - It kind of got scary. We started speeding it up. Haha. We did one song. We did our big song first figuring we'd make friends... we didn't! We had to leave the stage. I was mortified. At the end of the concert, I was sitting out front and her road manager - I'll never forget that guy... a great guy... He wasn't much taller than me about 5' 3". He sits down next to me and goes "How you doing kid?". I said "I'm ok" and I start crying. "We let Nancy down". Haha
R.V.B. - You can't look at it that way. Sometimes you're not teamed up with the right people.
T.P. - Exactly. At the time it was not funny to me. He said to me "How old are you?" I said "I'm 19" - still sniffling. He said. "When you've been in this business for a while like me... you book your gig... you do your gig... you do what you can... you get your money... and you go. I thought "Oh, how jaded."
R.V.B. - And move on to the next one
T.P. - Your right. Some gigs are just like that, You just get your money... do the best you can... and you just go.
R.V.B. - Tell me about a magical gig. What was some good times?
T.P. - Odetta, in Burlington Vermont. Also Gordon Lightfoot, at "The Cellar Door". I had been a fan of Odetta's since I was like 14/15, when folk was really coming out. I had her albums. Here I was... I was going to be on stage with here. She was the headliner. After we opened, I sat out in the audience, and when she got out on that stage and sang with her guitar. Then she would lay the guitar down and just sing (she sings) "Oh mama, why"... the whole room resonated. That was a magical moment that I remember. The way the tone of her voice reverberated in that room. That moment was awesome.
R.V.B. - When "Time" first hit, you immediately went out on the road?
T.P. - Not immediately. When it hit, we were still regional guys. We were playing mostly cover tunes. We needed a little polishing and time to work up our set list. Our producer out of Nashville introduced us to Albert Grossman. Albert flew to Corpus Christi. We met and we signed a deal. Albert said "You guys really need to get your stuff together because I handle Gordon Lightfoot and many artists, and I'll have you open for them. That will help you but you got to be ready". He supported us for 6-8 months. Then everyone said "They're ready... go ahead and put them put there". Then we went on the road and started opening up for people. Of course Albert got paid back. This started our national touring.
R.V.B. - How did you guys enjoy the road?
T.P. - I loved that back then. Remember back then, we flew to most places in small planes. You put your own belt around the seat. Those were the days of turbo jets. It was wonderful. You could leave your stuff at an airport... your guitars, your luggage, your over the shoulder bags, over in a corner and go find a restaurant, and when you came back, everything would still be there. Those Pozo guys always said to me "You always carry your own bags". I learned early - having two brothers in life also - to travel light. I know some female friends who carry a lot of stuff.
R.V.B. - You guys sounded real good together with beautiful harmony. Where did you rehearse?
T.P. - At Donnie's house. At that time he had a son Gary, and he was real little. He worked for PPG Chemical. We would also rehearse over at the 1st - 3rd - member's house. We had two 3rd members. Sometimes over at Wayne Harbaugh's house... who was Lofton's stepdad. I saw Wayne a few years ago when I was in Texas. He showed up at a gig where I was playing. He said "Do you know who I am?". I said "Dang Wayne. You're still with us?". He said "My kids moved me over here". It was so neat seeing him. Now and then we'd go to Corpus. I lived in Corpus and those guys lived over in Portland. It was better for one person to drive over to high bridge from Corpus.
R.V.B. - You guys must have worked hard because you had some nice arrangements. Did you have a lot of the arrangements done prior to the studio or did you come up with them in the studio also?
T.P. - We worked out everything before we went in. None of us were readers. We were all self taught musicians. We were all raised in family's that went to church and sang. We had all heard harmony. If we started to sing the same harmony, we would stop and work it out so that we wouldn't overlap. When I listen back to it, I think part of our unusual sound was that we didn't read and we kind of made it up as we went along. There was no format and that's what made us special. We created ourselves.
R.V.B. - I enjoy your music. After I found the records, I played them around the house all the time and I'm spreading the word.
T.P. - That's great. When I discovered folk music, one of the reasons loved it... do you remember Dickey Lee? she sings (Patches - oh what can I do)
T.P. - Dickey and I have been really good friends for many years. When Dickey went country - he knew that the group had broken up - he and I had written a few things together. One song he and I, and Al Riddles wrote, was on Billboard with The Oak Ridge Boys big gospel album. It's a wonderful song called "Peace Within". Dickey said to me "Pie, you really need to go country, because country people love you no matter how old you get". Haha I said "You know Dickey, folk people really are the same way." I think that's why I'm here. It's about old music. We've been singing the old ones forever. If we introduce something new it has to follow an ethical feeling of what it's about. To talk about life as we know it, being in the world of today.
R.V.B. - I saw Dickey here in New York last year at a Doo Wop show of all things.
T.P. - Yes. He and Fabian became friends. He's a sweetheart guy and a real genuine soul.
R.V.B. You eventually moved to New York. How did you enjoy your time here? How did a Texas gal enjoy New York?
T.P. - Oh my Gosh Rob... I think you got to be kind of young to want to go to New York. I only lasted about 8 to 10 years before I headed over to the Berkshires. I needed a little greenery back in my life. The time I spent there was the time of my honing as a human. It made me realize the teaming masses of people there are in the world, and how many different cultures there are in the world. When we began to talk about globalization - that word became a buzz word - New York had that way before the word became popular. It's a community of different cultures that seem to coexist peacefully.
R.V.B. - The art culture is a menagerie of everyone in the area. You can hear Indian music, folk music, rock and roll, classical, all within a half hour of each other. Depending on what neighborhood you're in.
T.P. - And you can eat the food. One of my favorite things was walking down the St. Marks area and smelling the different food in the streets.
R.V.B. - Did you enjoy playing your music here? Was it any different than playing anywhere else?
T.P. - It's a little different. They're pretty tough in some ways. As you said, they got a lot to pick from. You had to have some good stuff.
R.V.B. - You had a craft business at one time. What was your specialty? What did you make?
T.P. - I made wood carvings. I found that I really liked to carve with a pocket knife, and it began to make little slits on my thumb. That made it hard for me to hold a pick. I still have a few pieces from when I got out of the business. One of these days when I'm not picking so much I'm gonna get back into it, and get the pocket knife back out again. I liked to make figures. I found some drawings that Renoir did. One was an old man with a little hat on and a cane in front. At the time I was also working in a cabinet shop. I would get a piece of wood, draw the form on it, and use a band saw to cut the edge of it. I would then cut into it to make the figure come to life. I would make them and give them away to friends. I got a guy in New York that has one. I made an old guy with a vest that had his hand out but I had never made him his pipe. I called him "Josh". So a friend said I can do that with a Dremel. That was about 35/40 years ago. I saw my friend not too long ago and I said "Do you still have Josh?" He's doing good and now he has a pipe.
T.P. - We took 50 craftsman, in the beginning in the early 70's, and started a backyard show. We did that for a couple of years. When I decided to move to New York City, I sold my share of the business. We had already started a craft show that was happening. When the whole business sold out, they moved it over to something called American Artisans... which is still in Nashville. It's now the biggest crafts fair in middle Tennessee. They have it in Centennial Park. If only I would of met Pete Seeger. We're are very much on the same page. I wanted to support the little guys. One of my vendors was one of the 1st guys I ever saw do a chainsaw sculpture. I loved it. It's so primitive and its raw. He lives in a cinderblock house in a place where you can't even get to with a vehicle. You can only get so far, and then you have to walk in. The guy has 6 kids. They live with a dirt floor with a piece of linoleum thrown over it, and a little stove in the corner. These are the kind of people that I want to get their artwork shown, so it can bring them some money, and they can support themselves better... and it works. I was very happy about that.
R.V.B. - A lot of people have talent and they don't always have the chance to show it.
T.P. Give them a place to be. It's one of the things that bothers me about our society. The attitudes of today. This whole idea that you're a loser. I think that's a bad message to send to people. We should send messages like "You're a winner". Be you... be authentic... be genuine... be yourself... and follow that dream. You'll be ok. It's not like you a loser because you're not like Wall Street.
T.P. - The idea that people are trying to herd us into one category bothers me. I wish that folk music had the power that it had in the 60's. I think we'd see a big difference in what's happening politically in this country.
R.V.B. - Bluegrass music seems to be thriving.
T.P. - Because it's acoustic and it's authentic. The last 2 cuts I made have been basically bluegrass. One song I wrote with a gal named Ruby Lovett from Mississippi, was on an album that was nominated for Bluegrass Album of the Year. We wrote a song called "Hard Lesson Road" for Dale Ann Bradley. Bluegrass is the only place right now where I can get people to listen to folk again. I think it's the place where folk musicians can still resonate with people through their songs. They understand it.
R.V.B. - The two genres are very similar and inter-changeable.
T.P - I think folk has a little more eclecticism to it than bluegrass. Bluegrass is still in a pocket, so to speak.
R.V.B. - What made you go back to Tennessee? Did you have music business down there?
T.P. - I had started coming back down this way to see my friend Allen and Dickey... and start writing with them again. At that time, Allan was producing Crystal Gayle. I said to him "You know Pal? - I've been thinking about the Berkshires. I love it up here but I will never be able to afford land here - It's expensive." He said "Come back down. Writing is the cleanest part of the business. Find yourself a spot". I felt "I don't want to live in Nashville because I don't want to be a city person". I wanted to have a chance to get back to my country roots. I bought this place and I came back to write. Then I got a deal with Forerunner Music... when Al Reynolds was producing Garth Brooks. That deal enabled me pay off my mortgage and own my own land. Garth Retired... Allan retired... the tracks got sold. Jack's tracks were from Jack Clement... from the JMI days. They were from the album I made with Jack... right after the Pozo's. I've been here ever since. I still see Allan... I still see Dickey.
R.V.B. - Did you ever bring your act to the Bluebird?
R.V.B. - Do you keep in touch with any of the Pozo guys?
T.P. - I do. Ron Shaw and I are as close as we can be - so far apart. He just moved to Maine. I'm going up to Washington DC at the end of June to do a performance for the World Folk Music Association. They're doing a house concert. I was thinking about making it up to Maine to see Ron... it's been a while. Ron and I, and his twin brother Rick, did kind of a Pozo Reunion thing on a few Cruises back in the early 2000's. We did some old Pozo songs together. He would do songs with his brother. He and his brother Rick wrote the song which is now the state song of New Hampshire. He goes back to Milt Okun.(Produced Peter, Paul, and Mary. John Denver) Ron was the one that Albert found to replace Lofton... when he left the group. Ron was a great asset to us because he was much more stage polished. He became our spokesperson out front. When we did the Mike Douglas Show, that's Ron on that one. Our performances went up a notch when Ron joined.
R.V.B. - What song did you play on the Mike Douglas Show?
T.P. - We did "I Believe it All". At that time we had a Bonnie Dobson song out "Morning Dew". We also did that one. It's a killer. I love that song. I really got no radio air play. People didn't want to hear the problem about acid rain.
R.V.B. - What other special shows did you do?
T.P. - We did The Joey Bishop Show and The Pat Boone Show.
R.V.B. - Was the folk scene down south the same as the folk scene up north? New York and Massachusetts were super mega-centers for folk music.
T.P. - The mid-west was pretty happening. During our heyday, when we had a hit out with "Time Out", We asked not to be booked in the university in Mississippi. We played every state university in the United States with the exception of Hawaii, Mississippi, and Alabama. Those places weren't folk artist friendly. They see you as coming in and trying to make trouble.
R.V.B. - They were still lost in their ways.
T.P. - Gee, look at today... hmmm. For all of our progress, so little has changed.
R.V.B. - What are you doing currently with music?
T.P. - I've been involved in something that I started around 3 years ago, which I call a "Song Swarm". I'm working on our first effort of Song Swarm with our record company. It's live performances from 3 venues out of Texas. The "Mucky Duck" down in Houston, which has been there since the 60's. The Austin City Jams, which is a house concert series. Then there's the "Bugle Boy" out of La Grange Texas, which is a wonderful listening room that's nationally known and highly accredited. I got some multi-tracks from each of those venues with myself and 2 other musicians. The album will include 6 musicians... myself and 5 guys. I keep thinking that I need to put together an all female song swarm. I often find myself between two fellows. I guess it's just fate. I'm "Fate Pie". Hahaha I don't mind it.
T.P. - I like being in the middle. I feel totally held and comforted there. I love song writing so much. When I moved to the Berkshires, I really fought for the stage and said "I'm a songwriter now, and these are my songs. I want you to hear what I'm writing". Now my art is to perform my songs. I look for other great songwriter/performers. Sometimes they're backup musicians. They're great... amazing. Some are better than most "Song Swarmer's". We put them on stage, two to three at a time, and everyone has to do an original song. It doesn't have to be anything anyone else knows. In fact, the best swarm is when you've never heard the song before. The other musicians are going to play... sing... slap your knee... to add to this persons song. It's spontaneous improvisation live on stage. Musicians can do whatever they want. The only stipulation is you can't do cover tunes. That's why it's a swarm and not a jam. "We're going to swarm your song". It's really kind of fun. One of the rules is you can never get mad if someone screws your song up. We're hoping to have the 1st album out in July which will be various performances from the three venues.
R.V.B. - When you perform, is it usually with a 6 string?
T.P - I've taken up other instruments. I also play harmonica and the baritone ukulele. It helps because the 6 strings are getting a little harder for me to play. I've been playing the mandolin with the dulcimer tuning for a while. I did that back when I made the JMI album.
R.V.B. All of this performing, producing, and farm life is keeping you young, healthy and happy.
T.P. - I think that's probably so.
R.V.B. - Thank you very much for spending this time with me.
T.P. - It was my pleasure.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Taylor Pie visit her website www.taylorpie.com
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