INTERVIEW + PREMIERE: Maria Taylor of Flower Moon Records

Sometimes a new record has a familiarity to it that feels like curling up under a warm blanket. Flower Moon Records Compilation Friends and Family Vol 1 puts a listener at ease; its laid-back cadence urges you to close your eyes and relax. These are old friends reintroducing themselves.

Dead Fingers’ “Whistling Song” stands out as the kind of nouveau standard that requires a google search to make sure it isn’t a cover, though with graceful lines like “Life is a series of ups and downs / overs and unders and round and round / I think I’m gonna make it to the down down down / Eventually I’ll find a way out” it’s certainly a YouTube ukulele video in the making. It makes sense that the album features artists who have worked together and identify as friends in the music world; the collaboration is effortless, straightforward, well tuned.

We sat down with Flower Moon Records co-founder and musician Maria Taylor (of Azure Ray) to talk about the album’s genesis, what it’s like to run a record label, and how she balances music & parenthood:

AF: You were 15 years old when you and Orenda Fink founded Little Red Rocket. What were your earliest songs written about?

MT: Our very first song was called “Follow You For Now” but we named it that because we had huge crushes on these guys in this band Follow For Now. The lyrics to our song was “Wherever you go, I’ll follow you, follow you for now. I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it for me… I’ll follow you…for now” They were mostly about love but we also had some of our friends who were poets write poems and we would put them to music.

AF: Your career is full of collaborations, whether it’s with Orenda, Moby, or Bright Eyes. Do you find yourself looking for artists you’d like to work with or is is it more organic than that?

MT: It’s more organic. Mostly it’s that my friendships play such a huge role in my life and through our friendships we collaborate on music.

AF: Flower Moon Records was founded by you and your husband Ryan Dwyer, who is with us for this interview. What was the catalyst for creating your own record label?

MT: I had been thinking of doing this for some time now, but I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. Ryan is (among many things) a businessman, and I knew that with my understanding of the industry and my connection and his business skills… we could do it.

RD: For me it was a few reasons. One is that I’ve always been a fan of music (especially the bands that are featured on the Friends and Family Vol 1 compilation) and I’ve always loved the idea of working at or running a record label. I was in bands when I was in high school, but my career took me into politics and public relations – which leads into the second reason. From an outsider looking in at the music industry – especially now, how it’s changed so much and the uncertainty around where it’s going – I wanted to bring what I learned in those fields and apply it to a label.

AF: How do you both find artists for Flower Moon? Is it through submissions?

MT: At this point it’s just literally our good friends and family. We’ll see how the label grows. Ryan is already the busiest guy I know, so he pretty much can only focus on one release at a time. We started out only planning on releasing my music, but then we heard my friend Louis Schefano’s record and decided we just had to release that too. And now Azure Ray is planning on releasing something in the future.  And my sister and brother-in-law have a band called Dead Fingers which we will be releasing too! With these releases, plus the compilation, makes our hands super full of love and music.

AF: You have two children together. I know this is a tired question, but as an impending mother myself, how do you balance running a label, being an artist, parenthood, and finding time for yourselves as a couple?

MT: It’s hard balancing it, I’m not going to lie. Ryan is better at multitasking than I am. I try to find a little time in the day to sit and write, but I find that it takes an hour just to clear my head of the chaos and then my time is up and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished. I’m also exhausted at night and I fall asleep when I used to stay up writing. So – it’s possible to balance, but it’s hard and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. I have taken my kids on a few tours and I’m lucky to have a husband who can work from wherever and a mom who is retired and loves to travel. Ryan is a machine. He’ll read to the kids and then watch a movie with me while making band posters and Instagram posts. He’s always doing five things at once and doing them well. And as for us as a couple, we try to do a date night at least every couple of weeks. And I try to stay awake for our “Homeland date” every Sunday night.

AF: When did the idea of creating a compilation record start?

MT: Ryan and I both love our playlists. We love having parties and we spend so much time getting all of our favorite songs together to create the mood. This compilation is just that: a bunch of our favorite artists together on an awesome double colored vinyl. These artists also happen to be our greatest friends and family! Now that we did it, I can’t wait for Volume 2! I honestly have listened to the comp so many times and I love all the songs. It’s such a great way for us to all get exposure and build something together.

AF: What was the compilation process like? Are most of the songs previously released or were some written especially for this project?

MT: Lots of the artists had these songs previously recorded. Some friends gave us a few options and we picked the song we liked the best. As for me, I wrote something specifically for the compilation. I liked the idea that I could have a little more freedom to do things differently since it was for a compilation and not a full length album. I didn’t edit the song… I just let all six minutes roll on by and the F bomb roll right off of my tongue. None of the songs have been previously released, that was the only thing we asked for.

AF: This album covers a lot of topics, including rebirth and living in the era of Trump. Was there an overarching theme or feel you were looking for?

MT: No, we weren’t looking for a theme, but I think we are all living through these crazy times together so it would make sense that there is a common thread or theme.

Flower Moon Friends & Family Volume 1 is officially out TOMORROW on Flower Moon Records. It features 16 new and unreleased tracks from Louis Schefano, Whispertown, Dead Fingers, Doctor Samurai and the Firekeepers, ghosts, Nik Freitas, High Up, Orenda Fink, Maria Taylor, Umm, Taylor Hollingsworth, Jake Bellows, Viva Violet, Ryan Dwyer, Brad Armstrong, and Mike Bloom. Order it here.

TRACK PREMIERE: Whispertown “Freefaller”

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Whispertown Photo by Heather Porcaro

Whispertown is a one-woman powerhouse comprised of child-actor-turned-musician Morgan Nagler. Based in Los Angeles, Nagler’s music invites the listener to think beyond their mortal coil, to consider us all one being, connected through time and space. Big stuff for pretty music, but Whispertown handles the subject matter beautifully. “Freefaller” is the latest single from her forthcoming LP I’m A Man, out via Graveface Records September 1st. We talked to Morgan about her writing process, the road, and her imaginary roller rink.

AudioFemme: You’re a rare bird. LA native, right (via Oregon that is)?

Morgan Nagler: That’s right. To the core.

AF: What in your mind’s eye sets a native Angelino apart?

MN: There is a palpable common thread. I have been recently thinking on the physical effects of our surroundings, the ocean and the forest most prominently, and the desert; having all these extreme elements of nature in such close quarters marrying the diversity and abundance of vibes in the greater Los Angeles area makes for a pretty unique experience of the day to day.

AF: I keep trying to tell my NYC friends this. Los Angeles is so diverse in terms of people and terrain. I’ve fallen in love.

MN: Yeah. It truly has everything. I think that’s also why it can take a longer time to figure out, if you move here without knowing anyone. I still discover new things all the time… there has yet to be something I’m looking for that I can’t find.

AF: We’re only going to touch on this, because news outlets seem to have covered it quite extensively. You were a child actor in the 90s, appearing in sitcoms like The Fresh Prince and Home Improvement. How has your early experiences with acting come to inform your music and live performance style?

MN: Despite being “comfortable in front of the camera” as an actor, unfortunately for me that comfort did not translate to live music performance right away. I feel more nervous playing music because it is more precious, so near and dear and vulnerable. But that’s also the appeal of performing live – breaking past obstacles in the name of human connection. There is a sub-section of LA native child actors. These are my people. But ultimately it was a huge part of life up until about age 24 so it definitely informs who I am, though it seems like another lifetime.

AF: Do you feel comfortable now on stage? Or is it too intimate to be called comfortable?

MN: I do feel comfortable now, but I get nervous beforehand. After the first one or two songs usually I’m able to just vibe out. What a feeling.

AF: You’re friends with Jenny Lewis, another child-star-turned-musician. You’ve also toured with her. How does the music writing process shift when you’re on the road? Do find yourself swapping lyrics and licks with whatever musician you’re around?

MN: When you’re on the road (in a car/van) there is very little not-spoken-for time. I mostly just try and write down the words that come into my head while in the car, then revisit later. I think I’m more likely to swap ideas with fellow musicians when I am home, not touring and have more time. Lately we have been hanging out at Jenny’s in her magical jam room and bouncing ideas off each other. Also, we play a game called “mouth music” sometimes. The game is: you give someone a guitar, or someone plays piano, and they just start playing a progression of chords, then two people (normally Jenny and I demonstrate) hold hands and look into each other’s eyes and (attempt) to sing a song together in unison.

AF: Tell us about your new single “Freefaller.” It’s subject matter seems to run parallel to songs from your most recent record 2012’s Parallel; this idea of oneness, of our intrinsic connection to the rest of the world.

MN: Yes. That is a consistently running theme. “Freefaller” was born when I was turned on to Kendrick Lamar. Jenny thought that this one female rapper on his first record kind of sounded like me, so “Freefaller” was my version of rapping. But it’s also a commentary on the disenchanted, the collective “fuck it” mentality that I think we are growing away from in our culture… but also there is a strange freedom in “fuck it” that appeals.

AF: Your music makes me very happy. There’s this grounded spirituality to the lyrics that feels really good. Do you consider yourself a religious person?

MN: While I don’t identify with organized religion I consider myself extremely spiritual. Spirit – the thing that can not die – that intangible essence that is our core – and that thing we try to tune into and follow that can not make mistakes.

AF: While researching for this interview, I found myself watching your YouTube videos obsessively. Your brother created them, using public domain footage. “Parallel” in particular really moved me, with its focus on the patterns that exist throughout our universe. Does he have any plans to create videos for your new songs?

MN: Yes. He is. He is such a powerful force. I am in awe of the insane and beautiful and thought provoking visuals he has brought to life. I feel like his videos should be in museums.

AF: What inspires you to write? Do you normally start with the music, or does it come from an idea or source material?

MN: Usually it’s a turn of phrase that presents itself. I am much more lyrically oriented, sometimes I write a whole song in just melody and words and the guitar comes later. “Can’t Stop Crying” was written on a treadmill, I then sang it a capella for Jake Bellows and he composed the music. Then sometimes it magically happens all at once, as if the song already existed.

AF: Your record release show is coming up September 1st at The Bootleg here in Los Angeles. What’s your favorite LA venue to perform in?

MN: The Bootleg is actually my favorite!! The sound there is so nice and it feels musically oriented (rather than bar/nitelife oriented) … also Kyle who books it is radical. I do also love the Troubadour… but I’m East side.

AF: If you weren’t a musician, what is another occupation that interests you?

MN: It’s hard to imagine myself out of a creative field. I would say a writer, but if that’s too close to home and doesn’t count. Perhaps psychology? Or perhaps winemaker? I could definitely run a roller rink.

AF: What advice would you give someone who feels trapped in their career, totally stuck going down a road they don’t believe in?

MN: Quit! Choose something new that you do believe in! Life is so short. This series of decisions – where you live, what you do for money – it’s so easy to feel trapped and complacent, but nothing has to be that big of a deal! You can just up and move to another city…. then you can also move back!

Whispertown will follow up her LA release show this Friday with a short Southwest tour; see dates below.

10.13 – Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre *
10.14 – Englewood, CO @ The Gothic Theatre *
10.16 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister *
10.18 – Tucson, AZ @ 191 Toole *
10.19 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom *
10.20 – Flagstaff, AZ @ Orpheum Theatre *

# with Jake Bellows, Nik Freitas, Jason Boesel & Special Guests
* with M. Ward[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]