Backstage With Taylor McFerrin

   Photo by Simon Benjamin

Photo by Simon Benjamin

“I went back and listed to all these little half finished beats that I’ve been making...I didn’t realize I had an album.”

Taylor Mcferrin’s journey to developing his first album has been a long one. Over the course of five years Mcferrin took his large archive of beats, and transformed them into what became his debut album: Early Riser. The album diverged from the hip-hop roots of it’s beats, adding influences from jazz and electronic music to the finished work. It includes notable figures in these fusion scenes as guests on the album, like Nai Palm, Robert Glasper, and Thundercat. It’s easy to understand how the album found a home on Brainfeeder Records.

After talking to McFerrin, his musical evolution and influences make the origins of the album clear.

“We all kind of grew up with these heros of Dilla and Madlib,” McFerrin said. He cites J Dilla and Madlib as the “Godfathers” of the beat scene in Los Angeles and beyond. 

Admiration of the two as his heroes manifested in his early music pursuits. He’s been producing beats on a keyboard from the start after his dad gifted him his old one. “That was pretty key to me because even though I was making beats I was learning cords,” Mcferrin said.

His admiration of beat-makers was also coupled with that of jazz pioneers. “I’ve been around it a lot and I have a spiritual connection to [jazz],” McFerrin said. “If there’s any era of jazz that I’m connected with it’s Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Chick Corea. When they started playing with synthesizers and kind of Moogs and Arps, it was always those sounds that really I gravitated towards.”

Between the influences of his beatmaking heros and scouring his parents records sampling their prime selections of jazz and soul, McFerrin became, “obsessed with finding vintage gear.”

“It turned out when I got into hip-hop production, it was all A Tribe Called Quest, Premiere, RZA, and then later Dilla and Madlib as my focal points for who I listed to the most. But they were always sampling soul records that had these instruments on it.”

His vintage obsession is clear. Taylor now performs with a classic Rhodes piano, an instrument used by legends like Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis in their productions. It’s instruments like this that helped him take the hundreds of beats that he had lying around narrow them down into a 13 song album.

“I wanted to have different styles, but they still had to have a thread that connected them. Which ultimately was just the equipment I am using,” Mcferrin said. “Just having the same instruments on the track, even if I’m using them in different ways, just connects them sonically.”

Catch Taylor McFerrin playing Low End Theory on July 22nd. You can listen to the whole conversation I had with McFerrin on Mixcloud above. Check out his album Early Riser on Brainfeeder Records.

Naomi Menezes, Promotions Director