with Heather Meuleman
Taylor Kingman makes music that resets the clocks. You know the feeling of standing beneath a trestle on a hard day, a can of cheap beer, flicking a lighter and dreaming up wild ideas until a heavy train comes thundering overhead and you scream and scream until your voice gives out and you feel lighter? That’s the thing that lives deep in Taylor’s songs. There’s something so rubbed-raw honest and drunken-truth about them. You can’t help but be transfixed and transformed.
Born in Portland, OR and raised in Marion County, Taylor picked up a guitar and started writing at 12. In high school, he formed The Hill Dogs, a raucous, powerful band that hit hard beneath his explosive lyrics. After graduating, he wrote like a madman, played out heavily with the band, and taught guitar on the side.
In 2015, Taylor packed up and headed to Portland where he played anywhere and everywhere with The Hill Dogs until he blew out his voice and had to halt the band. The restrictions of his healing vocal chords gave way to a deluge of new writing. Taylor joined multiple projects around the city with some of Portland’s finest and recorded his debut solo album Wannabe at the great Mike Coykendall’s studio, due out November 17th on Mama Bird Recording Co. He recently formed ‘TK and the Holy Know Nothings’ with Lewi Longmire, Jay Cobb Anderson, Tyler Thompson, and Josh Simon as a vehicle for a growing ocean of new material.
Of writing songs, Taylor says, “Each word is a world waiting to swallow me whole. I get drunk off the pitter patter poetry of lines that root me to the cold, unforgiving ground, all at once, drowning me in the violent beautiful futility of humanity, yet, also, set fire to my eyes, sending me swirling and whirling, floating blind and thoughtless through the maze of the mind. I want the words to explode bloody in all their truth, for better or worse. Vivid images dripping with feeling bursting like lightbulbs in the back of the head.” Enough said. Train thundering. Sparks raining down.
In 2009, Alexander traveled to the Northeast United States, landing in Vermont with $85 and his guitar. Tommy recalls feeling pulled to the NE by his pre-California family roots. “The air is different out there. The food tastes different,” he said. “I love New England.” After settling in Burlington, Vermont, two years later, Tommy founded a non-profit artist collective: Jenke Arts. Jenke became a staple of the underground Vermont art scene and quickly grew into a community center, recording studio, and even boasted an after school program to teach inner city youth basic recording and videography. For those first two years in Vermont, Alexander slept on a couch in order to prioritize music and art. “Being able to play and write songs all day was my goal. If you don’t have a job or a rent it seems the most possible way to accomplish this.”
By 2014, Jenke was hosting over 100 donation-based classes a month and a handful of shows, many of which Alexander recorded for release as a steady stream of tapes, CDs and digital downloads. He spent much of his time recording traveling bands who did not have a demo to their name. Finding outside funding and allowing these bands to record demos for free helped them book shows and grow.
Alexander kept himself very busy running the studio as well as fronting his own musical endeavors: Quiet Lion, Agent Slacker, and Set Up City. By 2014, Quiet Lion had done some regional touring including one extensive tour that took them as far West as Chicago. At this point, Alexander fully realized his love for being a touring act. In 2015, It became clear to Tommy that it was time to leave the Queen City and the NE & relocate to Portland, OR where he could focus solely on writing, recording and touring.
After a year of solo touring, which included a 65-show national tour and multiple west coast runs, Alexander’s music found its way to legendary songsmith Michael Mcdonald. Mcdonald invited him to open a couple shows that year. “What a trip that was. And my parents were very excited,” Tommy reminisced. Tommy decided it was time to make a record. After 3 full lengths, two EPs under other band names and countless of recordings for other people, Alexander made a record for himself, calling it Old News.
Alexander recalls hoping the record would be a step towards forming a band. “The idea was that the album would manifest a band. I figured if I could get a more full, rounded out sound it would be easier to put a group together.”
Old News, was produced by Mike Coykendall (M. Ward, Blitzen Trapper, She and Him, Bright Eyes) and features guest appearances by Robert Burger (Iron and Wine), Jay Cobb Anderson (Fruition) and Buddy Weeks (Sallie Ford). Old News combines groovy rock beats with traditional folk influences, mixing modern sounds with meaningful messages.
The sound has been described as unique and hard to pinpoint. Praised as infectious, the music is palatable, powerful, and honest.