As the daughter of soft-rock superstars James Taylor and Carly Simon, folk-pop singer/songwriter Sally Taylor has no illusions about record companies.
"My entire life, I've been surrounded by [record executives]," Taylor, 25, said from her Boulder, Colo., home. "They don't know themselves, they don't know you. They want to wear [an artist] around like a new hat or something."
So the silky-voiced soprano, whose singing resembles her mother's, started her own label, Blue Elbow, early last year. The label's first release was also Taylor's debut, Tomboy Bride, the title of which refers to the wives of miners living in Telluride, Colo., in the 1800s.
Taylor has spent the past year gigging in support of the album, which contains such gentle rock songs as "Happy Now" (RealAudio excerpt). It has sold more than 10,000 copies via booths at Taylor's club gigs and through her website (www.sallytaylor.com).
Taylor's melodies are infectious and her lyrics are sensitive, intimate and immediate. On "Alone" she sings: "Where is my shelter, when I've left home/ Life seems so tender and I'm so alone/ But I know I can survive."
Taylor's "Song 4 Jeremy" would not sound out of place on one of Jewel's albums. And "The Complaint" is in the manner of the contemplative music about relationships that broke Simon out of the pack of female singer/songwriters in the early '70s.
Wendy Woo, who co-produced Tomboy Bride with Taylor, said, "[Sally's] songs were incredible [and] very heartfelt, and [I thought] this is gonna make a great album. I think she's gonna do it all. Most signed artists get pushed to the bottom, but she's seen her parents go through it."
Simon and James Taylor, who were unavailable for comment at press time, were married in 1972 and broke up in 1983. They also have a son, Ben, who is pursuing his own pop recording career. Sally Taylor, born and raised on the East Coast, studied medical anthropology at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Unlike some celebrity offspring who are sensitive to perceptions of nepotism, Taylor doesn't downplay her celebrity-filled early life. The album's art features a large baby photo of her. Just before the track "Strangest of Strangers," a young Taylor can be heard precociously asking, "This recording? Let's hope so!"
Taylor said her parents initially felt that they wouldn't wish a music career on their worst enemy, let alone their daughter. But they eventually gave her their blessings when they realized it was what she really wanted. James Taylor even appears on the album's bonus track, the spare "Unsung Dance."
Her parents' connections also came in handy. Simon gave an early version of Tomboy Bride to her best friend, the wife of Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, one of Sally's musical idols.
"He called me and said, 'Hey it's Donald Fagen, I want to produce a track,' " Taylor recounted. "I said, 'Come on, now.' I think I said no at first, but what I meant was, 'I'll be on the next plane.' "
Fagen and his Steely Dan partner, Walter Becker, ended up jointly mixing the bossa novalike "When We're Together." Fagen, who was unavailable for comment at press time, produced the song.