Taylor Kropp is a big believer in things working at the right time for the right reasons. With his solo debut. Coming Up For Air, he steps to the front of the stage from the wings, out of the shadows of the artists he accompanied as a sideman, beginning his own story.
Kropp emigrated from Monterey, California to Nashville a couple of years ago with the intention of creating opportunity. In short form, he became a working sideman with positions as a guitarist for Tanya Tucker, Kristen Kelly, and Josh Dorr. Along the way, he met his producer Seth Earnest, tracked performances on others records, cut his own, and now looks forward. He offers, “I had to live in Nashville to make this album, and inevitably find influence from the incredible songwriters and sideman I’ve been blessed to work with. All of these people influenced my record and have shaped me into the guitarist, singer and songwriter I am today. The reality is I could not have made this record ten years ago when I was in High School, even though that’s all I wanted to do at the time. It’s been an incredible two years.”
From an early age music has been a part of his life. He offers, “I am personally drawn to themes of the old west. My family used to camp yearly in the Mojave Desert, and as a child I would explore the cliffs of the campground and visit ghost towns, old mines and hiking trails. Inevitably, I play music because of these yearly camping trips. On one of those family vacations, I saw somebody playing a guitar around a campfire. It seemed like such mystical and magical thing to me that the image stuck around in my brain from that point on. I remember wanting a guitar as soon as I returned from that camping trip. To this day I still love visiting and traveling through the desert so the imagery that goes with all that is very present in the music.”
Kropp is an American Authentic. Song to song, it is apparent that he is consciously aware of who he is, and what he aims to represent. He tracked this album with a keen sense of what he wanted it to become. Letting the songs breathe in creation and avoiding the trap of forcing solos in where a song was stronger without them. He reveals, “The repertoire at times called for piano or steel guitar fills instead of a blaring guitar solo on every song. and I could not be happier with the feel we created in the studio bringing these songs to life. I truly hope those that hear this collected body of work view me as a well-rounded musician, compelling singer and songwriter.” Although Kropp did not produce Coming Up For Air, last year he co-produced and performed on a record by Sean Ryan, and has another with Rye Davis.
As he approached the writing for the album Kropp gravitated towards the love of a good song with a strong melody. Over his first 18 months in Nashville, the repertoire that became this debut was written in a prolific period of creation. Faced with the competitive setting all sidemen face, as opposed to capitulating when gigs did not go his way, he took it as a sign that it was time to focus on his own career. He reflects, “I firmly believe that at this point in my life I would be playing guitar for a mainstream touring artist if that is what I was ultimately called to do. With the commitment, and hard work I am prepared to commit, the goal is simply to have the freedom to write, tour, and record my own tunes as I see fit, and also take sideman gigs as they come along ala Warren Haynes or Robben Ford.” He continues, “When working with Tanya Tucker, it was an incredible experience. She is a legend. I was honored to even be on the stage with somebody with as much history as her. She dated one of my favorite artists ever Glen Campbell. Hearing her tell stories about other legends such as Merle Haggard was priceless. It was the first super high profile gig I had done since moving to Nashville. First time on a tour bus. The pressure was on when it came to playing and performing well. I did more work with that gig than any other in learning solos, parts, and the history behind the music. I only had six days to learn the songs and I spent every waking moment with her music. I learned that its ok to be yourself on stage. Sometimes her thoughts would ramble between songs but her fans loved every minute of it because she was being authentic.” With Kristen Kelly, he offers, “She is probably the best singer I’ve worked with. She has a huge powerful, soulful voice, natural charisma on stage and is an incredible songwriter. I’ve never heard her sing a bad note and she brings it whether there are five people in the room or 5,000. Kristen was the first ‘real gig’ I did in Nashville. This was a life changing gig because it not only gave me credit as a player that I needed in my new hometown of Nashville, but I also met Seth. He’s an incredible drummer, engineer and producer. When it came time to make my record I knew he was the only one who could produce and play drums on it. I can’t imagine it without him.”
Kropp accomplished what he aimed to capture with his debut solo album. Musically as a player, he cites “Stereotypical Three Dimensional 21st Century Troubadour” as a performance that he is especially proud of offering, “the live in the studio outro jam really captures the band listening and reacting to what each player was playing during the trades between the piano and the guitar.” With “A Long Way Home” he shares, “I come from the Duane Allman/Warren Haynes school of slide playing, but I really wanted to shoot for a different sound on the solo for that song. I wanted to try to emulate the compressed clean sounds of Lowell George or Blake Mills in the tone and style. I am very pleased with how it came out.” Lyrically, he points to a few tracks that stand out on a personal level. First, with “Break Free” it was the first song he wrote when arriving in Nashville. He recalls, “That composition seemed to flow effortlessly during the writing process and was able to stand on its own as a song. I wrote it with the hope that anybody who has ever felt misunderstood would find comfort in its lyrics, as well as to inspire hope in myself and my wife that we won’t always be struggling or living paycheck to paycheck.” Kropp penned “Deux Mille Seize” the day that Carrie Fisher passed away, revealing “It just seemed like the absolute final blow to the weird year that 2016 is and was. Some people have said the song sounds like I’m breaking up with a lover, others say that it sounds like I’m fighting with God. It’s a goodbye letter to 2016 and a hope that 2017 would be better for everyone. I am proud of the lyrics, melody and music of the song. I feel like it’s it is one of the first songs I wrote that was clever. To figure out the true meaning of the song someone would have to do some research to figure out what ‘deux mille seize’ even means.” Lastly, with “Even If You're Wrong” like many consumed with the Presidential election, after the poll results came in, Kropp picked up his baritone guitar, the riff came to him, and the melodies flowed. He shares, “I had it finished within a couple days. I’m very proud of the arrangement the band came up with for this one. Seth produced the shit out of it! His drumming makes the song IMO. I feel like lyrically the song is something everyone needs to hear. Even if you think somebody is wrong you can love them because we are all humans and created equal.”
Kropp wrote all of the songs myself between Summer, 2015 and February, 2017. He performed all guitars, lead vocals, and some of the BGVs. Coming Up For Air was Produced and Mixed by
Seth Earnest, who also tracked the drums and select BGVs. Key contributions came from bassist Dino Villanueva, Keyboardist William Adkins, Scott Neubert on Steel Guitar, and his wife Sara song background vocals on “Break Free” and “Duex Mille Siez.”
Prior to the release of Coming Up For Air, alongside his work as a sideman, Kropp performed guitar for several of the scene in the feature film Believe. Earnest was one of the music directors, and it offered an early taste of fame for the rising musician as he saw his name roll by on the credits as he attended the premiere. With commitment, diligence, and an unwavering belief in his talent, Taylor Kropp now begins his personal quest to find success as he travels the highways of North America.