New Normal: The Unassuming Stardom Of Taylor Hawkins
By an expansive legion of fans, music lovers, and the rest of the world alike, Taylor Hawkins is recognised as the drummer of the Foo Fighters, who takes the occasional detour to make music with Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders and The Birds of Satan. But outside of the drumming throne he is so famous for he is, in his own words, “just a 47-year-old man with a wife and three kids living the same sort of adult life that most people are living.”
And born out of these quiet, domestic – sometimes insightful, sometimes silly - experiences comes Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders third album ‘Get The Money’. A genre-hopping production with an all-star support system that swings effortlessly from classic rock to glam while gracefully touching everything in-between, Taylor describes the record as “tales from suburban hell…”
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There’s not much you can take away from that description at first, but once you peek into his creative mindset it all suddenly makes sense; to Taylor there seems to be a story in every experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem to other people. What is forgettable and routine to others is a Taylor Hawkins muse for great music.
Take for example his duet track with Dave Grohl, ‘You’re No Good At Life No More,’ which takes its inspiration from a silly argument – “you suck, you’re no good at life”- Hawkins had with his wife; or ‘C U In Hell’ an imaginative track where LeAnn Rimes lends her vocals that is envisioned as a parting message to a partner-in-crime with the certainty that both your actions – stealing, adultery, murder and whatever other terrible thing a person can do (none of which he notes he has never actually taken part in!) - are sure to land you in hell which is where you’ll probably see each other next time.
There’s a point that Taylor stresses infinitely while explaining the making of his song, he says: ”It’s not just about lyrics and music, I like my songs to really mean something, and to be about something.”
While he enjoys this process of always making meaningful records, and always touring, it most certainly can get tiring. But he doesn’t hide it, instead he channels the burnout into another creative production; thus laying down the premise for ‘Get The Money’. Speaking of the title track and its straight-forward message, he explains:
”It stemmed from a conversation I had with Joe Walsh who also played on the song. I was on tour; I was tired and I was whining to him about whether I really want to be on the road forever, whether I really want to keep doing this job forever. It was a moment of self-pity and weakness - as I was lounging in my $500-a-night hotel suite!”
“He told me to stop being a baby and be grateful for what the blessings I’ve been given. He said I’m doing a job I love for good money so I should just ‘get the money’ and quit whining. The point is: Are you getting paid, making enough money?”
He shrugs off the message of the track as simple, but as he elaborates on it the complexity shines through automatically. He says: “Yes, musicians, and other people in creative fields, can be in it for the art alone but why get upset about becoming commercial? It’s a job so getting paid is important and it’s a good thing. So I think as long you’re getting paid well to follow your passion, there’s no reason to be unhappy that your art is no longer just about art. Get the money!”
Pausing here, to ask what I was doing in terms of a job – unemployed/job hunting being the answer... he jokingly yet very reassuringly offers to put in a good word for me while I job hunt - before doubling up his previous answer as genuinely helpful advice saying:
“It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, once you get that job that you want, you tend to become dissatisfied and unhappy. You don’t like your boss; you don’t like the workload or you don’t like the distance you have to travel to get to work. So that’s the time to stop and think: are you getting paid? Then get the money and don’t whine!”
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This is a fitting message that reflects genuinely in Taylor’s next answer of whether making music – virtually all the time for work and for fun- ever frustrates him. There is a brilliant and inspiring sense of passion that radiates when he answers:
“Yes of course I’m constantly frustrated in the studio when something doesn’t turn out the way I want. Sometimes it doesn’t sound right in the beginning, sometimes I finish it, listen back and think it’s no good and it can all be frustrating. But it can be amazing too when I finally get it right.”
“Making music never stops being a good feeling for me. It excites me that you start with nothing, then you tinker around until you have an idea that works and then there’s a final version that plays out of the speakers. There’s no other feeling like it – it’s the musical equivalent to having a baby!”
And while Taylor may have intended for this answer to apply strictly to the realms of his professional life, the tone of pride he carries when talking about his “musical babies” carries over as he speaks of his wife and kids who seem to have inspired a large part of this record.
Speaking at length on the entire track list - from working with his childhood friend (and bassist for Yes) Jon Davison on ‘Crossed The Line’ which inspired the beginning of the record, to Nancy Wilson duet-track ‘Don’t Look At Me That Way’ which was recorded last out of ten tracks, to the forgotten gem ‘Shapes Of Things’ for which the basic track was recorded 10 years ago - he reveals personal stories and experiences that are as hilarious and cheeky as they are genuine and heartfelt.
Taylor throws the word 'marriage' around a lot, as he explains his inspirations for the different songs. Aside from ‘You’re No Good At Life No More,’ two tracks in particular are tagged “marriage tracks” by him. Providing a frank and funny depiction of what a man in general – famous or not - goes through in a marriage, he tells two stories placing himself in the protagonist role; one of the husband who is apologising for a mistake he’s not sure he actually made like in ‘I Really Blew It’, and another of a husband who is hoping for sex like in ‘Kiss The Ring’.
There is a refreshing bluntness, a truthful message and a simple story to every track on ‘Get The Money’. The confident image of an artist who believes in his own ideas and values, a renowned musician who is unapologetically about who they are, what they think and the kind of music he makes. But there’s one such story - one particular image - that stands out in stark contrast to the nonchalance of being an artist.
A softer image that allows people to see through Taylor’s daily outfit as the drummer of the Foo Fighters - to see him as a doting father fulfilling the wishes of his middle child, his daughter Annabelle. He explains:
“I’d written a track for my son but it wasn’t fitting into the record so I didn’t include it. It’s hard being the middle child. You know, the eldest gets a lot of attention - even if it’s sometimes negative. So when my daughter said ‘write a song for me’, I sat down and wrote it that very day.”
As he talks narrates all these stories from which his songs for the album took root- in a purposely open yet elusive, straight-forward yet convoluted manner – you can tell that he’s truly lived each and every song with every fibre of his being just as he has these lived the moments in these stories, which is why he is certain of the fact that he doesn’t have a personal favourite in the production.
He says: “I’ve lived each track as I made it and in that moment whatever track I was working on was my favourite before I moved on to work on the next track and that became my favourite instead.”
At the end of our conversation, the most striking thought is that ‘Get The Money’ is a collection of brilliant, honest music with no tricks and no frills. What we are finally left with is a sincere masterpiece inspired by the seemingly mundane moments in the life of a Texas-born, Laguna-bred 47-year-old suburban husband and father, who also happens to be music legend.
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Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders' new album 'Get The Money' is out now.
Words: Malvika Padin
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