The Talk with Cory Tauber.
An amazing up and coming artist that takes you on a journey with his poetic music every single time you listen to it. Read and Indulge as his words transport you into the adventure of how he got to where he is and discover his thoughts on why he loves music.
What is your name?
Where are you from?
Simi Valley, CA
What is your ethnicity?
Filipino, Irish, Lithuanian, Austrian, Sephardic Jewish
Cory Tauber by Craig Taylor-Broad
Was that the same place you started singing?
Yes. I was a drummer at the time (I was about 18) for about 5 years playing in a band with my brother, Sean, who plays bass. He was playing music with some friends and they needed a singer. I knew I could do impressions so I decided I’d try it out, and ended up thinking it went terribly. I thought, “There’s no way they’re going to want me to come back and sing.” But, afterwards, Zak, the guitar player, said, “Ok, see you next week.”
Also, Sean was really into digital recording with Logic and I would always peer over his shoulder as he would do recordings. He was always into songwriting but I never quite agreed with his experimental perspective. I was always wanted more to understand the traditional songwriting style. It started out with just knowing how to play a couple songs on guitar and I took those chords and tried to make a song with my own lyrics. Once you realize it’s more about who influences you to write, you see that it’s not so much that you’re copying someone as you are creating your own take of things you see around you and putting it together in some abstract form that makes sense to you. That whole concept was intriguing.
Another reason I picked up singing was the fact that being a drummer, I didn’t have a melodic outlet for the things that were going on in my head that I wanted to be able to formulate. I needed to be able to create melodies just to basically satisfy the things going on in my head all the time. I always heard songs in my head but they weren’t always songs. It would be a hardcore drum breakdown for instance, and I’d hear guitars and other instruments with it; and there was no way for me to document it so I started writing my own tunes with just the limited amount of musical knowledge that I had from a melodic standpoint.
Cory Tauber by Jen Woo
When did you start playing the guitar?
We always had a guitar in my house growing up since my dad played. He brought us up with The Beatles, and when I was nine or ten, I learned how to play Blackbird. He played it all the time, and taught me since I liked it so much.
I had maybe two songs in my repertoire for guitar, just like I did on the piano, but never took interest in any melodic instrument until I was probably 18. I started with finger picking, before I had another down period for about two to three years when I only played the drums in a band. By the time I was 21, I started delving into really learning and writing with a guitar.
How did you learn?
I started playing covers…learning chords through playing cover tunes, just songs that I enjoyed. From that point I got a general sense of keys, so I could hear in my head what a key was just from hearing how someone else played in that key. You come up with your own journeys through that key, through that signature.
Do you play any other instruments?
I play the drums. When I couldn’t sleep at night my dad would play little rudiments on my head and it would put me to sleep, so I’ve always had an affinity for it. When I was 14, my parents got me a drum set. Also, my dad was a piano player and was really into progressive music. Seeing how he took piano playing to music made it really intimidating to play any melodic instrument. I felt like I could never reach that standard so I didn’t even start. Drumming, however was something of my own.
Playing djembe, shakers, tambourine, and Cajon came out of living in Costa Rica and playing with a gypsy band called Los Mapaches. I’d had a djembe at home for when I was sitting in my room and couldn’t play a full drum set, but I didn’t take it seriously until I started playing with them. Soon after, I joined The Common People, a rock/ surf rock band also in Costa Rica, who I just played at the Port Eliot Festival with. For them, I played the drums; and when we weren’t allowed to make as much noise, we did acoustic sets where I played djembe and shakers, and sang.
Cory Tauber by Chris Trevena
How do you describe the kind of music that you play?
If I were to pick a few words , I’d say emotional, cool…frosty, heartfelt, and Motown because of my dad and brother. In that sense, there’s a bit of funk in the vibe. There is a lot of progressive influence from my dad, and funky bass from my brother, Sean.
My music is an accurate representation of what’s going on in my head. In terms of a genre, it’s society’s role to categorize and generalize music. I think it’s stupid that people do that because it deflates the availability of a certain type of music to people. If it’s good it’s good. If I had to select one category, I’d say I fall into singer/songwriter, but it’s more elaborated in the recordings. It starts out from a singer/songwriter perspective, writing with just a voice and a guitar, but once it hits the recording process, I think it transforms more into indie/ songwriter/ folk.
When it comes to your lyrics for the songs, I see that you’re always kind of telling a story. How do you come up with the stories as a songwriter?
The stories come through metaphor. It doesn’t really take its meaning I don’t think until the song is almost complete, or halfway through. It starts with some melody and small lyric that fits, and melody of vocals and that defines the tone of where things will go. Then it defines the criteria for what comes together.
I write in two processes. The one I tend to do more of starts with a guitar lick that represents a mood and fine tunes the type of lyrics that I would put into a song. With “The Messengers” for instance, it had a western, ghostly, upbeat, sort of haunting mood. From that came a personal vendetta against the media, something I’d become passionate about while studying communication. The songs that I look up to are always spoken through metaphor and the painting of a scenario so I often like to do that. I tend to try to meet those expectations out of my own music. I like to set up a scene through metaphor. The chorus is basically the point so I structure everything around that. In terms of “The Messengers,” the point is to keep corruption out of society.
The other way I write comes more from personal anguish. It’s moment to moment, stemming from a tormented idea that I have absolutely no answers for so I put it into a big question and try to draw conclusions through the songwriting process. I can’t work through it just in thought because there’s an emotion that’s paired with it. A song is like a life circumstance. If you can figure it out in a song, then maybe it will echo into motivation in your real life. After piecing the words together, I write the chords to emphasize the lyrics. In context of “You’re My Eyes,” I was learning about the key of C, and moved by people I was playing with in Costa Rica—my friend Erik Pescitelli—he would do these pull offs which inspired me to put together a song. The melody came to…and had this sort of playfully tragic tone to it.
I write just to put my own ideas out there that I wouldn’t say on a day-to-day basis. Much of my music consists of my conspiracy theories on society transformed into songs. The stories come from whatever the dominating mood is. I tinker with chords and lyrical ideas, sounds and a storyline that I think would go. I really enjoy the sound of words—certain words together in a song pattern. It’s important to appreciate the sound of the word…the dance of how they all come together.
Cory Tauber by Ben Hahn
Your music is very poetic. Do you consider yourself a poet?
I think it is a major part of the songwriting process and that’s really all a song is to me is—a poem expressed through more sounds than just the concept of words. That’s really all a song is anyways.
A number of things move me: someone representing my same perspective in a different form, the extent to which I feel creative, if someone introduces something that resonates with me in a greater form, or if something is connected deeply to a part of myself that I may have pushed away, something I have closed up or overlooked but opens a door within myself. That, I believe, is where the poet comes from, in addition to from my mother, who is also a writer.
It’s a matter of understanding the depth of how far emotions can go and accepting that, and even more so a push to understanding how people use what they have as far as from an intellectual, curiosity-driven base to express some form of emotion.. As humans we feel the same set of emotions and have the capacity to feel them at the same depths. What really moves me is to see somebody capture their own essence of the emotion they build themselves up to and have such a slow growth that people have no choice by to ride along with it. As a musician, a poet, an artist, it’s to understand how to impact other people—to take that as part of your art form. You are painting with emotion; feeling through imagery and through touch.
Tell us a little about your childhood and how you got to where you are right now?
As I said, my father plays piano and raised us with music. What made me decide to take it further though was Sean, my brother. He had an interest in production and recording which made me curious in every aspect of what it means to be a musician. Sean has always been my biggest inspiration and my foundation for every question that I had. He was always the big thinker and I was always the copycat, being the younger brother. A lot of my foundations are based on curiosities that he had as a musician.
Though I had played in a number of bands, I started taking myself seriously as a solo musician when I started playing open mics in Santa Barbara. It was the first time I really presented a sound of my own. I then took that to Costa Rica and began to develop that sound. I wrote the first four songs of my new EP “Ok. Today.” there and the last song in Los Angeles when we moved back for a couple months. The recording of the EP was done in Los Angeles as well, and completed in the studio in Costa Rica. We then released it while in Spain after playing at Port Eliot in the UK. It’s been quite the adventure.
From a childhood mentality, music was the only thing I didn’t get bored of. I never felt like it was work and was the only thing I could sit through for 16 hours straight and feel like the time never passed. It is what pulls me the most into the moment and has all the challenges of life with the beauty of art. I am my mother’s and father’s child combining art and music professionalism with stupid creativity. I am a songwriter because it’s what I feel like. It connects me with who I am, challenges me in every sense and creates deeper meanings for my family, my role, society. It’s part of me.
Cory Tauber by Craig-Taylor Broad
I know you are on a tour right now, are you opening for someone or what type of tour is it?
Originally, the plan was just to play at Port Eliot, but we ended up using it as an excuse to travel and for me to play more gigs. It has been rather spontaneous as the shows are coming from friends and contacts sporadically, and it can be planned weeks in advance or I’ll find out 20 minutes before. In that sense it really is an unofficial tour and I’m playing as I’m going.
What are some of the things that you have experienced touring?
Musically, through hearing other types of music wherever I go, you just start to realize that it’s more in the simplicity of things that makes something appealing. It’s not necessarily how dynamic somebody is in the writing process. It’s more so how to create from nothing and…that’s why I took to my own songwriting. Subtlety and simplicity speaks louder than overplaying and dynamic.
One of my more memorable experiences was playing at Fish Factory in Cornwall, UK, opening for one of the wackiest men in show business: Franz Nicolai. I got the call half an hour before I was supposed to play and it was basically a concrete cell on the dock of a fish factory with a bunch of chairs wrapped around a microphone and a PA. It was an interesting lineup of people: spoken word poets, another local singer/songwriter, and then Franz came on and tore everyone’s heads off with NY theatric songwriting and it so threw off my expectations for the whole thing. Seeing someone from a band like Against Me in the context of this fish factory alone, traveling Europe by train blew my mind. It made me consider how far people take themselves into that hole of creativity, and how detached a tour can really make someone after the repetition and exhaustion.
Another factor that has made me consider the concept of touring is watching the 10-hour documentary on Horse the Band. Though I have been playing shows, it’s been a fair share of sightseeing and taking in the culture as well, and really has been very leisurely. After seeing Franz at the end of his 6 month tour, and watching the documentary—seeing what touring for months straight does to people—I question my own strength in the state of my mind to be able to handle something like that.
Emotionally speaking, coming across to Europe from Costa Rica, we were prepping 4 hours a day for a month straight for the Port Eliot festival, and I became detached. So when I got across the Atlantic, I was purely drummer- focused on this band and I had absolutely no time to myself. I brought my acoustic guitar just to thrive off the inspiration of the festival, but I was so focused, prepared and ready that there wasn’t an ounce of creativity in my blood at that point in time. Port Eliot kicked me back into a state of wanting to song write again. Being around such inspiring artists like Matthew & Me rewired my reasons for songwriting altogether. The concept of delicacy and simplicity never felt so in my face. In the span of that time, by the end of the festival, I completed 3-4 songs that I had been stuck on just from the creative energy. Seeing the band Grooveyards completely blew my mind. I didn’t think that people of that heartfelt musicianship, doing it to create a vibe and for the love of the people, existed still in this day in age. I’d only heard of the kind of atmosphere that these guys created and seeing it turned me back into a child watching my dad play progressive music and seeing him so inspired by the music he grew up with. I just couldn’t believe that these people still existed and it reinforced and reconnected my desire to be a musician. It pulled something out of me that was all but lost through my ego. Everything just made sense.
Emotionally it was a roller coaster of waves to the past from nostalgia that stimulated first from Port Eliot from progressive bands, love created, connection with my dad to going to Spain and being in a silent, quiet little house up on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. I went from this amazing overwhelming ecstasy to this silent chamber of introspection. What came from that period of time from a songwriting perspective just seemed to resonate a lot more with a top to bottom spectrum of who I was as a person as opposed to the moment to moment that I was living by. Just having so much time to be alone in quiet thought after the bomb that had dropped—going from the festival of my childhood and then coming to a quiet place to investigate it. There also was a nylon string guitar at the house that reminded me of the guitar we had in my house growing up. On it, I finished learning one of the first two songs that I ever tried to learn 10 years later in this house. It was the Intro to Roundabout by Yes, which my dad played all the time. I put it away for 10 years without completing the intro, and I ended up finishing it on a very similar nylon string. So to say that I felt in touch with why I wanted to play music was a huge understatement. I felt present in the nonexistence of time in that time period where thoughts from the past and thoughts from the present didn’t seem to hold a difference in value. It all just came up as pieces, connecting to reasoning.
Cory Tauber by Chris Trevena
What does your music mean to you?
The music I’m writing is connected with my dad. I’ve come into touch with all of my father’s side. All the music I’ve been writing represents this bigger emotion and resonates with me. I don’t want to not do it justice with lyrics that don’t sit on the same level as the music. Any of the words that I write are just so overwhelmingly dark because in my creative world that’s where it is. But the music kind of just comes freely. There are two sides to the creative process: creativity and physical limitations. I feel like right now my physical limitations are far outweighing my language creativity. I am much more in touch with the tones and how they resonate with my emotions, especially with the keys, c and e. Tones and vibrations translate into human emotions. People connect with emotion in vocals—in the tone of how you say something rather than the words. I feel like I can accurately express the tone with the instrument or voice. I want the storyline or idea from words alone to be as supportive as the tone of the voice and guitar and notes that come from the elaborations. I want it to be this dance of mind intellect, spirit, and emotion. You should be able to use each of these colors on a palette to paint the picture you want to paint. The more you live the more colors you find.
I undoubtedly will find these words from mom. The whole concept is to come to terms with my past to elaborate and grow, and in turn lift. You need to become a leg in your family and tradition, but first you need to understand where you come from in order to elaborate on it. It’s like that with everything, including music. I’ve come to terms with it in a sense but haven’t examined the availability of creativity in my past.
On top of all of it—it’s what you’re giving back to art and music itself. I think the more I learn about music and about what it really means to write music and play music, the more careful I am in what I want to give back to the art. I’m much more selective with what I would put out than just finishing something just to put it out. It’s egotistical to finish a song without doing it the right way or completely. Now that I have enough of a library to really speak my mind, it’s much more important to give a complete message and give something that is of meaning not only to me but to pay homage to the art form which is timelessly to be respected. And music, I think precedes religion. Man could formulate noises even before language came about. Music was and is a form of communication. To even conceptualize giving back to music makes you very particular.
Cory Tauber by Craig-Taylor Broad
What would you like for people to take from your music?
I’d like people to raise questions within themselves…to tear things apart and tear everything down. It’s the first step. That’s where my mind was when I wrote the EP: presenting all the negativity with the hint of light. Once you accept the tear down, the light is what’s going to grow once you’ve accepted the depth of the darkness. Though my development as an artist I will more accurately be able to represent contrast, nostalgia, and searching in my music.
Also, people should feel the history as well of where music has come from. There should be in any present state of music an inherent respect for music itself.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to speak through songwriting, and to be well educated musically and playing with talented musicians whether that means touring or doing something that’s inspiring and challenging. I can’t say that I want anything else for the future more than that. Success is also important in that I want to be able to live off what I love doing. I’d love to be doing session work and touring and playing a guitar and singing as well as be in a band playing drums. That’s doing something. Recording and touring. But more than anything I just want to be five years larger from a perspective, a mentality, and a purpose.
Spiritually, I’d rather be in a state of practice rather than question. Emotionally, I’d like to understand myself to a point where I can turn any emotional state into a constructive outlet to write. I’d like to have a more colorful vocabulary.
What is something that you heard from a fan, family or someone else before that motivates you?
There are a few things including, “Onward and upward” from Jon, the keyboard player in The Common People. That’s something I live by. Another quote that moved me to realize that we can do whatever we want and that there’s nothing stopping someone from becoming what they want to become is “Be the change you want to see in the world” from the Dalai Lama.
What has motivated me the most though is my relationship with my girlfriend, which has made me realize that I’m on autopilot; that I’ve been overly selfish and spoiled. It’s forced me to reconsider the purpose of putting the energy that you put into the world. It’s forced me to question my own purpose to the whole. She always talks about potential, and constantly makes me aware of my own potential. And in fighting for it, I realized myself that if you can think it, you can achieve it. She always brought out the best in me and keeps me beating away at the bigger goal. I’ve always had good short term goals that I could achieve and feel good about myself for, but the concept of finding the limits to your potential, goals that I may not achieve anytime soon, forced me to consider uncertainty and be comfortable in it. It pushes me to constantly question everything and search for pure answers to those questions. It’s forced me to ask questions that probably don’t have answers and to suppose (through music). I try to present it in a way in my music that leaves people with the comfort in uncertainty whether it’s fear of death, fear of one’s own purpose, or fear of not having answers. It’s for people prescribing themselves to pain, religion, pills, television. It motivates me to keep asking for the bigger questions to see how far you can spread that out and eventually you’ll find that everything is really nothing…I think. That is the concept. There’s the old saying of the more you learn, the less you know. I think what you’re going to die with is just a huge library of questions. You reach a point of absolute faith in nothing in the moments before death. You understand life and death and why it all matters and doesn’t matter.