Story-filled songs in Beaver Creek |

Story-filled songs in Beaver Creek

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThough Taylor Carson says he has loved to sing as long as he can remember, it wasn't until he picked up the guitar at age 16 and started writing that he saw an inkling of his future.

Everybody will talk about happy family memories – graduations, weddings, birthdays and holidays. Death, divorce, infidelity and the like rarely make good dinner-party conversation.

Singer-songwriter Taylor Carson chooses to put everything, good and bad, out for the world to examine. He delved into his sometimes dark family history for fodder for his most recent album, “Defending the Name.” The album, his fourth, was released in September and he’ll sing plenty of songs from it tonight during a performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. The show is part of the venue’s Underground Sound series.

Carson, 28, went back four generations trying to understand his own personal struggles in the context of his family’s story.

“There were a lot of family members I didn’t really understand and I wanted to understand them, rather than being angry at them,” Carson said during a recent phone interview. “I realized the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If my dad is a certain way, it means my grandfather was a certain way to him… and it makes me who I am.”

He talked to his father, aunts, uncles and other relatives and uncovered everything from adultery and murder to untraditional love stories.

The Virginia-based musician calls the first song on the album, “Moonshiner,” a “hidden love song.” The soulful song is about his great-grandfather who lived in an Atlanta farming suburb. He fell on hard times during Prohibition and started selling his homebrew.

“The story goes he started doing well and other moonshiners came after him for it,” he said. “They had guns drawn and he ended up shooting them in self defense. That’s an ugly situation, but it boils down to the love my grandfather was showing to his family by defending them – going out with guns drawn, willing to sacrifice his life to make sure they were safe.”

Carson has always been drawn to other singer-songwriter-guitarists who tell stories with their songs. While writing this album, Carson shared stages with some of the men who’ve inspired him along the waym – Stephen Kellogg, Ellis Paul, Pat McGee, and more. Some of them passed along pearls of songwriting wisdom.

“Ellis definitely taught me how to paint pictures with words,” Carson said. “I feel like he does that better than anyone. I wanted to get into that side of storytelling, exploring the imagery that words can create. I feel like Stephen (Kellogg) does the same thing. He told me to be true to the song and it’ll be good to you.”

Denver musician Megan Burtt has performed in the area a few times with her band. Tonight she’ll join Carson on stage for a few songs. The two have been writing songs together via Skype for a while now. In November they’ll make their collaboration official when they record an EP together. They’re calling the duo The Dance Cards.

“She sang with me in Denver, the last time I came through,” Carson said. “It sounded so good. We’re writing these fun songs that focus mostly on our vocals and really strong melodies. It’ll just be acoustic guitars and smiling faces.”

This happy-go-lucky music vein sounds like a new direction for Carson, who said that before he made this album, he felt a weight dragging behind him, but never knew what it was.

“Through bringing these stories out of their hiding places and into the light I can feel the burden lifting,” he wrote in the liner notes for “Defending the Name.” “Ultimately this is a record about love and redemption – I hope listeners find their own truth in these notes and lyrics.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

Support Local Journalism