In November, Taylor Swift closed her “Speak Now” tour at Madison Square Garden with a surprise guest: James Taylor. The duo’s tranquil acoustic performance on a sofa had the vague air of an elderly father strumming guitar with his progeny, as Ms. Swift, 22, in a voluminous ball gown, and Mr. Taylor, 64, languidly crooned “Fire and Rain.” But teenagers in New York sang along as fervently as kids in Atlanta and Los Angeles had done when Ms. Swift bounced around stage in a minidress rapping with Nicki Minaj.
Even if Mr. Taylor’s core audience is more AARP than rap, this air of generational timelessness has long been an element of Mr. Taylor’s career. Currently performing in Europe, Mr. Taylor introduced “Something in the Way She Moves” in Berlin last week as the song that sealed his first record deal, singing it with a voice as soothing and expressive as it was 44 years ago.
Fans hoping for a new album soon will be disappointed. The reason for not going into the studio: “No time,” said Mr. Taylor backstage. But he did discuss songwriting, addiction and his new friend Ms. Swift.
You’ve performed with Taylor Swift.
She and I did a benefit together before she took off. We met then, her parents had played her a lot of my music when she was growing up and her mother told Taylor she named her after me. It was lovely to meet her and she seemed like a nice, young, earnest person trying to find her way in the music business. The next time I met her she was doing a company picnic. We hung out in the dressing room and she said, “I’m finishing my tour in a couple of weeks, will you come out on stage at Madison Square Garden and sing with me?” and I said, “Sure.” She hasn’t changed much—her circumstances have changed and she’s handling it quite well, but she’s outgrowing the phase she was first in.
You get a feeling with her latest album that she’s becoming less country.
Yeah, I think so, too. The first stuff she did was in Nashville in a country context and she’s becoming herself more. She’s 22 now, she was 18 or 19 when we met. I think she’s finding her own voice more and she sounds more like what she wants to sound like than when she was first being interpreted by people who produced her.