Taylor Barton has played the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett hundreds of times since her tear-off-the-shirt rocking days in the 1990s. So what made her most recent show different? On the heels of “House of Light,” her tenth album, Barton is owning her own voice in a way she never did before.
“When I started I was a full rock girl,” she said.
Barton played Saturday with a big band, with guitar-greats G.E. Smith and Andy York, and Rob Fahey, a front woman backed by a big band, but focused on the tapestry the songwriter tries to weave into all of her art.
“The 10th album is much quieter and introspective,” said Barton. “The writing is wiser, and more honed down. When we were younger, we were spirited like Thoroughbred horses, out the gates and running fast.”
Now, she says, she puts more time and thought into each word. Songwriting, she believes, is one of her greatest strengths.
“I hone the lyric until it’s a piece of a jewel,” she said. “It’s not just a typical rhyme; it’s an art piece.”
She thinks of songwriting in an almost visual sense.
“I write like others paint,” she said. “I paint a full tapestry when I’m making a song. There’s a beginning, middle, and end, and I create texture through the words.”
But this is a new phenomenon for her. When she was younger, she let the power of the musicians behind her rule. She was a frontwoman, and got carried along on the anthem-like songs.
“I was severely shy,” she confessed. “There was a timidness about getting onstage, which is why I needed the full band. Now I feel confident standing there, because I have something to say.”
There is no shortage of Barton’s voice — or messages — in her newest album.
“The power lies in the steady gaze, hidden in a silent maze,” she sings in ‘For Those Among Us’. “It’s not the loudest chant on the street, it’s giving to those who never speak.”
“It’s a #metoo declaration,” said Barton. “In that song, the metaphor is to stand. Millions of women standing with a candle of prayer that this misogynistic sexual harassment must end.”
“House of Light,” the title track on her newest album, really resonates with Barton personally right now. She was searching for a place of peace, at a time when her life was full of tumult and uncertainty.
“Gonna build me a house of light,” she sings, “a house that’s sturdy and way out of sight.”
That’s what her home in Amagansett has become for her.
“I am very grounded in where I live, and I wasn’t five years ago,” she said. “That place of peace really exists for me and my family right now. When I wrote this song, I didn’t even know where that house was going to be. I thought it would be on an island in Tahiti, but I found it right here in Amagansett.”
It’s a good thing, too, because it means she’ll get to play at one of her favorite venues in the world on a regular basis, she said.
“The Talkhouse is my home,” she said. “We burned that place up back in the 90s with Generic Blondes. People were tearing their shirts off. We’ve grown up at the Talkhouse as performers, with people like Klyph Black and Nancy Atlas. This is our turf. If were Thoroughbreds on a race track, we’d be on that track every day together. The Talkhouse is in our veins.”
She just played a sold-out show at the Talkhouse on Saturday night, and part of what she loves about it is all the local musicians who play there regularly. She loves the community of artists here, who make the East End what it is.
“I just want to give a shout-out to the artists out here,” she said. “They inspire me and I hope I inspire them. The painters, the writers, the museums, the venues. All those of us who live here year-round, it’s just so gorgeous.”
Visit taylorbarton.com for more.