Chris Taylor, a bright new artist signed to BEC Recordings, has an interesting way of describing his (and perhaps everyone's) earthly nature in relation to spiritual matters.
"I wasn't looking for God ever," he says. "I started going the other direction at birth."
That doesn't mean the 27-year-old Florida native intentionally sought any particular loss of innocence; it only magnifies the compelling turnaround theme that now shines on his deep worship-meets-ethereally marked pop debut, Take Me Anywhere. Indeed, Taylor's music is about human wandering, God's pursuit, and the conversations that ensue.
Raised in the beachfront town of Destin, Chris remembers an idyllic childhood made possible by hard-working parents who managed vacation rental properties. Riding along in the family car, he would hear Willie Nelson or Paul Simon on the radio and quietly imagine being part of what they were doing. But playing guitar never occurred to Taylor before age 13 when his mom brought one home to cheer him up after a bad day at school.
And that was essentially the extent of the drama in his world until two years later when an older teenage friend wanted to talk at length with Chris about the meaning of life.
"He was from a broken home and basically lived with us," he recalls. "Then one day he shared the gospel with me in his car. At first I was offended, really. We'd given this guy so much"what gave him the right to think that I was missing something? But I soon believed what he was saying, and that's my story: I had a salvation experience in a car."
By the next year, Taylor was leading worship in youth group. After high school he earned a degree close to home in music and recording. Then the opportunity came for Chris to journey to England where he interned in worship ministry at Soul Survivor church. There he met worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman ("The Heart of Worship") and was dramatically humbled by the authenticity of his faith.
"I actually stopped leading worship for awhile after that experience," he says. "It was great, but truth be told, I went there to get a pat on the back, to find value in what I was doing. Then I was so convicted by what I learned from Matt's testimony. He had gone through such dark times, and I had just envied his success. So if it meant being quiet for the rest of my life, to even begin to approach that level of sincerity, I was ready to do it."
The break from leading worship was in hindsight a big step toward Chris Taylor's becoming a signed artist. He kept working, writing, pouring through his favorite theology books, and e-mailing back and forth with a top music publishing company in Nashville that eventually invited him to come demo his songs with some other young talents.
The first day there, Chris met with rising producer and programmer Allen Salmon whose studio engineering credits already included Mute Math and Sanctus Real. Two hours into the session they had recorded "Take Me Anywhere," a shivery pop cut layered with echoing harmonies, deft yet subtle guitar parts, and breakbeat rhythms that would spur the audio energy and pilgrimage language of the entire album.
"That's the song that took me anywhere," laughs Taylor. "I have sung it at church many times, and now it's the first radio single. The lyrics remind me of the men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They weren't looking for him at that moment, but after the encounter, their hearts were burning, and it changed the course of their lives."
The album Take Me Anywhere is rife with even more passionate pleas to God on cuts like the ocean-sized opener "Turn Me Around" (Show me how to love profoundly/I want everything you are). And a heavenly reply is evident in the gorgeously elastic melodies of "Atmosphere" (I feel you breaking through my world/You have gone deep below my surface, brought to life all that was not living).
"I'm not a prolific writer, the songs just seem to catch me," he says. "That one woke me in the middle of the night after studying about God not being bound by space and time."
"Symphony" grips the listener with its swirling declaration of hearts in unison. "Made for You" showcases Taylor's recurring gift for sounding upbeat amidst minor chords. Both find the singer putting feet to his faith, moving the conversations with God into action.
Stylistically, Chris is right when he says "all these songs are worship songs." Each one is made distinct by Taylor's poetic imagery and a pure singing voice that one journalist praised for its "innate sensitivity." Modern music fans will also enjoy picking up on his honest list of influences, from the alternative experimentation of Radiohead and the writing aesthetics of Sting to a host of American independent rock and worship artists.
And now the next step for someone who names his debut album Take Me Anywhere: discovering what life is like as a national recording artist and inviting a wider audience into the spiritual dialogue he began years ago.
"Everything I could have ever dreamed is happening," says Taylor who is also the husband of Gileah and father of young daughter Clara. "I'm saying yes to whatever."