James Taylor

1 Story


Conviction & Passion

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In this rare collaboration with NeueJournal, Brigitte creates a series of portraits investigating the most nuanced and directional voices in contemporary art, film, music, and science. An ongoing personal series captured in her Lower East Side daylight studio, these images are underscored by a quiet intimacy unique to the space itself.


It’s hard to notice when you’re happy. It’s not often that you stop and think, “Hey, I’m happy!” It’s the difficult moments that make you stop and take stock. It forces you to ask the hard questions—pain and discomfort can be a red flag that alerts you to the idea that something needs to change, or that something important is happening internally.


Not too long ago, we went to play a one-off show in Massachusetts. It was a cold, long, and almost melancholy drive. I was uncomfortable, but the discomfort wasn’t so bad. It just made me feel really aware that I was alive—and I thought to myself: This is where I want to be. I’ve spent so much time cramped in cars or sleeping on floors, and it always feels so worth it to be able to keep performing each day. When you know how much you are willing to give up for your passion, devoting yourself to it emotionally and physically can start to feel surprisingly addictive.


My itch to perform on stage seems to follow the same emotional trajectory—fear and discomfort tend to yield the best results. I often get stage fright. I’ll get shaky, and sing really shakily, and play the guitar really shakily, but that usually goes away after the first song. If it’s a good show I can sometimes have an out of body experience, like I’m floating above the stage. Often I can’t even judge whether or not it’s a good performance because it’s like I wasn’t even there. I just totally black out. In a way, I feel like I’ve totally transcended all the hang ups and insecurities that weigh me down—I’ve shed my personality and I’m able to express the truest version of myself in that moment.


I’ve always been drawn to creating and writing music. When I was twelve years old, my best friend and I formed a secret band called Foxy Pig (which were the letters that my phone number spelled out). We would record songs on the computer, but we were too shy to perform them live— although my parents were sometimes able to tease a few shaky live renditions out of us. They were always really supportive of my creative pursuits.


I’m so grateful that my parents have always allowed me to explore my interests without judgment or limitations. My dad has been pursuing the same career since he was a young man, and now, almost forty-five years later, he still has the same conviction and passion for it. My mom, on the other hand, found the job that she loves much later in life. Her career path showed me that there are many roads to creative expression, and that the path is not always linear. It chops and changes. Her particular trajectory always allowed me to feel that I have the freedom to change my choices, too. But for now, music is the only thing I’ve found that feels right for me.


I feel lucky to have grown up surrounded by music. When I was a baby, I used to fall asleep in my dad’s arms while he danced to James Taylor’s “Copperline.” Apparently, it was the only way to get me to go to sleep.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson