“Highs and Lows” by MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger

Post Author:
Hiss Golden Messenger

My name is M.C. Taylor.

I played a show with the songwriter Cass McCombs in Los Angeles once. Maybe this was 2002? He told me he liked how I played the guitar. We both made no money that night; I thought he was just fine. I love his music now; his greatness was not evident to me then. People change, they get better, they get stronger. This is important, that people evolve. I rode with my father home to my parents’ house after that gig. We stopped and ate dinner at an Italian chain restaurant, as I recall. There was no great reason for it. But then there is no great reason for any of this.

Once I opened for Wilco at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California. There were probably 5000 people there. My microphone wasn’t on for half of the set. People in the audience yelled to tell me that my microphone wasn’t on, that they couldn’t hear me sing. I thought that my big break had passed me by. Their sound person was fucking with us, that’s how I took it. Now I think it was a genuine mistake, just some bad luck.

Once I bought an eight ball of cocaine in Columbus, Ohio. The transaction took forever. Many phone calls and sketchy dudes. We rode around the Southeast, listening to Michael Hurley, always looking in the rear view mirror, ready to dissolve the coke in a bottle of water if we got pulled over. I have no idea if that would have worked.

We used to get so stoned before we got on airplanes. I would never do that now. Now I take Ativan when I fly, I’m so afraid the plane is going to crash.

I was in New York on September 11. We were supposed to play at the Knitting Factory on September 12, 2001. When the first plane hit the first tower, we all woke up and our friend Linda said it was probably just a garbage truck. And within 15 minutes the world had changed.

When I was 18 years old, I played in someone’s laundry room in El Paso, Texas, and made twenty dollars. It was one of the great shows of my life. We felt so big, so strong, so free. I was a kid then. I knew nothing and I was probably better for it. I would lay up in the loft of our van and look out the back window — stare at the trees of the great Hudson River Valley passing us by on an afternoon in the rain — and felt like everything was working out the way I had planned. 18 years old. I was one dumb fucker. Though things have worked out very well; I’m alive and still connected. But it had nothing to do with me, really — I’ve just been lucky, and I've begun to understand the value of hard work and sincerity. I’ve been surrounded by powerful people — emotionally powerful people — who have lifted me up and carried me along, even when I didn’t deserve it, even when I didn’t pull my weight.

I made this record called Bad Debt around 2010 in the midst of a crisis of faith and existence. But hey, we all experience that every day. I sure do. I’m not an exceptional person. There are no big breaks and no brass rings. Only work, work, work — everyday, work. Stretching back and forth across time. Work.

Hiss Golden Messenger's Bad Debt reissue is out now on Paradise of Bachelors.