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It’s spring of 2023 in the North Carolina Piedmont, and songwriter and singer M.C. Taylor—leader of the band Hiss Golden Messenger—is feeling alive. Joyful. Eternal, he might say. For the Grammy-nominated musician, whose albums have traced an internal path through adulthood, fatherhood, spirituality, and depression for well over a decade, this is something new. “The tunes on Jump for Joy were composed in free moments throughout 2022, a year during which Hiss was on the road more or less constantly,” explains Taylor. “And perhaps because the post-pandemic energy out in the world felt so chaotic and uncertain, I found myself thinking a lot about the role that music has played in my life and how exactly I ended up in the rarefied position of leading a band and crew all over the globe through dingy graffiti-scrawled green rooms, venerated music halls, dust-blown roadside motels. Sometimes playing in front of 5,000; sometimes 200. Sleeping sitting up. Laughing until my stomach hurts. Not being able to fall asleep at 3 a.m. in some anonymous bed because my mind is spinning with anxiety or depression or adrenaline, or because my ears are still ringing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, then robbing Paul to pay Peter back. Over and over again. It’s an outlaw life but one, I’m coming to realize, that makes me happy.”
The songs that make up Jump for Joy—the sharpest and most autobiographical that Taylor has written under the Hiss name—read as a sort of epistolary, postcards between the present-day songwriter and his alias Michael Crow, a teenaged dreamer very much like Taylor himself, who trips his way through the 14 tunes that make up the record. In this way, Jump for Joy is a meditation on a life lived with art, and the ways that our hopes and dreams and decisions bump up against—and, with a little bit of luck, occasionally merge with—real life. “Creating this character became the way that I could explore these vulnerable, tender moments that were so decisive in my life, even if I didn’t know it at the time,” explains Taylor.
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