CCM Hall of Fame: Steve Taylor

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Page 66

CCM Magazine
August 2005 Volume 28 Issue 2
© 2005 Salem Publishing
Page 66

Over the past two decades, Steve Taylor has been an extremely influential figure in contemporary Christian music--from his early days as a pioneering new waver to his long-term tour of duty as record producer and video director to his relatively short stint as a groundbreaking label exec. Today, he is putting the finishing touches on his first major motion picture.

Studying music and film in college in the late 1970s, Taylor's imagination was captured when he discovered The Clash. Enamored with the passion with which the band articulated the problems of the world, Taylor felt a burden to articulate some answers. Consequently, he began writing a new kind of Christian music, a brash new wave matched to acerbic lyrics that challenged listeners to think about their faith and the world in a different way.

Fresh out of college, Taylor--a youth pastor--took his music around to the Christian record labels of the day, but execs were skittish. Then a key appearance in 1982 at the famed annual Christian Artists Conference in Estes Park, Colorado--his first live set, in fact--led to a deal with Sparrow Records.

The label tested the waters with the six-song EP I Want To Be A Clone. Christian music fans snapped it up, paving the way for a series of acclaimed full-length albums chock-full of the irrepressable energy, conviction and humor that Taylor fans came to expect. (And don't get us started about those live shows, aerobic events that inevitably led to a broken ankle at Taylor's mainstage performance during the very first Cornerstone Festival, leading to the famous t-shirt slogan, "Did he jump or was he pushed?").

While Taylor became the first Christian modern rocker to surpass 150,000 copies in sales per album, his satirical style often went over the heads of stuffy legalists.

Following 1987's I Predict 1990, Taylor temporarily retired from Christian music for a brief period with the band Chagall Guevara, comprised of Christian music veterans, and signed to MCA Records. Despite strong reviews and national college radio airplay, the band fell victim to modest sales and restructuring at MCA and was short-lived.

Returning to the Christian music industry, Taylor made a triumphant comeback with a new solo album, Squint, which landed his second Grammy nomination. He also began to apply his talents to the aid of others, working as producer, songwriter and/or music video director for the likes of Newsboys, Twila Paris, Rich Mullins, Margaret Becker and Guardian. As his work became more elaborate and more creative, inflating his Dove Award collection, it soon became clear he had bigger aspirations.

In 1997, Taylor launched Squint Entertainment, a new label under Word Entertainment. He also produced the first release, Sixpence None The Richer's self-titled album; the multi-platinum-seller included the international No. 1 pop hit, "Kiss Me," which Taylor had to convince the band to include on the album. As Squint spread its creative reach, the label signed such artists as Chevelle, Burlap to Cashmere and L.A. Symphony.

Alas, Squint was eventually caught up in label politics, as parent label Word changed hands. The dream that was Squint Entertainment no longer had a place for Steve Taylor or his hand-picked staff (which included CCM editor Jay Swartzendruber).

Taylor took the time on his hands as an opportunity for a career change--for years, he had made it clear he had his eye on working in film. Today, he is on the verge of his big screen directorial debut. The Second Chance, a major motion picture starring Michael W. Smith, is slated for nation-wide theatrical release September 9.