James Taylor Talks About Austin Venues and Music
People of Austin Profile Series
“Austin is still a place where people can pursue crazy ideas and turn a passion into a paycheck,” says James Taylor, the general manager of Holy Mountain, a bar and live music venue in the heart of downtown’s Red River Cultural District. Between sips of Pearl Snap, we are chatting about the breakneck speed of Austin’s growth. With his buzz cut, plaid shirt, and crisp, dark denim, Taylor has the retro charm of a 1950s comic book hero. But he’s firmly committed to the future of his favorite city.
“Our rich history means that many other music communities around the country and world are looking to see how the creative class will address this growth,” he says. “Can Austin stay affordable? Can the cool that entices companies like Google and Facebook and X Games stay relevant, so those industries stay? We’re at a pivotal time with the opportunity to develop a model that works here and for other creative cities.”
For his part, Taylor, a Houston native who graduated from the University of Texas in 2004, is keeping his knees bent. After years spent booking and managing bands, he found himself yearning to launch his own venue. Holy Mountain (named for a 1973 film directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky) opened last year. With spare, woodsy decor (it’s modeled after a Midwestern basement where you might steal a nip with your grandfather), solid drinks, and an eclectic roster of music, Holy Mountain is poised to evolve with the imminent development (and subsequent shifting demographics) of Waller Creek.
WHEN AND WHERE ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
There’s a two-part answer to this. I genuinely love SXSW because I get to see so many friends from around the country in one place. It’s a great feeling to pick up conversations with people like you just saw them yesterday, even if it’s been a year since you were in the same room together. Fast-forward a week or so later, and you’ll find me and my girlfriend on a plane, taking our annual post-SXSW vacation to wherever, with months of hard work in our rearview.
WHAT MUSICIAN ROCKED YOUR WORLD IN HIGH SCHOOL?
I was a huge Rage Against the Machine fan—my first band was a Rage Against the Machine cover band!
IF YOU COULD SEE ANY MUSICIAN, LIVING OR DEAD, PERFORM LIVE WHO WOULD IT BE?
Oh man, Miles Davis in the year 1970.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DECADE?
If I could have worked for Blue Note Records in the early 1960s…I can’t imagine anything better.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST?
My friendships and the people around me. I have so many great friends who work in the music industry, doing what they love. That inspires me and motivates me.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BANDS RIGHT NOW?
Locally it’s Mighty Mountain, Growl, and Otis the Destroyer. Nationally I can’t stop listening to Volcano Choir.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
The day we opened the doors at Holy Mountain, I honestly felt like my life had changed completely. It became, “Alright, better strap in.” I felt an immense sense of pride—and stress.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AUSTIN VENUE?
Other than my own?! Haha, ACL Live at the Moody Theater for sure.
AND ABOUT THAT OTHER MUSICIAN WITH THE SAME NAME?
My family is British so I actually go by my middle name, Wesley, at home. It’s more common in Britain for men to go by their middle name. My parents never put two and two together that if I decided to go by James my full name would be James Taylor.
IT’S 5:02 P.M. ON A RANDOM TUESDAY. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Sitting on the front porch at The Blackheart enjoying a glass of scotch and a Coors yellow belly.