Taylor Bennett stays true to himself, ‘doing what I love’
His latest album “Coming Of Age” brings in a number of disparate styles that all mesh well in a highly spirited and moving release.
After spending the first half of his summer performing on “Good Morning America” and “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” and appearing at NYC’s Youth Pride, Taylor Bennett is finally coming back home. The genre-bending music artist and outspoken social activist (like his brother Chance The Rapper) will host a free record release show for his wildly eclectic new album “Coming of Age” at Lincoln Hall on July 22.
It’s the same spot in 2015 where he debuted “Broad Shoulders,” which introduced the world to his undeniable talent and positive lyrical messaging. Bennett recently rewatched video of that early performance and reflected on how times have changed.
“I feel like so much has transpired since then. I’m more advanced as an artist. But the coolest thing is the feeling is still the same. Coming back to Chicago and hitting that stage again, it makes me feel like I succeeded. I’m doing what I love, but I’m still me and that’s priceless,” Bennett shared in a recent phone conversation from his hometown.
Even with his rising profile, Bennett still lives in and does most of his business in Chicago, where his earliest foundation was established while he grew up in the West Chatham neighborhood.
“Not only do I love living in this city, but when I come home and do these shows it’s an opportunity to show the growth of me as an artist and person,” he added.
In addition to finding his partner and welcoming two young children in recent years, there was also the transformational moment in 2017 when Bennett used his Twitter platform to come out as bisexual, an experience that galvanized him to promote self-acceptance with his fans.
“Since that time, I’ve tapped even more into who I am and my expression of what I love, what I believe, what I support.”
Shortly after, he released an album called “Be Yourself” in 2018 and, today, Bennett continues putting his voice behind that message on his latest tour, which stopped at a number of college campuses in May, including Northwestern University, where he talked to students about embracing their identities and making the world a more inclusive place.
“What we do makes such a big difference,” said Bennett. “This is going to be our country, our world, our children’s world after us, and it’s up to us to step up and figure out how to make it better.”
It echoes what he gleaned from watching his father advocate when he was younger. Ken Williams-Bennett has worked in local politics for a number of years, including as an aide to Harold Washington and on Barack Obama’s congressional and presidential campaigns.
“My dad used to take me to the Streets & Sanitation building or the Senate’s office or City Hall. I may not have been in the room, but seeing these places, I understood it’s so important, the work he’s done helping South Side, West Side African-American communities and other communities around Chicago. A lot of politicians do a lot of talking but my dad was the guy in the back room making sure something was coming out of it.”
His mother, Lisa, who also worked in local government and real estate, was also a big influence, in part for how she conducted business, but also for introducing the young Bennetts to a wide variety of music. “ My mom bought [an album by the Killers] that we played in the car constantly,” Taylor shared, “that’s when I fell in love with more experimental rock ’n’ roll.”
It’s a style that’s apparent on his latest album, “Coming of Age,” that brings in a number of disparate styles that all mesh well in a highly spirited and moving release. As an independent artist, like his brother who has become a model for going label-less, Bennett is able to maintain that creative control, allowing him to collaborate with Jeremih, the Plain White T’s and Matt & Kim on the same record. Noticeably missing though is Chance, who has appeared on all of Taylor’s previous albums.
“I didn’t think about having a Chance feature until the album was nearly finished. This project was so much about my own self-expression of the things I loved when I was growing up, when Chance wasn’t even in the studio yet,” Bennett said, laughing. “He’ll probably read this and be like, ‘That’s a bad excuse.’ That’s the truth though.”