Folk legend James Taylor returned to North Carolina to perform at Merlefest, and Sarah French sat down with the singer-songwriter.
WILKESBORO, N.C. -- James Taylor didn't just go to Carolina in his mind.
The acclaimed singer-songwriter returned to his home state of North Carolina for a special performance this past weekend.
"It's just home on so many different levels," Taylor says. "It's a beautiful part of the world."
We're all familiar with Taylor's love of the his southern heritage from his music.
"Copperline" and of course "Carolina In My Mind" feature our beloved state. What's not as well known is Taylor's deep southern roots.
Taylor describes his father's connection with North Carolina in a single word: profound.
"His forbears in the mid 1600s settled and founded the town of New Bern on the coast and then a branch of the family headed west and settled here, in the western part of the state," Taylor says.
While Taylor himself has become an icon within the Carolinas, his father also has a historic past.
Isaac M. Taylor was Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
"He and a man named Doctor Barry Hill essentially built it from a two-year premedical program to being a full on medical school," Taylor says.
While Taylor currently resides in Massachusetts, it didn't seem to prove too difficult to sell the Grammy Award winning artist on a trip back to his origins.
Taylor performed for the first time at the 30th anniversary of Merlefest, an annual festival held in Wilkesboro to celebrate 'traditional plus' music. And we can all thank someone close to the NBC Charlotte family for the special performance...
Taylor was convinced by close friend, 14-time Grammy Award Winner Jerry Douglas, who is the cousin of our very own Sarah French.
"I called him to see if he would do it... And he said yeah, 'I'd love to do that,'" Douglas says.
Douglas and Taylor have a close relationship with one another, due in part to their mutual love of music. This shared passion has provided the pair with some amazing experiences, such as performing at Carnegie Hall as well as with Tony Bennett.
"He asks me to come to Carnegie Hall, I ask him to come play in a pasture in North Carolina," Douglas says.
"I think it's a pretty good trade actually! This pasture... it's amazing!" Taylor says. Taylor was joined on stage by Douglas' group, The Transatlantic Sessions. The musical group is made up of Scottish and Irish musicians, making their U.S. debut. Of course, the group had to play one song in particular for Merlefest... Carolina In My Mind.
"I could even plan not to do it and it would happen, so I'm just going to go ahead and give in," Taylor jokingly says.
Growing up in Chapel Hill, 'Carolina In My Mind' is a song very close to the singer's heart.
"It just means a lot to me, a lot of memories are associated with it," Taylor says.
Besides playing the beloved song, Taylor has another item on his North Carolina check list... barbecue.
"Mostly pulled pork barbecue and Neese's pork sausage... There! I made a plug!"