Chance meeting takes Arlington singer to Dubai

Jesse Taylor is a young country singer who is letting his career take him from Nashville to Hawaii and, today, to Dubai, one handshake at a time.

Taylor, an Arlington native, makes his own brand of original country music and then has taken his guitar and CDs on the road, living out of his pickup truck and singing in bars and at rodeos, selling and sharing his music where he can.

He said he’d rather build a fan base that way than by entering singing competitions and, so far, that seems to be working out real well for him.

Today, Taylor has left for Dubai. He was invited to entertain U.S. Navy troops from the USS John C. Stennis and Carrier Strike Group Three who will be on leave at the port city in the United Arab Emirates. The carrier and strike group deployed in August 2012 from Bremerton and have been operating in the Arabian Gulf since October 2012.

The opportunity for Taylor came from a chance meeting with U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Troy M. Shoemaker, the strike group commander.

But that’s really been Taylor’s fortune so far — being in the right place at the right time.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all. I had no clue,” Taylor said in a phone interview Friday from Arlington. “This is crazy. I’ve never been out of this country and didn’t have any idea about going to Dubai.”

Shoemaker happened to hear Taylor performing in Hawaii last summer when Shoemaker and his wife were visiting the island of Lanai. Taylor was singing at the Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele. He was singing a song he wrote in high school called “American Man.”

“I wrote it when I was working at the feed store in Arlington and I saw a man burning the American flag in the newspaper,” Taylor said. “The flag is a sacred thing to me. So I wrote a song about it and I played it on the porch there and Shoemaker’s wife started crying and I got a standing ovation.”

Taylor’s agent was in the audience as well and he knew Shoemaker was there and a connection was made between the admiral and the singer.

The two kept in contact and the admiral called around Christmastime last year and invited Taylor to sing in Dubai, but Taylor couldn’t go. The singer thought he lost his chance but the admiral called him again and invited him to perform in March.

Taylor said he’s not sure what he’ll play in front of the troops — maybe some Charlie Daniels and Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard but definitely “American Man.”

“There will be 5,000 people and I’ve never played in front of that many before,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he’s not sure what it was that made the admiral take to him and his music. Taylor has a theory, however.

“We got to talking and we country people, we are laid back and there’s no B.S.,” Taylor said. “We give it to you straight so he didn’t have to figure me out.”

Taylor’s country ways and his soulful and down-to-earth country songs have played a big part in his life before.

The singer and songwriter grew up in a rodeo and music family, on six acres with some horses in Arlington. His mom, Doreen, was named after a Johnny Cash song. His dad, Jody Taylor, was a team roper and songwriter.

Jesse Taylor began roping at age 3, was given his first guitar at age 4 and rode his first bull at 14. Young Taylor used to go to the rodeos with his dad to watch him rope.

When he got older, Jesse Taylor did the Pro-West Rodeo circuit that covers Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

At 22, he had recorded 10 original songs in his first album, titled “One Chance to Win.” He went on the road and sold the CDs for rodeo entry fees.

“Luckily I didn’t get hurt,” Taylor said.

During one of those CD-selling trips across the country, Taylor wound up in a little bar in Montana. A woman heard him sing and she told her husband about Taylor. The husband eventually called the singer out of the blue and offered him a job working in Hawaii.

“I thought it was friends playing a joke,” Taylor recalled. “Two weeks later, they flew me out there.

“It worked out pretty good. It was a bunch of luck.”

Taylor was a stable manager at the Four Seasons on Lanai. During the day he would take resort guests on horseback rides and at night he would perform.

“I really wanted to go to Wyoming and I never thought about going to Hawaii,” Taylor said, adding that it was “pretty ranchy up there.”

He met lots of people and felt like he was developing a good fan base of folks from all over the United States. Then there was the night he met the rear admiral.

Taylor spent two years in Hawaii. He returned to the mainland to pursue his music career and recorded his debut studio album, “Out Here in the Country,” at Blackbird Studio in Nashville last November.

The album is scheduled for release March 26. Taylor will be back in the states and hosting an album release party March 23* from 4 to 8 p.m. at Skookum Brewery, 17925 59th Ave. NE, in Arlington. At the release party, Taylor’s dad’s band, Johnny Green and the Pack Stream, will be the opening act.

People can hear the title track from iTunes or through Taylor’s website at www.JesseTaylorMusic.com.

The album release falls on the same day as Taylor’s 26th birthday.

When Taylor returns home, he’s not sure what the future holds. He hopes that his performance overseas leads to some other good opportunities but whatever happens, Taylor said he’ll continue getting the word out about his music like he has been — one handshake at a time.

“I want to be selling my music on my own and then working hard and building that foundation. I think that gets you more respect,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to put anybody down who tries singing competitions but that’s not my style.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

Correction, March 13, 2013: An earlier version of this story omitted the date of the album release party.

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