Connect with us
March 2024
Vol. 23, No. 6

Cover Story

Sandi King and Joshua Taylor: Partners in Life and Music

by Wayne RikerJuly 2023

Joshua Taylor & Sandi King. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Singer-songwriter Sandi King and singer-songwriter-guitarist Joshua Taylor are the creators of the King Taylor Project, spearheading a musical outfit they founded back in 2016, which is still going strong today. A now husband and wife team, their original tunes range from tender ballads to hot buttered soul, highlighted by King’s soulful voice and Taylor’s mesmerizing pop-flavored vocal offerings, often melding together in mellifluous harmonies, supported by a shifting lineup of veteran rhythm section musos.

They first met in March 2015 at an open mic gathering of various local San Diego musical artists as King recalled. “It was basically an artist meet-and-greet gathering where we both got to hear each other perform in different settings.” Taylor quickly added, “Our musical sensibilities were very similar, as we both sensed our deep roots in R&B music.” Beyond their musical connection that night they also sensed a potential personal relationship as they moved quickly in that direction. “Our first date was a few weeks after that encounter,” King said, “in which we knew pretty quickly we were compatible.” Taylor eagerly followed up, “We just started dating and never stopped.”

Promo shot of the King Taylor Project.

Their first official gig as the King Taylor Project, affectionately known as KTP, was in February 2016 for a Natalie Cole tribute. Beforehand Taylor recorded his debut CD About Time at the tail end of 2015 with a purpose in mind. “It was a rush to have my tunes on a record,” Taylor explained, “as we wanted to have a recording to sell for upcoming tours.” Since then, the King Taylor Project has evolved from playing bar and restaurant gigs with a smattering of original and cover tunes to their current identity as a powerhouse R&B outfit, showcasing their original tunes, particularly two recent singles, “Devil in the White City” and “Cars Don’t Run Forever,” which took home Best Indie/Alternative Song at the 2023 San Diego Music Awards.

Without a current expansive repertoire of original tunes yet, Taylor noted that when they play shows nowadays, they showcase his tunes under his name and bill it as Joshua Taylor/King Taylor Project, particularly bolstered by Taylor’s successful 2022 CD release Unscene, nominated for Best Pop Album at the 2023 San Diego Music Awards. However, King’s dynamic lead vocal presence along with her songwriting contributions are adding more diversity to their sound. “I’ve been writing again with the goal of adding new material for us as KTP,” King emphasized. Taylor doubled down on that. “After we cut those two singles as the King Taylor Project, we realized that this is who we are, this is our sound,” he emphasized, “leaning heavily into Sandi’s sound as a singer, which gives us a strong identity as an R&B Soul band,” he concluded.

In the process they have locked in a set rhythm section of Harley Magsino on bass, Josh Weinstein on keyboards, and Tony Econom on drums, occasionally extending out with Jonny Tarr on sax and Lauren Leigh on backing vocals, all loving the collaboration with Taylor and King. “As a guitarist, Josh Taylor is a drummer’s dream player,” Econom exalted. “He’s funky, metronomically solid, and feeds off the drummer’s energy. He’s also a great songwriter. His music is full of dynamics with his tunes, crossing multiple genres—everything from pop-rock to greasy funk and soul. The thing about Sandi,” he continued, “is that she’s frighteningly good at everything she does musically or otherwise. Her ear for vocal harmony is unmatched with her attention to detail being a standout quality. She’s an old soul that lives and breathes music…she’s the real deal.”

Sandi and her pals Chloe Lou and Lauren Leigh.

Vocalist Leigh added, “Their professionalism and passion is only outmatched by how grounded and authentic they are. You can’t help but to want to be in their world. Any musical project is safe in Josh’s hands due to his insane work ethic and drive. He has a knack for finding the perfect tones for the project at hand, with a highly recognizable style. It’s a spiritual experience singing with Sandi, who has been my most consistent backing vocalist partner over the past five years; she’s my favorite person to sing with. Their partnership is idyllic and real and a pleasure to witness. I’m so proud to have had them both on my albums and to call myself their friend,” she concluded. Bassist Magsino chimed in as well, “What a great pleasure working with this couple. Josh and Sandi have great synergy on or off stage; they really make you feel welcomed to their community. King Taylor forever!”

Another outlet for King and Taylor has been their involvement in other artists’ projects, including Jonny Tarr, Astra Kelly, Jeff Berkley, and Rebecca Jade. “It’s important for us to focus on the projects we want to put energy into but also for us to be part of other people’s projects who move us and help us grow as artists,” Taylor stated. “I love playing with other artists just as much as doing our own stuff.” Tarr’s feelings are mutual. “Sandi and Josh have made themselves essential to the San Diego music community whether making their home a rehearsal space or a HOME for whomever of their friends may need it. They share a truly staggering spectrum of talent and are a force to be reckoned with. Also, they both have the best hair in the business…I love these two!”

Kelly continued the many praises for King and Taylor, “They inspire me every day. Even more precious though is that they are truly incredible human beings. Their love, laughter, and generosity in the community is infectious. Their commitment to making great art is superbly authentic. They are the real deal through and through and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.” Singer-songwriter and good friend Stacy Antonel added, “They are so incredibly kind and genuinely want to lift the community up. They’re also wildly talented musicians. Josh is such an intelligent and deeply musical player and songwriter. Sandi’s voice is insane, with an ear for harmony that is unmatched.”

SANDI KING PRE KTP

Sandi and her mom, mid-1990s.

A San Diego County girl, King grew up in Santee and graduated from West Hills High School in 1999. She continued afterwards with general courses at Grossmont College. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet, although I did take a vocal class and a music history class there,” she recalled. After that she lived briefly in Las Vegas while still in search of what she wanted to do. “I was still floating around and thought let’s just see where this takes me…the story of my life,” she quipped.

As far as a career in music, there was always the thought in the back of her mind. “Throughout my teens and twenties I was always looking into people who wanted a vocalist,” she mused. Her father, Ron King, was a well-respected and in-demand trumpet player throughout the Southwest and was a big influence on her musical ambitions. “I had sung with my dad’s big band when I was younger but had never really thought of it as a career per say, especially watching him maintain a musical career while raising a family…it made me think twice at the time, although I knew at some point I wanted music in my life,” she reflected. “Listening to my dad practice in the living room growing up was a soundtrack to my childhood,” she reminisced. “My dad was always supportive, particularly in his later years before he died. I knew how proud of me and how celebratory he was of everything Josh and I did.”

After brief residencies in Orange County in Anaheim and Costa Mesa, King made her way to San Francisco in 2006, subsequently enrolling at the California Culinary Academy there. “I had been hosting and cooking for parties at my house regularly and loved doing that,” she exclaimed. “One of my roommates said I should think about doing this for a living, which sparked my interest in attending a culinary school.” After some intense training there she got hired at Green’s Restaurant by Executive Chef Annie Somerville, a unique and historic restaurant overlooking San Francisco Bay that forever changed the image and appreciation of vegetarian cooking in America. “I loved it there and made a lot of good friends, but after two years I decided to move back to Southern California to be closer to family.”

Landing first in Los Angeles in 2011, she reunited with singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam Bybee, whom she knew back in her high school days. “I started singing harmonies with him on stage,” she stated. “It was working really well so we decided to give it a go, and so we moved back to San Diego to do music full time any way we could,” she concluded.

Sandi & Sam Bybee in 22 Kings, 2014. Photo by John Hancock.

This led to their duo 22 Kings, which became a popular mainstay throughout San Diego County and beyond from 2012 to 2015, culminating in a couple of successful national tours along the way. “I did most of the booking as Sam was the driving factor toward the style of music we performed. We had a huge catalog of music. I had a lot of fun but at a certain point that music wasn’t my strength. I was coming from a more jazz and blues background and starting to feel a bit stagnant musically.”

Looking ahead, King is planning on doing more writing for KTP. “Being recognized by the San Diego Music Awards was a big ego boost for me and has given me confidence in writing tunes that I’m comfortable singing.” In addition, King is thinking seriously about recording a jazz album under her own name. “I’d like to do it as a tribute to my dad who loved playing jazz during his lifetime.” She’s learned much about life and the music business over the years and concluded with these words of wisdom: “You have to be free enough to go with the flow but also still be able to steer yourself in a way that actually makes sense with your own values. That combination of control—and also letting go—has to exist in this industry…especially nowadays.”

JOSHUA TAYLOR PRE KTP

Josh Taylor in the Navy.

Taylor grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where the clarinet had been Taylor’s first instrument in junior high school. “I learned how to read notes and play with others in a band,” he said, followed by a significant moment a few years later during a math class. “My teacher brought his guitar to class one day, and I thought it was really cool. He had long hair and all the girls loved him. That was it for me.” Like most he started with a bargain basement acoustic guitar. “I didn’t know how to tune it, so I just tuned it to an open chord.” At that point his mom, Denise Barber Taylor, a classically trained singer and songwriter, put it in conventional tuning and proceeded to teach him a few chords. His first electric guitar was a Mexican Fender Stratocaster that he received as a 16th birthday present. As far as singing, like many, it developed naturally over time. “I was often singing along with my mom as a kid,” Taylor recalled, “and by 16 I started to realize I had a voice.”

After graduating from Western Heights High School in 2002, he was accepted at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “I’m really thankful to have done it although the enthusiastic kid who did all the work to get there was not the young man I ended up being,” Taylor reflected back on. “It was awesome and awful at the same time, but I made a lot of good friends there.”

As a Surface Warfare Officer Taylor got his first battleship deployment in the Mediterranean. “It was great. We did a show of force around that area while getting to hit a lot of ports, Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Israel,” he recollected. “My last tour was in Afghanistan for about a year. After that I was ready to be out.” Upon leaving the Navy in 2011, Taylor made his home in San Diego after his first wife, a Navy pilot, was stationed at North Island.

Once in San Diego Taylor decided to pursue a degree in counseling psychology at National University. The pursuit of this goal was driven primarily by Taylor’s honest self-introspection. “Having been through therapy myself in my life, I felt as though I could help others as a sort of penance,” he stated. “Then at age 27 and out of the Navy, it was really the first time I addressed myself as an adult, especially during a difficult time in our marriage; honestly, I really wasn’t suited to be anyone’s partner.”

Josh recording at Studio West

Simultaneously, Taylor’s decision to make music performance a full-time pursuit was on the front burner. “I knew a couple of years ahead of leaving the Navy that I wanted to pursue a full-time career in music,” he said. “I started to prepare for it by first purchasing the book Tonal Harmony. Additionally, I took a two-week summer course at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, and I also took a lesson with local guitar icon Bob Boss.”

During this time, while juggling his days as an intern at Palomar Family Counseling Service, he started getting calls for music gigs. “I didn’t know how it would work out between a day job and pursuing a full-time music career, but I’d figure it out,” Taylor said. Between all that and an imminent divorce, he decided to make the leap into the depths of the music scene….and the rest is history!

EPILOGUE

Sandi and Josh with Josh Weinstein at the San Diego Music Awards. Photo by Frank Rodrick.

In conclusion, keyboardist Josh Weinstein summed it all up quite succinctly. “The crazy part about Josh and Sandi is that either one of them could be the subject of this cover story, and yet somehow they are also a couple, and somehow that couple makes music together too. They are my closest musical and personal friends and watching both of them blossom and thrive and become recognized for their endless talent as singers, songwriters, musicians, and creators in general–separately and together–has been incredibly satisfying and rewarding… they are a supergroup in themselves!”

Continue Reading
css.php