VALDOSTA — Cole Taylor knows that the once “impossible dream” represented by the call of Nashville is no longer out of his reach.
The list of successful country music singers and songwriters with Southwest Georgia roots — Luke Bryan, Dallas Davidson, Ray Stephenson, Stokes and Andrew Nielson — just keeps getting longer.
But Taylor’s also smart enough to know that Nashville only comes calling for those prepared to answer the call. That’s why he spent the past year polishing off 11 new songs that he released Saturday on his second album, “Cab of My Chevy.”
And that’s why he ping-pongs back and forth between two worlds: The world of academia at Valdosta State University, where he is a junior accounting major, and the world of smoky bars and honky tonks where a growing number of fans come to hear his songs.
“The main purpose of getting this CD out now is to give fans new music,” Taylor said. “I hope they’ll see a huge increase in the maturity level of the music and the songwriting. This CD — with the artwork, the writing, the production, the material — everything’s 100 percent more mature than my first album.
“Frankly, I hope this is the last album I have to put out myself. I hope that when I move to Nashville — soon — it gives me what I need to prove myself as an artist.”
“Cab of My Chevy” is certainly a huge leap forward for the 20-year-old artist who released his debut album, “That Will Always Be Home to Me,” in 2009 at the age of 17.
“That’s the kind of stuff I was into at 17, a lot of party songs,” Taylor says of that early effort. “The new songs are very personal, but they’re not necessarily about me. They’re my observances.”
The subject matter of “Cab” certainly has a stamp of maturity Taylor did not show on his first album. “Tailgate Time” is about the intricacies of a father-son relationship, while “Me and This Old Hat” is a look back on the life the character in the song has lived.
Taylor even sings about how some of his more party-hearty fans must feel the morning after a night out at the bar in “Good Times.”
“I always want to grow as a writer,” the artist said. “I read and listen, try to learn how I can get better. I think if I ever get to the point where I’m satisfied with what I’m doing, I’ll just quit.”
If the writing on “Cab of My Chevy” — for which Taylor said he wrote the title track “out of a dream in five minutes after waking up at 3 a.m.” — shows significant maturity on the singer’s part, the production and musicianship on the album is worlds beyond “That Will Always Be Home to Me.”
“We brought in some Nashville musicians, some of the best available,” Taylor said. “Vocally and musically, this album blows my first one out of the water.”
Recorded and produced by Gary DiBenedetto at Studio D Recordings in Moultrie, “Cab of My Chevy” features Jason Roller on fiddle, Steve Cummings on drums and DiBenedetto on dobro, mandolin and steel guitar. The producer’s daughter, Memarie, provides backing vocals.
Stephen Harrell, Leigh Wright, Jeff Parson and Gary DiBenedetto co-penned the 11 tracks on “Cab,” although Taylor wrote “Me & This Old Hat” and the title cut alone. Taylor is returning the favor for Harrell, helping write songs for the Albany singer/songwriter’s forthcoming album.
“It kind of shows you what I mean about being a more mature writer,” Taylor said. “The songs we’re writing for his album are so good, I wish we were writing them for me.”
Taylor’s fans will notice more variety on the new disc as well. Along with the “George Strait-sounding country” that he’s known for, there’s some country rock and even a little “R&B feel” thrown into the mix.
“It’s what I was feeling with this record,” the singer said. “I think the fans are going to like it.”
Meanwhile, Taylor takes a little time out of his studies each day to work on what he feels is his future. He books shows in the area every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and he puts aside a little time for writing.
“I wish I could say I’m doing it just for fun, but it’s become a business, too,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m getting from college, the business part of it. If you’re going to do this right, you have to do it like a business.”
And then when Nashville comes calling ...