Is there a gene for how you play a D chord on a guitar?

Ben Taylor jokes that his father reckons there is, for Ben forms the chord in exactly the same unorthodox way James does. Ben says it's just that as a self-taught player, he copied the moves of the musician he admires most - his dad.

Whatever bits are nature and whatever bits are nurture, though, there is no denying the powerful inter-generational inheritance here. Ben Taylor looks like his dad, plays like his dad, sings like his dad and works in broadly the same genre as his dad. His path in music was kind of predestined, by genes, by upbringing, by audience expectation. He accepts that.

"The truth of the matter is my voice does sound a lot like my dad's and my guitar playing sounds a lot like my dad's. I love his music. I wouldn't want to sound like anybody more than that," he said, adding:


"His guitar playing really is distinctive. There are a couple of just different shaped chords. You know, everybody plays their Ds like that and he plays his Ds like this. It just makes for easier hammering on with the index finger, because he taught himself how to play, essentially, too."

Sitting in the musical-equipment strewn living room of his Lambert's Cove home, on the estate he shares with his equally-famous musical mother Carly Simon, if Mr. Taylor feels even the slightest pressure about living up to his musical heritage, it doesn't show.

Nonetheless, he conceded, it was far from inevitable he would go into the family business.

"No, it was not inevitable. Not at all. I was resistant to the idea for quite a long time. It seemed like an opportunity for me to apply too much pressure on myself to be good at it. So I resisted until I was in my twenties [he is 30 now]. It's only relatively recently that I started actively pursuing music.

"I thought there were other jobs where I might get a lot of fresh air and see a lot of sunrises. But it turns out I'm getting lots of cigarette smoke that other people are breathing, and seeing lots of sunsets."

Nor did his parents ever try to push him toward music, although his childhood was surrounded by it at home, on tour buses and on stages. It just happened that in the end he could find nothing more compelling to do with his time.

"All my heroes were musicians or like kung fu superheroes. In the end, musician seemed like less work, although I'm trying to work on both as actively as I can," he smiled.

And having decided to get into the biz, there was not a lot of choice about what sort of music it would be.

"I love hiphop music more than anything else in the world, but of course that's not the kind of music I could come out and make. I would have to laugh at myself. That's not where I came from and everybody knows that. And I know that better than anybody else."


So it had to be, for want of a better term, folk. Not that he is wild about the stereotypes which come with the genre - "guys with bushy mustaches and cardigan sweater vests.

"The next album I'm working on, I'm reaching towards a new genre which I'm trying to coin, Kung folk. Folk with a kick."

There have been two previous albums, but that is far from his whole catalog. One thing Mr. Taylor is acutely aware of, both because of his parents' experience and because technological changes are making the old-fashioned album a dying format, is the need to control your product and market yourself cleverly.

"Now," he said, "the real money is to be made on the road and through publishing.

"My father . . . has always said CDs are just promotional devices to get people to your concerts, and your merchandise. I think he's been really smart to look at his life that way, even in the music world of yesterday. That was an opinion carved into my thinking."

To that end, he tours hard - he reckons he's played many more nights than he's had off this year - and he micro-markets.

"If you are fortunate enough, as I happen to be, to own the rights to your own music, not married to a label or any kind of entity that is in turn married to any format, then the options are endlessly open and there are cool ideas and opportunities popping up all the time.

"Recently [while touring Britain and Ireland] I've been selling music on little USB memory sticks at shows, and giving people menus of songs. So they get the stick with the content on it for 10 pounds and an additional 50 pence, they can buy any song and for five pounds additional they can buy an album.

"They can also bring their own memory stick. It's been a really cool way of selling stuff that I haven't really formalized and put on an album. I've got all these different versions of things, so if my fans really like a song, there are six different versions they can listen to and buy if they like.


"And I'm working on it so when I go out next winter I'll have it such that we record every night exactly as it is and we'll have a default mix set up so we can bounce them down and people can buy that show or any song they particularly liked.

"In a way it's a lot easier to succeed, because success can happen in a much more micro way. You can hold onto your songs, hold onto your publishing and hold onto your career and all of a sudden if you sell 50,000 copies of something, it's a tremendous success."

But such success comes at a cost. You can't just be a studio artist; you have to be out there, before the people.

"It's funny," Mr., Taylor said, "before I started doing music professionally and touring around I always used to travel, any time I got vacation. Now any time I get vacation all I want to do is go home."

These days, that means the Vineyard.

"I was born and raised in New York, but I always came up here in the summertime," he said. "Now we don't have the place in New York, so this what I call home."

A nice antidote to the road-life regime of waking up at 7 a.m., doing a radio show followed by an in-store performance at noon and a concert at night. And then driving overnight to the next town to do it all over again.

"Anywhere you go, it all starts to look the same," he said.

"It's all the same galloping, global, corporate Starbucks Gap."

On the Vineyard he finds comfort in the absence of that big corporate thing and in the fact that all the buildings and places that he remembers from childhood are still there, and that change happens at a more tolerable and comprehensible rate.

Mr. Taylor fears that the Island is outpricing itself, lauds the quality of stuff to be found at the dumptique and laments the fact that the highest percentage of it seems to come from the homes which are occupied for the least amount of time.


And he puzzles over an Island mystery.

"I see the same people every time I go into Cronig's. I believe there are people who never leave Cronig's; they just wander the aisles," he said.

More seriously, he worries a little about the indigenous arts scene on the Island.

"I think the scene here is corrupted a little bit by what happens in the summer with the influx of fantastic Hollywood people. This sudden influx of really high-end artistic people I think distorts the relationships between the full-time local people," he said.

As for the state of the broader world, Mr. Taylor calls himself disengaged and discouraged.

"It's becoming more and more difficult to become a philanthropist because you really have to work hard to understand where your money's going when you're trying to be generous. Trying to give your money to charity is complicated and requires work. There's only a couple of things I can bear to be involved in," he said.

His main cause is opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing, an interest sparked by the sentencing of his best friend to 15 years in jail for a drug offense.

His has many stories of injustice.

"Like an old woman in Alabama whose husband was a cop and died of cancer and the pension doesn't kick in and she's like starving to death. And this woman went out to sell his pain medication to get some money to eat. And she went to sell it to an undercover cop. And she's in jail for like seven consecutive life sentences and it was the first thing she'd ever done wrong because it proved to be this powerful pain medicine and he had tons of it."

He continues: "There are no shortage of problems that need solving. The smallness of the modern world means you can always connect to people who can appeal to your sense of justice. So there's lots of benefits every year that I do for different things. Music is easier for me to come up with than money."

He plays a benefit this weekend on Nantucket for the Soundkeeper organization.

But before that he plays Saturday night at the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle.

"It will be me and my girlfriend Meredith Sheldon. She plays in my band. And my mum and my sister [Sally] are probably going to come and do some duety things and backup. And my buddy Rick Marotta, if he's in town, said he's going to come and play some hand drums.

"I'm really looking forward to it. This will be my first time on that stage. I've seen my uncle Liv there and my dad," he said, confessing to a little nervousness.

"I think probably my mum and my dad and Livingston and [his aunt] Kate have all played at the Tabernacle before. So I guess it is something of a family tradition."