Did You See This?

James Taylor’s Crate Music

The musician reveals the sound in his big box.

James Taylor is a little odd in the drily methodical way he approaches his music. In the video above, the beloved singer-songwriter reveals the idea behind the huge shipping container parked outside his home recording studio, TheBarn, in the Berkshires, located in western Massachusetts. In an earlier video, Taylor explained in exacting detail the regimen he uses for keeping his fingernails performance-ready—he is one of our best finger-picking acoustic guitarists, after all. And as anyone familiar with Taylor’s music knows, this is a man who revels in the details.

The shipping container is all about adding a touch of reverb to his most recent album, Before This World. Reverb is the effect that recording engineers use for making a recorded voice or instrument sound like it exists in a real-world physical space. In the predigital age—before computerized algorithms could simulate reverb—studios added it to voices and instruments by feeding them into specially painted rooms called “echo chambers.” Each echo chamber had its own sonic personality, and the sound of some of them—such as those the Beatles (and Taylor) used at London’s famous Abbey Road studios—are highly coveted.

A touch of the unique is what Taylor is after with his massive shipping container, and it’s fun to watch him explain just what makes this big crate a sweet-sounding echo chamber.