Local student to appear in documentary on noted musician

BERKLEE, MASS. — “Life is good.”

That simple phrase is the title of a new documentary on singer, songwriter and Berklee College of Music professor Livingston Taylor, who is the younger brother of legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor. Award winning director Tracey Anarella and music producer Peter Fish are creating the documentary on Livingston, and it will have a Manistee flavor to it.

Award winning singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor who is the brother of singer/songwriter James Taylor is being featured in a documentary called "Life is Good." Taylor (left) is a professor at Berklee School of Music in Massachusetts. Appearing in that documentary will be Manistee resident Nick Veine who is a student of Taylor's at Berklee.

Award winning singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor who is the brother of singer/songwriter James Taylor is being featured in a documentary called “Life is Good.” Taylor (left) is a professor at Berklee School of Music in Massachusetts. Appearing in that documentary will be Manistee resident Nick Veine who is a student of Taylor’s at Berklee.

That flavor comes from Manistee resident Nick Veine, who is finishing up his last year of studies at Berklee College of Music, and is a student of Taylor.  Veine was tapped to be interviewed and sing in the documentary.

Veine, who is the son of Brian and Allison Veine of Manistee, admits that after being asked to appear in the documentary and with his association to Taylor that “life is good” right now for him as well.

“When I first went to Berklee one of the things my dad was doing was researching about all the teachers he had heard about there, and he found out that Livingston Taylor taught Stage Performance there,” said Veine. “So after I got my core classes out of the way and had some electives left, I took Stage Performance I with Livingston and really loved it and then took Stage Performance II.”

Veine said in the Stage Performance II class it was expected there would be a certain number of students who would perform each  week in a place called the Red Room at Berklee, which is a concert venue.

“I did shows there pretty often and our class was there every morning,” said Veine. “When they decided to do the the documentary, it was Livingston’s idea to really focus on his students, and over the course of that semester with the regular stage advice of Livingston, they started filming some stuff.”

Veine said they filmed some of the original music of the students, and he was one of the few they seemed to focus in on more than the others. No stranger to the performance stage, Veine has been a member of the popular group Awesome Distraction along with Chloe Pepera and Kyle Garber.

However, the documentary aspect was something new and different for him.

“There was some interviews and in addition to filming in class, I have been working with Peter in producing one of my own songs in a bit more of a professional manner,” said Veine. “So, I have been heavily involved in the whole process, and it has been really great working with them.”

Veine said they asked him about his experience as a musician and his experience with Taylor.

“They asked me how I felt about him and what I got out of the class, especially what I liked about it,” said Veine.

The experience of having someone as a teacher who has already made his mark in the music business is something Veine said has been a great experience.

“At first it was definitely surreal and that hasn’t worn off, but it is one more of familiarity now,” said Veine. “I had met him one other time shortly during my orientation and the first semester when I got here I ran into him at a little club expo that Berklee was putting on as part of its welcoming thing to get to know the student clubs and that sort of thing around campus.”

Veine said after that he didn’t see much of Taylor until he took the first Stage Performance class.

“We started working with him in the class on things he wanted us to do, and then it was kind of a like an open performance type of thing,” he said. “When it is a performance thing it is a little more of an ambiguous kind of measurement of progress, and he gave us advice on how we could improve our performances, as well as some of our own original songs.”

Students from Berklee School of Music students are shown performing for the camera in the documentary on music professor Livingston Taylor. Manistee resident Nick Veine (T-shirt and shorts in middle) will be appearing in the documentary.

Students from Berklee School of Music students are shown performing for the camera in the documentary on music professor Livingston Taylor. Manistee resident Nick Veine (T-shirt and shorts in middle) will be appearing in the documentary.

The following semester was more comfortable to Veine. He said the Stage Performance II class was smaller in numbers and made up more of students who really want to improve their performance and get to know Taylor better.

“That second semester was more productive in honing those skills, song lyrics and overall stage performance,” said Veine. “There are a lot of students that were in that class that I still stay in contact with that I worked with when I did a recording of Livingston’s songs including the song called ‘Life is Good.’ That is going to be on the documentary.”

He said they did video of some of those students singing Taylor’s song and it was lots of fun.

Veine said Taylor is unique in his performances, his music and and his life. His interesting personality is something that naturally draws people to him.

“When he is on stage it always sounds like he is giving advice even if it is just a casual conversation, as he is a very deep thinker,” said Veine. “His music is interesting as well, in terms of how he delivers it, because he has a very particular guitar style and distinct singing style.  He also has just an infectious stage presence.”

Veine said that those things came out very clearly when he recently saw Taylor perform live. Although he and his brother James each perform some songs they each wrote, Livingston’s music is distinctive and different in many ways.

“There are songs they both have performed, but Livingston has a little bit more of a jazz influence and mostly like jazz standards,” he said. “His voice is a little bit of a combination of James Taylor and Broadway. You can tell that he and James are related, but there is a distinctiveness to him that is different.”

The whole experience and association with Taylor has been a positive one for Veine.

“Honestly, it has improved my songwriting ten-fold lyrically in that everything stays on topic,” he said. “It is a very coherent message in the song and clear delivery, which Livingston stressed. He helped me literally open my eyes more when I sing, as many times when I sing I close my eyes. By keeping them open it gets a better connection with the audience and that is one of the biggest things I took from his class. He always said if you don’t connect with the audience you have nothing.”

Veine said besides that, Taylor is just a fascinating person to meet.

“He is a really neat guy and is someone who if you get the chance to meet him I highly recommend it,” said Veine. “Talking with him for just five minutes, you get a lot out of it.”

At this time Veine  said the producers of the documentary are still working on it. He said that where it will be released and shown hasn’t been determined at this time, but he looks forward to seeing the finished product.

As for himself, Veine looks forward to a busy summer of performing with Awesome Distraction and then hopefully doing some traveling to England, Ireland to Scotland in the fall before he settles into the next chapter of his life.

“I have been mulling over the idea of living in Boston next spring, so I am still playing that a little by ear,” he said.

Wherever the path may lead him, Veine knows the association with Livingston Taylor at Berklee School of Music has left him richer as a person, performer and songwriter.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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