New York — James Taylor has been writing songs, singing them and playing guitar for more than 30 years. That might be a lifetime career for some people, but Taylor figures he's got at least another 10 good years of singing, playing and song-writing ahead of him.
Right now, he's writing songs for an album due out next summer, experimenting with the method Paul Simon told him he uses: write the melodies, live with them, then write the words.
He's also making wedding plans.
Taylor, 52, is engaged to Kim Smedvig, who does public relations for the Boston Symphony. (Taylor's former wives are singer-songwriter Carly Simon and actress Kathryn Walker.) He's currently writing his songs in Lenox, Mass., where the Boston Symphony spends its summers.
"I'll do another 'Rock in Rio' festival in January," he says. "I may be in Europe a little bit in the spring and tour next summer. My main priority right now is to finish this album and get it to live up to its promise, which is really exciting."
His new CD, "Greatest Hits, Volume II," features 16 songs Taylor recorded for Columbia Records from 1977 to 1997, including "Handy Man," "Up on the Roof," "That's Why I'm Here" and "Never Die Young."
His first "Greatest Hits," released in 1976, sold more than 10 million copies.
Taylor selected his greatest hits by listener requests and radio play.
"Some people can put out a 'greatest hits' that's all No. 1 singles," he says. "I only had one No. 1 single, Carole King's 'You've Got a Friend."'
His self-titled debut album, which included "Carolina on My Mind," was released in 1969 on Apple, the Beatles' label. The following year, Warner Bros. released "Sweet Baby James," which included "Fire and Rain," one of his favorite songs.
The best songs he's written, according to Taylor: "Only a Dream in Rio," "Shed a Little Light" and "God Have Mercy on the Frozen Man." The first two songs are on his new CD; he wants to re-cut "God Have Mercy" with an orchestra.
In introspective, how would he characterize his writing?
"I think I'm thought of as a very intimate, introspective, autobiographical writer," he says.
"Sometimes I wish that weren't true, but that really is how I write."