The singer-songwriter, who has notched 11 US top 40 hits, told The AP that discomfort and sadness have inspired many of his most well-known songs.
"I don't think happiness is a gift of the gods," Taylor asserted. "I think you have to be motivated by something."
He added: "Being entirely satisfied and comfortable makes for a nice potato. Stress, as long as it doesn't beat you down and defeat you, is good. And finding a way out of a confusing and baffling life situation gives you something to offer other people."
Taylor further explained that he is often perplexed by the state of his career as, while he is highly regarded by his devoted fans, he has never quite attained the mass appeal of stadium-filling rock acts like The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
He remarked: "I have a strange, in-between career. I'm known and established, but I still have to work at it, to promote things. I'm not the Stones, I'm not Springsteen, I'm not Elton John. I'm not Justin Bieber, I'm not Lady GaGa or Britney [Spears]. I can't take 35 people on tour in Europe - maybe 20 performers in the world can.
"I'm envious of them, but I also have a private life. I know my siblings say I'm not living a real life, but I feel like I am. Up where I live [in Massachusetts], some people come up to me, some decide not to. But always, everyone's very considerate. I like my audience - they're people just like me."
Earlier this year, Taylor broke his leg while on a ski trip with his family. Doctors were able to apply a splint, however, so the musician could continue skiing.
> Taylor, Quincy Jones receive US cultural honours
Watch James Taylor perform 'Fire and Rain' below: