Interview: Julian Taylor has many irons in the fire, and can’t wait to see “his” band again

The Deputy Editor finally managed to bridge the time gap to talk to Julian Taylor at home in Canada.  He explained about how his latest albums came about, spoke about his new career-spanning release, and confessed his love of Led Zepplin in this wide-ranging (who said rambling?) interview.

Hello Julian, glad we’ve finally managed to do this.  Where are you?  Oh, and I can see that you’ve got a much more professional setup than I have.

Well, I have to do some recording for my radio show and recording demos here so I have to have a little bit of equipment. I’m in Toronto at the moment, I’m here now and I’ve got a couple more shows throughout the year but I’m not gallivanting around all over the place for the next couple of months. I like it – but it’s also nice to be home.

I think the last time we spoke was  after the Green Note, no it was

The Water Rats

Yes, The Water Rats with the band – it’s been quite a year for you in the UK

I’ve loved it I’ve had such a great time.

How did you find the audiences –  was it different from a Canadian audience where I guess more people already know you?

Yeah, yeah I love the audiences in Great Britain and certainly in Europe as well, definitely a different experience for me than back home because back home you run into the scenario where more people will know you and personally know you as well depending on where you are in Canada. Certainly, if I play Toronto I have a lot of my family and friends who’ve known me for my entire life even before music which is hard to believe but nobody in UK knows me for any other reason other than I suppose for my music which is nice.  It’s a change, it’s nice to be able to befriend people like yourself and become friends with people over time each time I come back.

Yeah was this your first European tour ?

Yeah, the first time was in January when we met in person and the second time was in the Summer.  The first time I’ve ever been over across the pond.

It must be quite strange I guess we know you best for your most recent two albums ‘The Ridge’ and ‘Beyond the Reservoir’ but you have this long history of music before that it’s quite a strange thing that we don’t already all know your back catalogue and it’s sort of strange for us because it’s like you burst into the scene in the Americana and folk area – that double strangeness, how do you feel about that?

Oh I feel great about it it’s just so strange because knowing I’ve been doing this for 25 years it’s shocking to me I get over there and I play a song and people say to me where’s that on the record and I say “oh, it’s an old one”.  For me old is like 20 years or two decades and it’s a long enough time I would have to say, wouldn’t you?

Yeah definitely it’s old but for us…

It’s brand new

Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of good review for the albums but it’s the last two albums the people have been aware of and it’s a bit of a change because the earlier music is more rock and Blues and funk mix.

Album cover art for Julian Taylor's 'Anthology Vol. 1'It’s quite a mix but there still songs in the same real.  The last Julian Taylor Band record ‘Avalanche’ was certainly a little rockier, a little funkier, but still in the same realm.  I don’t think that I’ve changed much of what I do apart from maybe the Staggered Crossing stuff with the heavy rock stuff comes into mind and certainly the Julian Taylor Band’s funk side.  It did inspire me to work on the ‘Anthology Volume One’ that I’m releasing in October (read our review here), because in Great Britain and in Europe they didn’t know who I was previous to their first introduction to my music, and of me, in the last couple of years.  So I thought it was important to go in and do that. Most of the songs still tell stories.

Yeah, yeah you’ve said when performing live that there’s a lot of biographical material in the songs and even a song like ‘Bobbi Champagne’ the fell into the fire line is a genuine thing that actually happened to you.  I guess the last two albums are a lot more singer-songwriter, what drove that not exactly a new direction but a bit of a change?

I was just driven by wanting to speak to some very personal matters and didn’t feel like that was best suited with a band roaring behind me you know.  That’s all it was.  It just turned out that I’d been hanging out with my cousins during the Summer and just doing some kind of back-porch jams with them and it seemed to sound really cool and my cousin Gene and my cousin Barry, when ‘The Ridge’ was being recorded I just said “Hey, you guys wanna come down and jam out” and not really thinking much about it and just thinking it would be fun.  And it’s an interesting thing about family band, how we understand each other in different ways that kind of runs through blood if you know what I mean, it’s weird.  It’s a good thing, it’s not a weird thing, it’s really good.

You mentioned about how you know a lot of people when you’re out playing and you do seem to be very well-connected.  You’ve got people like Miranda Mulholland on fiddle on ‘The Ridge.’

Yeah.

And I was talking to Allison Russell a few weeks ago, and we were talking about how the Americana scene is a nice community and I just mentioned about being at the AMAUK Awards and how we’d been talking for a minute about Robert Plant, and then he was standing virtually behind us.  And Allison was saying how nice he was backstage, and about how she also knew you – so there’s that community thing and you seem to know everyone.

Well, I guess.  After twenty-five years you kind of get to know people in all sorts of realms and it’s nice.  You get to know people all over the place and the music community in Canada for sure it’s relatively small it seems like it might be that way in Great Britain too.  The United States is so vast so I’m not sure.  As soon as you meet one person you get to meet another person and it kind of trickles that way, if you’re lucky and if you’re honest and you’re kind.  Most of the time that’s how it goes.  I met Allison a few years back when she was at Mariposa when she was in Birds of Chicago.

Yes that was sort of what we were talking about.  She’s obviously doing so fantastic now but the first time I saw her was in Birds of Chicago in a small venue a few miles away and it wasn’t even a full room.  And it’s very interesting that sort of switch and I guess in a way it’s like you’re doing the same sort of thing, there were lots of nice reviews from things like the Cambridge Folk Festival.  Do you feel like the Americana and European music scene is something that you’ll be going into more in the future?

Oh yeah, definitely I love focusing my energy and space there for sure.  I love it. I loved the Cambridge Folk Festival that was amazing and that was my first gig with the band so we were all a little nerve-wracked you know.  We got up there and I screwed up first so that was like that was probably the best news I made the first mistake so that probably puts everyone else at ease.  But, wow, there were thousands of people there just hanging out waiting to hear the songs and see the set.  I was pretty moved by that, it was crazy.

And what a great band.

Oh my God aren’t they great?  That sort of came through Americana fest’ actually ‘cause they were the house band, or part of the house band that night Sian, Michelle and Raevennan (Michelle Stodart – Bass and Vocals, Raevennan Husbands- Guitar, Vocals and Keys, Sian Monaghan – Drums and Vocals) were members of the house band that night.  And Raevennan and I met at the after party and we were chatting and I told her I was playing at the Green Note and whatnot and I got on the guest list and said come on by and I’d love to come back and she said I’ve got some friends and so she called Michelle and Sian and the four of us got on pretty great right away and that’s how the band came to be.  Michelle was the MD and yeah through introductions at Americana UK that’s how that all transpired.  And they were the perfect fit and I can’t wait to see them again and play again, what a great bunch of girls, just such powerful musicians.

Oh yeah it really was one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year.

Oh excellent.

Yeah, it took some songs that I already knew and really opened the sound out a lot.  So what’s next for Julian Taylor – you’ve mentioned the anthology.

Anthology comes out October 20th.

And that’s covering the whole of your career and there’s also some new songs ?

There’s some older songs that have actually been re-recorded and realised.  There’s a song called ‘Georgia Moon’ another one called ‘City Song’ and there’s one more called ‘Long Time Ago’ that’s coming out on the day of release.  So that’s sort of bridging the gap until my next record which was recorded partly in Nashville and partly on Six Nations Reserve, parts of it were recorded there.  With producer Colin Linden.  Colin, he’s played with The Band, in fact the song ‘The Remedy’ he wrote that, later on after Robbie left.  It’s on their ‘Jericho’ record.

‘Anthology Volume one’…that sort of suggests that there’s a Volume 2

That was the idea there were so many songs that I couldn’t fit onto volume one.  It’ll be a double vinyl and then volume two will come out in a few years, I’m sure

It’s not an immediate plan.

No, not immediate, the next record, the new record of original material that will be the next thing that I release in 2024.  It’s an introspective record, it’s more about a personal journey than personal experiences in a way a lot of my records have been about personal experiences and those stories.  These are different kinds of stories, these are internal conflicts and internal stories that I’ve written about for this record that comes out in 2024, primarily – there’s still some funny stories and cool stories that actually happened for sure and there are some political angles but the majority of the new record will be focused on inner strength, inner battles it’s a very what’s the word I’m looking for – more introspective in terms of soul searching.

Some of the stories you have in your songs obviously very personal and some of the events, not so great – I’m thinking of maybe ‘Murder 13’.

That’s not a great event.

No, obviously not, no – is it cathartic to write a song about that and how does it feel to perform it.

It’s hard to perform it sometimes, it takes a lot out of me, hard to talk about too.  You know he’s not the only friend that I’ve had that has been murdered but he’s the closest.  That time my life is so… everything seems so close and yet so far away.  You know and, yeah, it is a bit cathartic to have some sort of self-reflection on the experiences that I’ve had for sure.  So I do that and I also have fun, I also try to have fun I don’t want to be all sad and doom and gloom.  It seems like I am when it comes to my music, but there are so many complexities within our lives that deserve the attention and care that we have to talk about them in some sort of way.  Yeah it’s a hard thing to talk about some of these difficult moments, I guess that’s why I wrote the songs as a way of conversing and connecting

Actually when I hear you you’re one of the most positive, although some of the events you’re describing are not very positive, you yourself have a very positive view of them –  you know you try to see the good or the paths to the future or the power from resistance to unpleasant events.  I think we spoke at one point, or maybe it was an e-mail,  and although you are completely different you remind me of Richie Havens sometimes, that kind of very positive outlook.  Does that make any sense?

Well to be compared to Richie Havens is a high honour so thank you Jonathan.

It’s OK, it’s like you’re trying to communicate, I think is what I’m trying to say, something real.

Yes I agree 100% that is my mission that’s my mantra.

Are you likely to be coming back over to Europe to tour again soon?

Yeah, I can’t wait.  I hopefully will be back over there in 2024 around when the record pops.  You know it’s an interesting record because it’s not… I need to try to write an uptempo song.  That’s what people keep telling me! And I’m trying my best but most of it is definitely quite as you say cathartic and sombre in a way,  when you meet me I’m not really like that.

No and a song like ‘Seeds’ it’s completely about overcoming difficulties and surviving but it doesn’t sound that on the first time of hearing that’s a very upbeat song it’s got some power behind it and the outlook isn’t…

It’s not doom.

Yes it’s not doom, it’s “these terrible things happened and we survived”

And not only with surviving with thriving yeah so that’s important too.  When I write it’s like I write so that it can be explained in simple layman’s terms to somebody who’s not an adult, I would say.  There are some of my songs which are very hard to navigate in terms of what I’m trying to say and lyrically it can be a bit difficult, but I think a song like ‘Seeds’ is quite straightforward and the same with ‘Bobbi Champagne’ even though nobody knows what it’s about they like singing it so that’s cool.

People do like the opportunity to put hands in the air.

Yeah, that’s the other part of music, it’s about dancing and clapping and singing along and really another part of connectivity.  It doesn’t always have to be about lyrics and stories, sometimes the story can be the beat you know and that helps move you and if it helps move you that helps connect you with other people who are moving.  Even if it’s a tap of the foot.

Did you find the UK audiences did react well to that, people sometimes say that we’re very quiet and we listen.

I don’t mind that being from Canada, I’m used to it, at least you guys sit and listen and then clap.  No, I’m just kidding; Canadian audiences are great.  Audiences all over the world are great but I really enjoyed my time in Great Britain the love and support that Europe and Great Britain showed me so I’ll be back.

One of our standard questions is we like to share music on the site do you have any music you’re currently listening to that you’d like to share?

Yeah sure – there’s a really cool record, it’s an instrumental record so I don’t know if that counts.

Sure, anything, we listen to anything.

It’s a cool record I really dug it it’s a Mexican record, it’s called ‘Hoy Como Ayer’ by Hermanos Gutiérrez.

Ah yes!

You know it?

Yes – I haven’t heard of the whole album but I featured a couple of their tracks.

It’s a pretty cool album – it’s two brothers.  I just love the whole thing, you can put it on and just vibe out and not worry about anything, I like that a lot.  And Michelle Stodart has got another record, she gave me a copy and I’ve been listening to it in my car.  And Hannah White’s got something else out, that new single, and I thought that was cool too.  And you know who I met at Cambridge Folk Festival? Grace Petrie – and I thought she was brilliant.

Looking back a bit – you were pleased to see Robert Plant at the Americana Awards.

Who wouldn’t be pleased to see him?

Does that suggest there’s some Led Zeppelin in your background?

Oh yeah for sure. Big fan, one of the best rock and roll bands ever so yeah big fan.

Would that be growing up or…?

For sure, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin that sort of era of Seventies rock from Great Britain, it’s in the collection for sure.  It’s not the only stuff in the collection of course there’s other things but as far as rock’n’roll music goes it’s there.  I mean I love jazz, I love hip hop, I love folk, but as far as Rock and Roll goes Led Zeppelin’s right up there.

Which album would be your favourite?

I think ‘Houses the Holy’ is my favourite, or ‘Physical Graffiti’ one of the two.

Ok, well I think that’s our time, so thank you.

I’m really excited for you to hear the new record and I hope you like it.

I’m sure we will, looking forward to it.

Cool – thanks for making the time and thanks, man.

Julian Taylor’s ‘Anthology Vol. One‘ is out now on Howling Turtle.

About Jonathan Aird 2656 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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David D Harper

Julian Taylor’s voice is as smooth as velvet, until suddenly it rises an octave or so to make a point. Very effective. Also, what he sings about is worth paying attention to: not just lyrics, but messages from the heart. Great.