Hungary For More: A Chat With Hungarian-Rooted Folk Fusion Songwriter Loryn Taggart & A Look At Her New Single ‘The River’

Loryn Taggart’s newest single, “The River”, parallels a story personal to her, and how she had once moved across the world for a man, but failed to listen to her gut.

The song details a relationship where the sacrifice is one-sided, and in those situations, you have to evaluate whether the relationship is worth the risk. It’s a beautiful melody with excellent lyrical imagery and storytelling. The subtle yet distinct instruments add to the impression of the slow and more mellow tune.

One of Taggart’s favorite lines in the song is, “Weird how we walked as strangers/ no rhythm and no bond/ A year of love/ it took this long to get you in a song”. She explained how this “signifies the relationship arch of going from strangers, to dating, to being in love, to strangers once more.”

According to Sailfin Productions, Taggart wrote her first song titled, “Powerless”, at only 12-years-old in a small town outside of Calgary. By 18, she was landing backing vocal and keyboard gigs, which then led to her performing solo gigs and selling out a headlining show in Montreal, Canada. Then at 25, she met her current producer by chance, and then released two singles, “In My Company” and “The Wedding Song,” which each landed nominations at the Independent Music Awards and the Blue and Roots Songwriting Competition.

In early 2020, she then landed a gig opening up for Canadian Folk-songwriter Donovan Woods. With Nothing Productions and Litesdown Studios, Taggart will soon be releasing her debut full-length album in spring of 2021, writing about growing up with music, her four-year performance hiatus, and making it back to the industry. 

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We had the chance to discuss the new single and much more with Taggart.

So who or what got you into writing and playing music, and when did you realize you wanted to actively pursue a career in it?

It was evident that I had some sort of talent really early on. We had a lot of instruments lying around the house, and I gravitated toward them very naturally. I picked up songs by ear, listening to them once, then replaying it on the piano. Like young actors, dancers, visual artists, life savers, it’s just a nat that comes so naturally to some. I decided to pursue it professionally when I was about 13. My parents bought me studio time for my birthday to cut a demo. We made about 100 copies and shipped them off with press kits to radio DJs, record labels, booking agents etc. I was booked for a showcase at Canadian Music Week by the age of 14. I really liked the hype of it all, so I kept with it. Supportive parents are a very big factor here. 

How has your Hungarian roots influenced your sound and your overall lifestyle? 

My grandmother Irene was a jazz singer from Budapest, Hungary. She traveled on cruise ships fronting Big Bang Swing groups, across the Mediterranean Sea. Her story is wild, tragic, and beyond her years. Same goes for my great-grandfather, who was a famous poet from Budapest. I own Irene’s first record, and it’s one of my favourites. She recorded it on a ship with a cassette recorder, an arranger and a pianist. It’s very raw and true. My first EP, called Irene, was recorded with a similar vibe. One take, from start to finish. I used to copy her style of singing, which is how I developed a jazz crafted vocal range. I have a very big family in Hungary, and they live in Tolna County. Hungarians are very hospitable people, and have a sense of humour that is real roasty in nature. I like to think I take on a bit of it. 

How might you describe your sound and style to those wondering what Loryn Taggart is all about?

I’m a self-described folk/blues fusion jazz singer. I write a lot of different kinds of music to fit seasonal releases and trends. I mostly write acoustic music, but then colour it with jazzy vocal gymnastics releasing it as a jazz song. For the most part I get compared to Fiona Apple and Feist. However, I once read a review that said I had a “Patrick Watson vibe with a Kesha voice“, in a good way. So, I could tell you one thing, but you’ll have to listen to get the full picture. 

How did you get connected with your current producer David Eastman?

At 25, I experienced a quarter-life crisis and I decided to move to China. Before I took off, I decided to take a quick mini-refresher trip to the United States to see the music cities. I chose to travel through Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston. I Couchsurfed in each city. I explored, I went to jazz clubs, blues clubs, historic places and had the time of my life. Each Couchsurfing host I had in each city was a dream, and all of them are pretty decent friends of mine to this day. David was my Couchsurfing host in Boston. It was a complete coincidence that he was a music producer and I, a musician. We got along very well, and decided to start working on music together. Of course, after my move to China was complete, which I did end up going through with.  

“I also drank green tea with Drake backstage once…”

What is your songwriting process like?

Songs tend to happen by accident when I’m not searching for them. But the process, 100% of the time, goes music, melody then lyrics. And the lyrics are always evolving and are usually completed in studio. But how the music comes about is usually pretty random. The melody for my third single, “The Guest” came to me in a dream, while the lyrics were paraphrased from the poem “Rhyme of an Ancient Mariner”. I admittedly am still learning how to sit down and professionally craft a project simply when I mean to. 

When was your newest single, “The River”, written and did it come easy or was it more of a challenge?

“The River” was written last winter. It was an accident of a song. I was hosting a friend for an early holiday vacation. I had burnt our dinner because I’m a horrendous cook, at least I was at the time, so we ordered food instead. I picked up the guitar, like I always do, and started noodling around. I was listening to a lot of Ruby Gill and Alt J at the time and both artists have unique guitar crafted riffs. I kept playing these riffs on a loop drunkenly singing, “I can’t cook worth nothing I can’t!” “I’m not a good wife and I never will be because I can’t cook worth nothing I can’t.” My friend noticed that it actually had a pretty decent melody to it and encouraged me to keep writing it. I changed the tone of the song a tad, and now those lyrics can be heard as, “I can swim without him, I can!” “I could write you something, I could, I could,”. The song took about two days to write in full. 

You mentioned that the song is about moving locations for someone you love, but realizing the sacrifice was only one-sided. What did you learn from your own personal experience?

I guess the worst part about these kinds of experiences is that you don’t learn anything until after the fact. I changed a lot and gave up a lot for this person that I moved for, and that was not reciprocated. It really stings to think about how for years I wasn’t true to myself or what I loved. I was very blind. I held back on education, on traveling, and on music because this person made me believe I just wasn’t cut out for those things. What I’ve learned since then is that I will not settle for anything less than admiration and support. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to have loyal peers that have room for you, that worship your flaws and keep your insecurities safe when you’re really vulnerable. I still have trouble with vulnerability, but I stand up for myself a lot, even when it gets me in trouble. But I’m paving my own way and I’m really happy. I’m now a world traveling, engaged, full-time University student. I must’ve done something alright. 

What has been your most memorable experience since entering the music scene?

Winning my first award was really cool, I also drank green tea with Drake backstage once, but the best moments so far have been live performances. The best feeling in the world is when you know you’ve won an audience over. I opened for Donovan Woods last year and just my luck that I had an audience care about what I had to say for myself and they listened to every sound I made. They laughed at my jokes, they cried when I cried, it was absolute magic- I had them.

So I was nearing the end of my set, and I looked out into the audience and I asked “Who is the most confident person in this room?” And I had a few little chuckles and movements and I landed on a guy three rows back. I said, “When I point to you, you trumpet solo like you’ve never solo’d before,” and he came through. In the middle of the song I gave him a nod and he pursed his lips and made a brass sound with his voice and the place just roared. Donovan came out on stage for his set and said something like “when the opening act takes it home..” which was a little embarrassing. I’ll talk about opening act etiquette another time. 

Do you feel this year has helped or hurt your creative process?

I wouldn’t say it’s that black and white, but it was a bit harder to write music this year. There was far too much pressure coming from different platforms stating that all this “free time” must be so convenient for artist types to be creative. I think that’s just bogus. We’re human beings. Our survival instincts are at an all time high and there is not a lot of room for creativity when we are in and out of high stress. That being said, the time away from it all was good for me. Taking time away from music was healthy. I was gearing up for a European tour, creating an album down in Boston, and I was headlining the International Blues Festival in Montreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m devastated I didn’t get to do any of those things when they were planned but they are just postponed for later dates. But this rest has given me ample time to switch gears, adapt my sound and path a little bit. So when I’m able to return to these projects I’ll be able to put much more into them. 

What might fans expect from Loryn Taggart going into the new year and beyond?

I’m working on a collaborative project with a very good friend of mine whom I can’t reveal just yet, but it’s a very exciting folk/pop release. I’m also working on another EP release but this one will be self-produced. I’ve never done that before and I’m very much up for the challenge. Single releases, EPs, live off the floor music videos, real music videos etc. And once the world comes back with a bit of normalcy and live music is a legal activity to partake in, I will tour.. a lot. I have a good booking agent who is just as hungry as I am to get me out on the road and I’ll be very excited to meet you when I do.

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