“Premium vintage” is the admittedly cheeky term folk songwriter Julian Taylor prefers when describing his personal brand of funk, soul, and rock fusion.
Part of a younger generation of self-proclaimed “old souls,” a term applicable to sonic contemporaries such as Nathaniel Rateliff and Michael Kiwanuka, Julian Taylor embodies the live spirit of rock while posturing the emotional nuance of soul.
“Just put us in front of an audience, and we’ll make it work,” Taylor says in reference to his band, who has been making it work for over a decade in clubs both big and small all across Canada.
The range and depth of Taylor’s artistry and talents are truly revealed, however, when you look into his solo Folk/Americana work.
Taylor’s latest single, “The Ridge,” celebrates the quiet, acoustically-tinged moments of rural life: feeding chickens, catching frogs, shoveling manure, tending to the horses.
In the song, Taylor reflects on the beauty in these routines as a sign of simpler times and laments their end, for the chorus reveals this house was eventually sold, forcing Taylor to move on.
We got the chance to talk with Taylor about his newest single, upcoming releases, and how he is continuing to work as a musician in an age without live music.
Who or what got you into playing music?
When I was really young I began playing the piano. I must have been 4 or 5 years old. My father played and so did his father so I was next in line. I think in hindsight I was too young, because I stopped playing the piano as soon as I was old enough and took up the guitar. I also sang in choir and my grandfather’s church when I was very small. My first solo was “Away In the Manger”.
What was the inspiration behind your newest single, “The Ridge?”
When I was a young child my sister and I would spend summers with my grandparents in a little town called Maple Ridge. They had a little farm and bred dogs and horses. It was a magical place for a child to grow up. Every lyric of the song is true. They had a little pond on the way down to the barn and my sister and I would catch frogs there. I have pictures of me with all the horses. Frosty, Zarreef and Sherry who actually bucked me off her once when I was about 8 years old. My Aunt Roberta use to come out west with us and be our chaperone. She loved cats and laughed lots. When my grandparents got older, they couldn’t physically keep up with the upkeep of the farm and they had to sell the place. When I think of my happy place it takes me there back to the driveway that was enveloped by huge trees and greenery right up to the red front door of their house and I cans see it all. I can visualize my childhood. My grandparents and my aunt have since passed away, but they all live in my heart and through the stories we shared and memories that we created.
What caused you to record and release this one independent of the Julian Taylor Band?
I’ve done records without the band before. Mostly acoustic stuff that you’d play at a campfire. This time I wanted to record an album with my cousins. We jam all the time at the Pow Wow in Kahnawake when family gets together. It’s always a really great kitchen party meets campfire vibe and I wanted to capture that. I think we did.
Any additional releases on the horizon?
Well. The new solo album comes out on June 19th, and I will be releasing a few more singles before it drops. I also help produce and write for an Indigenous music collective called Wolf Den and we have a new remix coming out in mid-May done by legendary dub producer Dubmatix.
What is your favorite show you’ve ever played?
I loved playing with Keb’Mo at Americana Fest 2019. We performed at City Winery and it was a great experience all around. When I was 20 years old my old rock band Staggered Crossing played The Walkerton Watershed Festival and we got to open up for Joe Cocker and The Guess Who. We didn’t get to meet them but it was wild to see them play.
What might be your three “desert island” records?
Really tough call but I think…
1. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee – Self-Titled
2. Little Feat – Feats Don’t Fail Me Now
3. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way
If you could have a beer or coffee with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
I don’t drink beer or coffee. I do drink wine, so if there’s one person I’d like to raise a glass with it might be Ernest Hemingway.
Are you bothering to put together any tentative plans for touring for maybe the end of the year optimistically?
Right now I am simply trying to get through each day. It really feels like a wash, rinse and repeat scenario to me and that’s going to be strange to break. It was strange to get there in the first place.
In the meantime, what kind of actions do you think people can take to support arts communities?
I am from Canada and any chance that I get I have supported the Unison Benevolent Fund. I donate a little bit from each of my live streaming shows to the cause. I have donated to Music Together as well as ArtsCan Circle. I believe that there is Music Cares in the United States because I received a notification email from them the other day. I have donated to the Daily Bread Food Banks here in Toronto as well. I also helped start the Bruce Adamson Shine Bursary Fund which helps at risk children in Ontario pursue their musical dreams. Bruce was the guitarist in my old band before his untimely passing.
Do you create in any mediums besides music?
I do. I write poetry. Some become songs and others I never share. I like to take pictures as a hobby. Mostly photos of nature while I am hiking.
Favorite book you’ve read or movie you’ve watched during quarantine?
You’re gonna laugh but… Trains, Planes and Automobiles, Twins, Ace Ventura and the Legally Blonde movies have been the go-to so far. I have an eight-year-old daughter and trying to school her on the classics from when I was coming of age.