Singer/songwriter/guitarist, Julian Taylor is apt to become the next music star emerging from “The Dot… The Screwface capital”- (as defined in urban etymology by Canadian rapper MC Theology 3 back in  the year 2000)Toronto. Taylor is of West Indian / Native Canadian indigeneity and was raised in Toronto. The music scene of Toronto has become the hotbed for so much contemporary urban music in the last few years. To some its worn with pride and for others it’s considered a damn shame. “Torontonians” have a history  for being tough on musicians trying to make it in their city. For many years, Canadian urban artists would have to run to the States or Britain for recognition and a recoding contract…until now.  Could it be that the Canadian metropolis is  finally getting an identity and respect it deserves? Toronto’s  global migration has given into a vast ethnic culture; in particular  the “Riddim” music  influence. The long Winters has created a vibrant and  stylistic sound natural to Toronto within the club scene. Somehow, Toronto has found its self-awareness.

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Julian Taylor

The Julian Taylor Band has gone through many morph-isms which began in 2010 with rotating band members to the present…this year with the release of his double album titled “Desert Star”. While growing up in Toronto, music was always around his life. Taylor writes the truth of  urban malaise and offers courage in a neighborhood love song. The harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is like yesterday, today, and tomorrow — timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other. Never quitting for a moment offering personal inspiration. His songs vacillate at times between teen lust and a Southern baptism. Relying on nostalgia is one thing but a true artist finds a way to interject themselves into their music. While Taylor pays homage to the spirits of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye with a sound that is the pinnacle of a bright artist transmitting a dated sound and bringing it straight forward into the 21st century where the final result is ultimately fresh and current. He straddles the hazy line between blues and soul while his stinging lyrics are in debt to the masters of 60’s Memphis/Stax era. Open ears and an open mind are the essence of Julian Taylor’s approach to writing, performing and recording.

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Taylor’s world is emotionally fraught.  Desert Star is a plea for a partnership under stress with  seductive love songs and a call for social justice. A future master at work. Pilgrims of Funk, soul and roll as they’ve been called.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Julian who gave us tremendous insight behind his music. His perspective on Toronto and Canadian music’s heritage:

Taylor:
“There is certainly a Toronto Sound.  At least I believe that there is.  It stems back to the early days of the Yorkville and Yonge Street scene in the early 60’s.  There were tons of clubs on the strip.  Some were blues and jazz clubs and others were coffee houses occupied by folk musicians.  In those days a lot of black American musicians would come to Toronto and play simply because the welcoming mat was not as segregated as it was in the US.  They didn’t have to worry about which hotels they couldn’t stay in or where they were allowed to eat.  Some musicians like Lonnie Johnston even moved here.  One of the cities best known advocates of American jazz and blues the late Howard Matthews was a good friend of my Grandparents.  At a very young age I was exposed to people like Salome Bey and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent.  It’s a rich heritage that developed here in Toronto and it’s not talked about too often.  Groups like The Band, Buffalo Springfield, and Blood, Sweat & Tears cut their teeth here.  Legendary folk artists like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell did too.  Toronto has always been a meeting place of cultural importance.  As far as the Screwface capital moniker.  That’s a hip hop thing and I don’t really understand it much.  To me it means that the new wave of artists from here don’t seem to be as welcoming as the folks before them.  The strangest thing about Canada is that many of our homegrown artists have to make it elsewhere before the get accepted here.  It’s quite bizarre but maybe it’s like that everywhere?  I don’t know. Toronto has been called the T-dot every since I can remember.  It’s a reference to the CN Tower as far as I know.”
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His musical chakras started when he was a young lad at age 10 and mentions his drummer and long time friend Jeremy Elliott.

Taylor:

Growing up I listened to a lot of Motown and Stax records.  My mom and her late sister Marianne were go go dancers on that very strip that I mention before.  They loved that music and because my Grandmother was also a dancer and fashion designer they were exposed to a lot of the happenings in the city.  My father plays classical piano and so I listened to a lot of Bach, Chopin, etc.  I took piano lessons at a very young age.  I didn’t really tune into rock and roll until I was a bit older.  I started going to overnight camp around the age of ten which is where I fell in love with The Beatles and Paul Simon and bands of that ilk.  It was hard to carry a piano to a campfire so I took up the guitar and immerse myself in the rich tradition of classic rock.  When it was time for high school hip hop took over and I still love old school hip hop to this day.  I thought Tupac was a genius.  Jazz is also a heavy influence on me.  My grandfather loved it and forced me to listen to it until I got it.  I’m glad he did because it’s timeless music and truly one of the most original American art forms.  Yes… Jeremy is a beast and one of the most versatile musicians I know.  He too plays the piano.  

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Your band has been referred to as Pilgrims of Funk, Soul and Roll.. I find this statement is a “marquee” reference because it’s a general overview of your music. Your new album, “Desert Star” is a double album. Some people would think its crazy but in truth there’s so many textures that it actually works…”Set Me Free” is a Memphis/Stax l throwback. “The Belly of the Underman” detects reggae and Riddim . “In My Life” almost has a “Led Zeppelinesque” rock and roll vibe and “Chemical Low”. “Chemical Low” sings like a great seductive Marvin Gave song from the Motown era.. You’re all over the place but I think that’s the essence of who you are as a songwriter…

Taylor:

I’ve always approached the music that I’ve created from a very honest place.  I believe that it’s the song that governs the direction that something takes.  I never understood the want ads when a listing said “looking for a heavy metal drummer”.  Music to me has no boundaries and should not be categorized.  I understand the concept from a marketing point of view but not from an artistic one.  I’ve been asked so many times what type of music I played and until now never really had an appropriate answer.  Pilgrims of Funk, Soul and Roll seems to fit nicely and pretty much does sum up what the band is.  I don’t think that the band is all over the place.  I think we are one of the bands out there that actually has it straight.  Follow the sound of the song and it will guide you.  That’s what it means to follow your heart and to me that’s the only path there is.  
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Much of the current black music’s essence seems to be about social injustice of African-Americans… America is besieged with this controversy in both sports and music… Is it prevalent in Canada? Do you think your music has a social commentary?
Taylor:

I do get that sense too and think it’s important.  Seeing the developments or lack their of south of the border has been quite discouraging to be honest.  Everyone is pretty scared and social commentary is part of being an artist.  There’s a few songs on the album like Get Loud, Heard Good Things and Belly of the Underman that are politically driven.  I’m a socially conscious person and believe in equality.  Growing up a black male even in Canada is a tricky thing.  If you can believe it the police even stopped me once thinking that I was breaking into my own house.  I had to let them in to show them family photos.  It was ridiculously infuriating.  

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We at Rock Bands of L.A.com wants to thank Kevin Sutter and Julian Taylor for makiig all this possible.