Photo Credit: Matt Miller
We got on a call with UK Soul Singer Aaron Taylor on the heels of his debut album, "Icarus" to talk influences, fatherhood, BLM, and how his experiences have contributed to his artistic expression.
We've been fans of your music since 'Still Life' came out four years ago. For those that haven't had the chance to check out your music, can you tell us a little bit about Aaron Taylor – Beginnings and the Journey so far?
Yeah, Sure. I'm Aaron Taylor. I'm a musician from London, and I've been making music for as long as I can remember. As you said, I put out my first release in 2016 called "Still Life," and I primarily learned music by ear, just at home and at church. I had a bit of formal training at school. Most of what I do is informed by just how I learned music by ear at home. And yeah, I released my first EP in 2016, and its been going well since.
How would you best describe your unique sound?
I would say its soulful. I want to think of it as quite authentic and true to who I am. I think it's simple soul music that's quite relatable.
Speaking of Soul music, the UK is going through its most significant resurgence of Jazz & Soul in quite a while. Some fantastic artists have come out of the UK in the last few years. Any artists there that you'd love to work with?
Yeah, definitely. I think ELIZA is really cool, Elli Ingram as well. I'm a big fan of what Cleo sol is doing. So, yeah. There are quite a few.
Congratulations on recently becoming a Dad. What's your fatherhood experience been so far, and has it affected the way you approach your songwriting?
It's been an interesting experience having a child, but it's been a nice way for me to focus on what really matters and spend time with my family. It hasn't informed my songwriting yet, but I imagine it will. I think I'll try harder to write songs that can last, and that he can be proud of one day as well.
Can you tell us about the themes and narratives you'll be exploring on the album and why you named the album so?
So, Icarus is loosely based on the story or Greek myth of the same name, and it was a story about a young man who had aspirations to be free and fly. His father made him some wings and warned him not to fly too high or too low. I think the themes of the album just explore the theme of wanting to be closer to something, wanting to reach a certain height, and wanting to fulfill some desires that he had.
It must be a really exciting time for you. Nervous much about the release?
Yeah, pretty nervous, actually. I think with EP's, you don't necessarily add a lot of weight to them. It's almost like you can be forgiven for having an EP that is kind of OK, but with an album, people expect a lot, and I know I expect a lot for myself as well. So, it's quite nerve-wracking to release it, but yeah, hopefully, people like it, and there's not much I can do now.
I'm sure we will. You've been on this fantastic journey since 2016, and it's all coming to fruition with this album. Over the last few months, I've noticed that you've embraced more collaborations than any of your previous projects. All of this during one of the most socially isolated years to date. Has this been something you've done consciously?
Um, I knew that some of the songs would sound better with other people, and I was fortunate enough to get amazing artists to collaborate with. It wasn't a deliberate decision, but I think I'd have more collabs if I could. I think sometimes, the schedules of the other artists don't align and so on. But yeah, I do believe there are some great artists out there, and I'd love to work with them. It would be an honour to get people on my tracks.
No industry has been as affected as live events. Can you share your experience on how the pandemic has affected your plans, and what role you think social media will play for us in the future?
It's been quite frustrating because I feel like we've had to put our plans on hold every time we've wanted to do something. With the album coming out, we would have probably done a headline show this year, and we would've done some support slots and more festivals. We haven't been able to promote it in the usual way you'd promote a record like this. But, I think social media is incredibly useful at a time like this. Being able to live stream and connect with fans directly is so important. Everyone is going through the same thing, so, yeah, we're making the best we possibly can of the situation.
Has this affected how you've approached your time in the studio? I Imagine not touring has freed a lot of your time.
Well, I definitely have had more time to do things, but I've been busy with the newborn child and trying to come up with ideas for promoting the new album. There hasn't been a lot of music I've worked on lately. But, I am looking forward to starting a new album soon.
2020 has been quite derailing for a lot of people. We've had COVID, BLM altering trajectories, and changing narratives. But it has also been a year that's been extremely soul-fulfilling for you on a personal level. You became a dad a few months ago and have just released your debut album. Can you take us through some of the emotions you've experienced this year?
Yeah, it's definitely been a roller-coaster of emotions. At first, with COVID, we didn't understand its severity and thought it would pass quite quickly. That didn't happen. Just seeing how it's affected work and livelihoods is quite disappointing. As I said, becoming a father has allowed me to forget some of the wider world problems and has made me focus on building a beautiful environment at home. The Black Lives Matter movement touches close to home and causes you to think in a way that you haven't previously. Now that I have a black son, I'm going to be thinking about how I can make the world better for him. And yeah, there are definitely positive emotions. It is an honour to be able to release an album and celebrate art in this way. It's been Up and down, but overall, I'm optimistic. Art is very useful in these times. It provides refuge and a safe place that helps people forget about other problems.
I also wanted to touch upon the BLM Movement a little bit. It has brought to attention the many difficulties black people face caused by systemic racism across the world. Your latest video for 'Flowers' does a great job of helping subdue the perception some people unfortunately have that black men are "threatening" or "dangerous."Can you talk to us about how the video was put together?
I knew that with everything going on, I wanted the video to touch on that. I tend to view 'Flowers' as quite delicate things. I wanted to juxtapose that with images that we're told exist. I wrote a brief, and we sent it out to a few directors. We wrote the idea and saw which directors came back with the right idea we thought we wanted. We filmed it three or four weeks ago. I'm really happy with how it came out, and we were able to keep spreading the word. People need to view black people differently.
How would you say your sound has changed since your last EP ?
There were maybe a couple more upbeat songs on "The Long Way Home" than there is on "Icarus." Icarus is a much slower, more chill record, and I don't know if that was deliberate, but it just happened to be that the songs we ended up with were the slower ones. I don't think the sound has changed massively; I think there's just more emphasis on writing beautiful songs instead of just maybe a groove or something like that. It's not a million miles away from "A long way home."
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
I think it was to start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. And I've always just lived by that. Don't wait until you have more, or don't wait for the conditions to be perfect. Just get going with what you have, and you'll be surprised by what you can accomplish.
Absolutely. Especially with COVID. Life throws you these curve-balls, and you have to do what you can with the time you have and in the situations that present themselves. What are the feelings you want to leave people with after they listen to your music?
I always want my music to feel like a hug at the end of a long day. I will love if people get a sense of comfort and can fulfil whatever need they feel within.
What was the last record you bought?
I bought Cleo Sol's new album, "Rose in the Dark" and "A Day in a Yellow Beat" by Yellow Days. I also have my eyes on Jacob Collier's last album, if it's available on Vinyl.
Any collaborations you'd like to see happen across the pond?
I'd love to work with Baby Rose. She sounds a lot like Nina Simone. Her voice is beautiful.
Thank you, Aaron