'As time has gone on, I feel I've found my own sound a bit more or have at least found other facets to my creativity'
Evan Dale // July 27, 2019
Towards the release of a new project, London soul songwriter and architect of emotional evocation, Aaron Taylor is learning to create music reflecting of the way he innately feels. With a steady release of singles and projects to his canon since he first premiered on the scene, albeit anonymously with 2016’s Still Life, his growth as an artist and as an individual has been intertwined and notable in the music. A short break from the public eye following last Summer’s long-awaited and aptly-titled The Long Way Home, he returned this Spring with A Fool for You – a single not to be included in his upcoming delivery, but nonetheless indicative of change.
We spoke to him on the creative change of pace, on the constant process of piecing together what’s next, on performance, collaboration, influence, the past, the present, and what we can expect from him in the future. And expectedly, his responses duly read of honesty, humbleness, and a never ending flood of soul.
RNGLDR: Last summer with the release of The Long Way Home, you gave fans your first new project in a couple years. There is an obvious evolution from your early work to where you are now – pure experimentation, clear vocal delivery – as well as some consistencies – analogue instrumentation, painfully relatable lyricism on love and loss. For you personally as an artist, what are you most happy with in regard to your growth? And if anything, what is there from earlier work that you would like to recapture?
Aaron Taylor: As time has gone on I feel I've found my own sound a bit more or have at least found other facets to my creativity. When you start out you tend to make music like the artists you like. Then as you develop you tend to do what is closer to what you innately feel. I'm happy with where my writing is now but I do like the simplicity of my earlier releases. Now there's a bit more external and internal pressure to outdo myself which can lead to overthinking etc.
RNGLDR:From the album’s opener, Saw You in My Dreams, The Long Way Home is an emotional roller coaster. Are there real-life experiences that led to the development of the thematic discourse throughout the album?
Aaron Taylor: TLWH feels like a while ago now. I finished it in June 2017 so tapping into the emotions of where I was at is a bit harder. I remember feeling the same sense of frustration that there was when starting out, hence a song like Get Through This. Looking back that body of work reflects my overall desire to "make it". SYIMD was about remembering a former version of myself and asking myself to be true to it. Jaded was how I felt about the industry and a note to self to be less so. I Think I Love You Again was about my relationship with music and the process of making it. Fix Me (Whiskey) was about my [not so good] coping mechanism.
RNGLDR:The majority of The Long Way Home was released in single and A-Side / B-Side cuts en route to the entire album’s drop. In your opinion, what does releasing individual tracks allow a listener at first, and what changes when those singles become part of something larger?
Aaron Taylor: I prefer creating bodies of work and ideally I'd always release them that way. But nowadays, what with the abundance of music available, the industry model is to always have a reason to be around, hence dropping one single at a time. I guess one track at a time creates excitement of what's to come and a peek at the bigger picture. Hopefully when they experience the whole project all of those individual pieces come together to make sense.
RNGLDR: The Long Way Home earned a very-much deserved amount of acclaim from a wide-spread and huge audience. How does it feel to get so much love from so many people for a project that was such a long time in the works? And what does the project mean for you now that it’s in your rear-view?
Aaron Taylor: It's a special project for me. It's nice to see tweets from Japan, South America and Europe about the project. If anything it shows me the power and importance of conveying a message that people worldwide can relate to. It's surprising how universal the themes of struggle and of wanting comfort (Home) are.
RNGLDR: You teased some production with Matt Jones Orchestra on the upcoming album. What it it like working with an established modern composer? And what does the texture of an orchestra grant your already explosive instrumentally-driven aesthetic?
Aaron Taylor: Matt Jones is amazing and it was a surprisingly simple process. I emailed him and he thankfully was into the new music. He sent back a draft and then recorded it all quite quickly. I feel particularly honoured because he is the go-to string guy at the moment and I'm glad I'm amongst the names he's collaborated with. The particular track I have him on is the title track of the next project and I wanted it to feel almost like a magnum opus of sorts. I'd have him on every track if I could afford it but he brings such a beautiful classic aesthetic. I'm big on beauty and he added the make-up to what I consider quite an already beautiful song.
RNGLDR: Per Instagram, you’re well on your way to releasing your next project. But thus far, unlike the release of The Long Way Home, only one single has hit been dropped so far. Are you going about this upcoming project in a different way? Or do you have a barrage of singles ready to go?
Aaron Taylor: A Fool for You isn't from the next project although it was one of many demos initially. My management thought it would be best to release something to keep us in the market place. Of all the tracks ready for the album that one was one I was happy to part with and didn't seem like much of a fit. I'm still not sure how we'll release the project 100% but most likely it will be a few singles first.
RNGLDR: A Fool For You – your only single release since The Long Way Home – definitely carries with it a different auditory aesthetic than expected. It’s still brimming with exceptional vocal display and vibrant instrumentation but is altogether slower-cadenced. Is A Fool For You indicative of the greater discourse we can expect from the new project?
Aaron Taylor: The next project is definitely less funk-based than the three previous. I think I'm more about songs than grooves on this one. Grooves are still there but I wanted beautiful songs, that could stand independent of production. And yes the average BPM is probably slower than the previous projects but not massively.
RNGLDR: A Fool For You has been one of our favorite loves songs of 2019 so far. That lane is nothing new to you as an artist that has consistently delivered uplifting, heartwarming soul ballads on love and loss. So, outside of your own canon, what are some of your favorite love songs from the soul and R&B spectrums throughout time that have influenced your own work?
Aaron Taylor: The list is genuinely endless but first ones that come to mind:
Knocks Me Off My Feet - Stevie Wonder
A Song for You - Donny Hathaway
Try a Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
Adorn - Miguel
Ready for Love - India Arie
RNGLDR: And what are some of your favorite love songs outside of your own artistic lane?
Aaron Taylor: They're not obvious "love" songs but they have romantic sentiments that I relate to massively:
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
You've Got a Friend - Carole King
RNGLDR: When we last spoke, you told us the importance that D’Angelo’s Voodoo has had on you creatively. We wanted to dive deeper into one of our favorite all time projects – Black Messiah. What role do you think that album has played in the explosion of modern neo-soul? And with D’Angelo being such a mysterious figure, what do you have to say about his overarching influence on you and your music?
Aaron Taylor: Voodoo is timeless and that's why it's so powerful. I don't really hear people talking about Black Messiah in the same way, perhaps it's just a time thing and we'll appreciate more in a few years. I think one of my biggest takeaways from D'Angelo is just making music that is organic to you. It feels very him. You know it when you hear it. I also think his vocal approach is one I relate to a lot and that's a gospel/church thing. It's cool how he's taken that experience common to the black person and made it accessible for all.
RNGLDR: In our last interview you discussed preferring the studio to the stage and have continued to explore moving live studio sessions. Past your COLORS collaboration, your live studio performance with Omeara’s Red Curtain Sessions was powerful. What was it like putting that together? And do these studio sessions translate to your concerts, or are they entirely different?
Aaron Taylor: When I was asked to do that I knew instantly I wanted to do Home just because I felt that song hadn't really gotten much attention and it's a personal favourite from TLWH. Putting it together was easy although there were some technical problems for the crew with lighting etc. I try and have that same intimate vibe at the concerts for the slower numbers and Home is the sort of song I might do with just me and piano.
RNGLDR: You seem to have been performing live quite often. How do you think you’ve improved as a live performer, and do you still prefer the studio to the stage?
Aaron Taylor: I'll always prefer the studio but I'm aware that live performances are what people love as it helps them connect and helps them experience the music on more sensory levels. I think I'm slowly improving as a live performer but I am still a reluctant one.
RNGLDR: Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming project that we don’t already know?
Aaron Taylor: It has a fairly big collaboration which I'm super excited to announce. It's a collaboration that is surprising for the early stage I'm still at. I'm also really trying to get one or two more but I've found it's really difficult just getting responses from artists you like. The album has more co-writing and co-production than any of my previous projects which were all self-written and produced. So it's a bit more collaborative but still feels very me.
RNGLDR: And aside from occasional shows and the upcoming album release, what’s next for Aaron Taylor?
Aaron Taylor: I actually don't have any plans post this album. Obviously I'll get writing again and most likely some shows but I think I'm just waiting to see what doors this project opens for me and take it from there.