'Seeing R&B & Soul being heard, felt, accepted and pushed is inspiring to me'
Kaleem Taylor x Evan Dale // Mar 19, 2020
When it comes to the myriad of unique voices calling home to London and the greater UK Neo-Soul scene, few if any can muster the kind of emotive individuality that comes so naturally to the vocalism of Kaleem Taylor. Having last year released Surface, a short exploration of his ever-more refined sound, Kaleem Taylor has become one of the most recognizable voices carving out his own corner of modern R&B and beyond.
RNGLDR: In recent years, it seems that R&B and Neo-Soul have made particularly long strides in music to the point that in many ways, we’ve entered a new vocal golden era. Artists like Daniel Caesar, SiR, SZA, Sabrina Claudio, and Snoh Aalegra are drastically changing music. At a global scale, what do you think it is that’s pushing such a surge in the scenes?
KALEEM TAYLOR: I put it down people exploring more. I feel like the music has always been there, but people's focus, maybe not so much. It’s a beautiful thing to see and be part of though, for sure, I’m so grateful for the people who have stumbled upon my music and have reached out and told them how it’s made them feel.
RNGLDR: The UK in particular has a unique grip on Neo-Soul and R&B. With a wide range of artists like yourself, Aaron Taylor, and Mahalia, what about the UK music scene is fostering the growth of so many talented and unique vocalists?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Again, I think it’s just a matter of people searching for a feeling. It’s a feeling that I grew up on, it may not be the same as any other era of R&B but it’s a feeling for sure and that’s what a lot of us musicians thrive off. Seeing R&B/Soul being heard, felt, accepted and pushed is inspiring to me.
RNGLDR: "Unique" is a word perhaps placarded on your voice more than any other. Your vocal approach is one-of-a-kind and riddled with emotion. Who have been some of the biggest inspirations behind your delivery? Who are some of the vocalists you admire the most, and why?
KALEEM TAYLOR: To be honest, I love that. I’m attracted to “unique” so reading that felt good. I’ve been attracted to the word or the feeling for as long as I can remember and the artists I love and admire all fall under that category, to me. Artists like D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Jasmine Sullivan, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, there’s so many.
RNGLDR: You utilize a balance between modern production with a lot of electronic nuance and organic instrumentation that grants your music a timeless feel. In the sense of your musical influence, who are some of the artists that have driven your sonic texture the most?
KALEEM TAYLOR: This feels like a hard question to answer. I know the feeling I get from music outside of my own but I’ve never really payed attention to or been aware of how their sound has flowed into mine. What I can say is that we’re all inspired by someone or something and we all pull from each other whether we realise it or not.
RNGLDR: We’ve touched on the idea that your sound is able to revive some things about 90’s and early 2000’s R&B that – even amidst such a hyper-talented vocal generation – has been nearly impossible to reclaim. Are you influenced by those eras in particular? What textures from those eras do you try to utilize the most in your music?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Definitely, I would say the most I’ve taken from that era is the fact that I always want to have something to say. It has to be from a real place, it has to mean something to me. Listening back to some of those songs from that era, they felt a lot more vulnerable and I feel that you have to be like that to really create.
RNGLDR: And if you had to choose some favorite artists and projects from those eras, who/what would they be?
KALEEM TAYLOR: D’Angelo - Voodoo
RNGLDR: Your debut project, Version came out in 2017 and has been received really well around the world. Looking back, what does the project mean for you two years later?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Version really means a lot me. It’s the first time I sat down on my own and went completely with what I feel. Before that I went through a bad patch of not liking anything I was creating, but Version felt like the beginning of me finding my sound.
RNGLDR: Since 2017, with so many talented artists and amazing projects that have come out, what has changed in the R&B and Neo-Soul scenes? What have you liked about the directional changes you’ve noticed? And is there anything textural you preferred from a couple years ago that we’re moving away from now?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Just that there’s so much great music out there, so much love. It just feels beautiful. It feels like a real movement, we just gotta keep moving it forward.
RNGLDR: To date, your biggest solo hit has been By My Side. What do you think about the track made it so relatable and wide-ranging?
KALEEM TAYLOR: To tell you the truth, I don’t like listening to that song. Originally it was a lot simpler, it felt pure, it was just me and a guitar and that’s the version I prefer.
RNGLDR: With no releases between Version and your first single of 2019, Not Alone, what took up your time in 2018? Were you working on music the whole time, focused on touring, or something else entirely?
KALEEM TAYLOR: I was working on a lot of ideas but I just wanted to make sure I was elevating, I wanted to feel the progress in my music before I put anything else out, of course this whole thing is a load of feelings and opinions but I had to be happy first.
RNGLDR: On the subject of Not Alone, it’s such a uniquely emotional track – even for you. What is the inspiration behind it, where does it come from, and is it hard putting something so vulnerable out for the world to listen to?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Well to be honest, it’s been easier for me to put it in the music. I’ve been hiding a lot of emotions so actually sharing it feels beautiful.
RNGLDR: Truthfully, it must be challenging for any artist to release music at a wide scale, and your music – by way of your vocal delivery, your subject matter, and just your raw delivery in general – is of a brand exceptionally emotional. Is it important for you to explore your feelings and your relationships in your music? Or is it simply the place that creatively, you thrive?
KALEEM TAYLOR: It’s massively important to me, like I said before it has to come from a real place. There’s nothing like reading how the song has impacted someone, or feeling it a show, but what I do know is that the feeling in the music does transmit.
RNGLDR: Let’s talk Surface. This is one of the most unique projects of any stylistic delineation we’ve ever heard. Can you give us a glimpse of the creative process that ignited it, pushed it forward and brought it all together?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Firstly, thank you! Unique again, love that. This project is massively important to me to, mainly because of how each song is so personal to me. Whether it be accountability, vulnerability or the strength to pull through some bad times. Being able to get those feelings out helped me deal with what I was going through at the time.
RNGLDR: In terms of production, the project is very modern, electronically experimental at times, and driven by – if anything – piano. Do you happen to play piano, or are you simply influenced by its ability to evoke emotion and aid in the direction of your aesthetic?
KALEEM TAYLOR: No I don't play the piano, but I just love how it evokes those emotions I need to get out.
RNGLDR: Who’s There has become a particularly powerful track for us. Is there a certain event in your life that led to exploring trust issues and self-reliance?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Yeah, for sure. I’m not gonna say what events, but what I’ve learned over time and experience is that sometimes it’s better to just move in silence and let people talk after. I’m grateful for the lesson.
RNGLDR: Your vocals are so powerful and capturing that at times, your lyricism takes a backseat to your listeners. But your writing is so relatable, deep, and powerful, that it makes us wonder, what is your writing process? Are you inspired by beats, by past experiences, dreams, something else?
KALEEM TAYLOR: I’m inspired by past experiences for sure, I feel like that’s the main part for me, of course how a beat feels can bring out different emotions, but I usually end up reverting back to something I’ve gone through.
RNGLDR: Your canon is less brimming with collaborations than most modern artists. But, nonetheless, we want to ask, if you could collaborate with any artists past or present, who would you work with and what kind of project would you put together?
KALEEM TAYLOR: It’s hard for me to pick one but I would love to be in the studio with James Fauntleroy just to watch him work, it would be a lesson for me.
RNGLDR: And if you could have any two artists past or present work together, who would you choose and why?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Frank Ocean and James Fauntleroy just because I admire how they structure songs and the incredible writing and melodies.
RNGLDR: As far as London and the UK in particular are concerned, who are some of the artists we should be on the lookout for?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Well, one of my favourites is Emmavie. She produces, she writes, her melodies are fire. I just love her and I want to work with her.
RNGLDR: And how about some artists from outside the UK that you’ve been listening to lately?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Lucky Daye. I think he’s incredible.
RNGLDR: With so much music to have just been released and an upcoming tour, what else is next for Kaleem Taylor?
KALEEM TAYLOR: Just more experiences, more growth, more music. I just wanna keep improving.