Julian Taylor explores growth, finding comfort in identity
Three-time Juno nominated musician Julian Taylor is performing in Creemore next month, to kick off the Small Halls Festival.
Currently on a tour in the UK, Taylor spoke to The Creemore Echo as he was arriving in Manchester for a gig Monday. On the heels of a successful solo acoustic tour in February, Taylor said he was itching to get back there and is excited to be playing the majority of shows with a local band he has connected with.
Taylor is currently touring his latest album Beyond the Reservoir, which he has described as a vulnerable record about perseverance, hope, love and lived experiences.
When it was released in October, Taylor said he was nervous, given the acclaim his previous album had received.
The Ridge was nominated for two Juno Awards in 2021: Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. It was also long listed for the Polaris Music Prize and won solo artist of the year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, where Taylor also received a nomination for English Songwriter of the Year.
“The recognition that The Ridge received was quite astonishing, even to me. I did not expect that,” said Taylor.
His 25-year career began with a major label debut as lead vocalist and guitar player for the band Staggered Crossing, which Taylor formed with his high school friends and went on to develop a loyal following in Toronto.
But the trajectory of the band wasn’t what they had hoped and Taylor says, since getting dropped by the label, his music career has been an uphill battle.
“It was nice to have that recognition 20 years later,” he said of the accolades, joking that he was making up for lost time, one Juno nomination for each decade.
His new album was nominated for a 2023 Juno, this time for Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, and is described as a coming-of-age story revisiting his experiences as a teenager growing up in Toronto.
“It is a record that deals with identity… trying to feel comfortable in my own skin as I grow,” said Taylor. “When I was younger, for a long time I didn’t even really want to be black and I certainly never mentioned to anybody that I had Mohawk heritage either. I just wanted people to accept me and I realized that being accepted is a really difficult thing for people in my position… This world hasn’t made it very easy for people to be accepted.”
He says that’s what writing is about, working through those personal issues.
“And if that helps anyone feel comfortable in their own skin, because I am admitting that I wasn’t and that I’m still working at that, I think that’s an important issue that I wanted to address.”
A lyric from the track Stolen Lands says, “One family had their land stolen, the other was stolen from their land. And here I stand;” A song titled Murder 13 is about a friend of his who was the 13th murder in Toronto in 2005; and another, Seeds, was written after the announcement of 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children who died at residential school. It was inspired by a text from his cousin that read, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
“For me, I don’t really care too much about whether people are comfortable or not,” said Taylor. “I want them to learn something. And if being uncomfortable helps teach anybody anything then that’s part of the task at hand, right?”
Taylor said he is also excited by be booked in Creemore where he has spent time with family and friends over the past two decades while visiting his great aunt’s farm in Lisle. He said he looks forward to greeting old friends and audience members at Station on the Green in Creemore on Saturday, Sept. 16.
The show is sponsored by Vivienne Bent, who is an old friend of Taylor’s.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. It is a 19+ event. Cash bar. Snacks and handheld food prepared by La Cucina, available to purchase.
Tickets cost $40 and are available online at www.smallhallsfestival.ca. Use the promo code SmallHalls10 for an early bird $10 discount on the first 200 festival tickets sold.