Talking To...Sean Taylor

That Sean Taylor is one of the best acoustic blues performers that this country has produced in a generation, is something that seems to be coming to the attention of an increasing number of people and is a process that appears to be accelerating.

Four self-released and self-financed albums, the latter two of which, "Calcutta Grove" and "Walk With Me" have really caught people's attention, bringing about more radio appearances, including a session with Bob Harris, and an ever increasing number of festival appearances.

He's also a grafter when it comes to live work regularly on the road, playing increasingly bigger venues as he travels up and down the country as well as increasing numbers of dates in Europe.

"Walk With Me" served not only to remind people of Sean's unique guitar style, but also that he knows his way around the ivories pretty damned well to boot. It was also an album that showed really understands how his music sits in a more band driven context as well as through solo performance. It's recently been rereleased as part of a new record deal that Sean has signed, prior to his recording of album number five.

It seemed like a good time to have a chat with Sean about his music and where he's looking for it to take him.
#ST=Sean Taylor #NK=Neil King

#NK Sean, good to talk to you. First of all, you seem to have had a really good year for festivals.

#ST It's been great, I've had a really good year, Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk Festival, The Secret Garden Party, Chagstock, Beautiful Days, Tolpuddle, there's been so many.

#NK "Walk With Me" seems to have brought out so many opportunities to get heard. You look at that list and it's a real variety.

#ST Definitely, I think it's really started opening doors for me. I think the previous album, "Calcutta Grove" really got the ball rolling. People really started to understand what I was doing and gigs started coming along really quickly. It helped with the recording of "Walk With Me" that I recorded out in Ireland with more of a band thing.

#NK "Walk With Me" was also an album that changed perceptions a bit. You were known as a singer/guitarist with a pretty unique style, but that album also saw you returning more to the piano.

#ST I think in recent years, the songwriting has been moving more towards starting out on piano and then bringing it back to building it on guitar. On "Walk With Me" that's how a lot of them started out, they were very gentle songs. With the songs I'm writing now, I'm back on the guitar, electric as well, writing. A lot of it is about what the song needs. The songs always dictate what instrument I'm going to use and where it goes. The most important thing is getting the song right.

#NK On the songs, are you one of those people that does the words first or…

#ST It varies, it used to be the melody first and then the words, but in more recent years an increasing number of songs have been words first. It's been funny, sometimes I'm getting the words for one song in my head and getting the melody for another at the same time.
It's been a real mix. I try not to be compliant to one way of working, because when I've tried that I find that I can get stuck. It's what feels right at the time.

#NK You've got quite a unique guitar style. Does that make writing the songs more difficult, knowing that you're playing in a different way to most people?

#ST I think that was why I moved across to starting to write songs on the piano, sometimes you're thinking more about what you can do with the guitar and thinking about being too fast or too slow. I really love the guitar, but with melody it's really important to get the foundations right. Starting on the piano and then bringing it over to the guitar.
One of the songs on the album, "Slow Dance" definitely started out on the piano. "For You" also started life on the piano. They were piano songs, but I thought I couldn't have a whole album of piano songs[laughs]. I only started playing piano about six years ago and I find it really helps me to focus on melody.
I think that's really important for the melody, I found that with guitar, once I started looking at alternative tunings and fingerpicking, I found that I would start getting into playing rather than building the song.

#NK Which leads neatly into a guitar observation, you always seem happy to reinterpret the work of your guitar heroes when you play live.

#ST Definitely. My big hero is John Martyn, he's the reason that I got into guitar playing. Then I really started listening to blues guitar players. There's a guitarist I'm really listening to at the moment, Snake Johnson. I've just got a CD of his, "They Call Me The Snake" and that's about all the information there is on it, but he's a great blues player, really raw, it sounds really fresh, almost like it was recorded yesterday.
I'm constantly listening to other guitar players, constant learning is part of life's journey. I like hearing how other guitarists put their songs together.


photo credit:
Neil King

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Calcutta Grove
Walk With Me

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