Samuel Taylor: A Musical Journey
Singer/songwriter Samuel Taylor cut his teeth on the Sheffield music scene just over a decade ago, fronting one of the city’s ‘must see’ acts Dead Like Harry. After seven years of extensive touring, Sam moved to London where he worked alongside Grammy nominated producer Andy Chatterley as a studio assistant. It was there he developed skills in music production and recording before deciding it was the right time to kick off a solo career. In 2015 Sam set out on a musical journey to create EPs in different countries around the world, embracing new cultures and feeding their influences into his music. To date, Sam has recorded an EP in three locations: Sheffield, Nashville and Brecon Beacons, with each EP encompassing a very distinctive feel and sound. We caught up with Sam to ask him about his journey, what difficulties he faced and the inspiration behind each of the EPs.
What inspired you to start your journey?
In 2014 whilst travelling with my duo project Taylor & Marie, I came up with the idea of recording EPs in different places. I thought it would be really interesting to go to a city or region and work with the musicians, producers and studios of that place to help shape a sound around the songs that I approached them with.
I love to record music and so it seems a natural thing to do, I’ll keep doing it until I run out of things to say.
Were there any questions you were looking to answer when travelling to different cities to record music?
I have always been interested in the idea of the travelling musician and the way musicians have to move around to find work. On a personal note, I’ve spent the majority of the last 5 years travelling as a musician or part of the music circus (as a roadie, guitar tech and tour manager). When you travel around a lot you get to see a changing world and how places in the world are so different from each other.
What has been the biggest difficulty when approaching each of the EPs?
There hasn’t really been any creative difficulties at all; the whole process is based around collaboration, so you have to be very willing and open to let other people’s ideas in. The biggest difficulty is finding appropriate spaces to record in at reasonable prices – yeah, budgeting has definitely been the biggest problem!
How much of a city’s culture do you believe inspires creativity?
I think that creativity is all around us and in every place you see there’s plenty going on if you decide to look for it. Sheffield, for example, is still one of the most creative places I have ever spent time in. Everywhere you look someone is trying something new and creating – the city is rich in cultural heritage and it shows the amount of interesting art, music, entrepreneurship, etc. that comes out of the city.
The EPs are clearly very stylistically diverse – were you familiar with playing the different genres before the project?
I am a singer-songwriter and what I have learnt form the last 15 years of writing songs for myself and others is that most songs can be taken between genres and moved to different places. For the song to go anywhere it needs to be strong at the beginning.
What do you feel will be the natural conclusion of your journey?
I think it’s an ongoing journey and I don’t see why it has to stop. I am a songwriter and with this I can travel. I love to record music and so it seems a natural thing to do, I’ll keep doing it until I run out of things to say.
The three EPs each involved new and exciting processes, inviting a host of renowned producers and musicians to get involved. Sam explained to us how each EP came together.
Sheffield – ‘Dead White Roses’ EP
I started the journey in my home town of Sheffield, a great musical city. I contacted my old friend and very talented producer David Sanderson and we got to work putting together a group of people who could help us find the sound we wanted. We managed to pull in some friends and amazing musicians in the form of Ed Cosens (Reverend and the Makers), Adam Crofts (The Hosts), Jon Trier (Richard Hawley band), film composer Joe Hastings and my brother Matthew Taylor (Dead Like Harry, Anytown). We soon found our feet with the recordings and laid down ten tracks.
Nashville – ‘Today Is The Tomorrow We Were Promised Yesterday’ EP
I travelled to the famous music city of Nashville, Tennessee. A friend of mine, Garrison Starr (singer-songwriter), had put me in touch with Neilson Hubbard (resident and producer in Nashville) and we got to work putting together a plan of how we would record the second EP. We decided we would play almost everything ourselves on the EP and only bring in Garrison for some backing vocals and Joshua Britt for some help on the mandolin. The EP has a very organic feel – the drums were played by Neilson and mostly consist of a garbage can and a cupboard being hit with a drum mallet. We recorded for three days and finished four tracks. The biggest star in the recording session had to be Ebi (Neilson’s dog), who is featured on the front cover of the EP. Ebi helped with recording some percussion!
Brecon Beacons – ‘Paper Wings’ EP
The third EP in the series was recorded in the Brecon Beacons in Wales with renowned Welsh producer Greg Haver. At that time I was performing with my band Dead Like Harry when Greg came to see us play at the famous Water Rats Theatre in Kings Cross. After a few years, Greg and I eventually got the chance to work together when I approached him with the idea of recording an EP in Wales as part of my ‘Tales From a Troubadour’ series of EPs. The beautifully secluded Redkite Studio was the perfect setting for the ‘Paper Wings’ recordings. Set on a two hundred acre rural estate in the Brecon Beacons, the closest pub was at least twenty minutes drive, which usefully kept us all at the studio! Greg (known for his work with the Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals amongst many others) played drums and brought an energy that can be heard on the recordings. The amazing Brendan Davies engineered the project whilst I played the other instruments. Rebecca Van Cleave added her vocals to ‘Paper Wings’ and ‘Sail Away’ and the EP was completed in three days. There was something about being away from all the modern technology of smart phones and emails and working in this rural setting of the Brecon Beacons that gave the recordings a very rootsy sound. Good things come to those who wait and I’m really glad I eventually got to record with Greg, a truly talented producer.
EP coming soon