Please Allow Aaron Taylor To Raise Your Spirits As This Truly Awful Year Finally Ends
You need to pay attention to Aaron Taylor.
Pay attention to Aaron Taylor. This rising UK-based artist has crafted a gorgeous fusion of funk, soul and R&B that tackles everything from police brutality to love and relationships. Also, he’s got killer vocals to boot.
Despite being an independent artist, the world’s biggest company, Apple, used one of his tracks in the high-profile Apple TV ad. He must be doing something right to grab the attention of Tim Cook and his minions, right?
This October, Taylor released his second EP, Better Days, and it’s just the pick-me-up you’ve been craving after to soundtrack the final few days of this awful, awful year. Give it a spin. You won’t regret it.
Aaron released his first EP, Still Life, anonymously. So, in a way, it’s fair to see this as the first real introduction to Aaron Taylor. We needed to find out more about Aaron, so I fired off an email in his direction to talk about his musical influences, dating apps and putting more positive music into the world. (We also briefly spoke about good jumpers.)
MTV: Hey Aaron! Hope you’re well. So, the first question. Do you remember the first song you ever enjoyed?
Aaron Taylor: "I think one of the first songs was actually a gospel song by Kirk Franklin called Why We Sing. I was quite young when it came out but I remember being drawn to it when it was played at home."
What was the first album you bought? Why was it special to you?
"Probably The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Her writing has always been special to me."
Did you ever study music? Or has it been a long-term hobby of yours until now?
"I studied music throughout school and at university too but I learnt a lot of what I know by ear just by listening to stuff. At school, we mainly studied classical music so I was always took time to focus on pop music outside of there."
What do you do when you’re not playing music?
"If I’m not out at a gig or in the studio I’m probably just watching something at home or reading about something music related. I like to write too, just random thoughts on paper."
What one piece of advice do you hear being bandied around that’s actually a load of crap?
"I don’t know if I’d go as far as crap, but it just hasn’t been true for me yet: “You need to join a camp.” I definitely believe in collaboration but I think it’s strange that people tell me to attach myself to a scene to further my career. Why not just try and create my own?"
What are you listening to at the moment? I can’t stop listening to those two new Childish Gambino tracks. (ed – as you can probably tell, this interview took place a couple of weeks ago.)
"Those tracks are great! Kadhja Bonet’s album is my current favourite. Super talented."
How did you get ‘Lesson Learnt’ on the Apple TV ad?
"I actually didn’t do anything really. They wrote to me one day to say that it was currently working quite well for a commercial they were finishing and wanted to confirm that I owned the track. From there it was just a case of sorting the paperwork. I think it was a fortunate case of it coming out online at the right time."
In your Twitter profile picture, you’re wearing the same outfit that the doll is wearing on the Better Days artwork. Why is that? (Also, that’s a sweet jumper. Where can I grab one?)
"It’s funny; we didn’t notice that till we were editing the pictures. It wasn’t intentional. My friend thought the bandana was a cool touch and it just happened to be red too. The jumper is from COS."
Do you play all the instruments on your new EP? Or have you been collaborating?
"Piano is my main instrument but I play a bit of guitar too. I normally demo everything and then get my musician friends to redo some of what I’ve done but 100 times better."
I’m really into Better Days. Especially ‘Be Alright’. Could you tell me a bit more about that song please? You said that you made it following a particularly tough week earlier this year?
"Yeah, there was a week this year where I felt it was particularly tough emotionally as a black man seeing frequent police brutality online. We were still reeling from one shooting to wake up to a Facebook post of another. Someone on Twitter said that “It’s a shame there’s not more positive music in times like this” and so I guess as a songwriter I felt I had some sort of obligation to fill that gap."
When writing about ‘Just Gon’ Wait’ in your Facebook note, you wrote about how in these bleak times, “there is little one can do but wait.” Why do you think this? Why not get out there and try to make change happen? You seem to hint towards the latter on ‘Lay My Troubles Down’.
"Sometimes change requires immediate action. Other times it’s about patience. Things like racism and sexism unfortunately won’t disappear over night. They’ve existed for centuries. Waiting doesn’t mean ignoring, it just means not giving up."
Some of your songs on Better Days touch on romance and relationships. What do you think about how OkCupid and Tinder are changing the way we find love? Are things changing for the better? Or worse?
"I think it comes down to what you’re looking for and it works differently for everyone. Our lives are becoming increasingly app dependent so it makes sense that people would turn to apps for relationships. Slightly scary and Black Mirror-esque but it’s the 21st century and this is how society evolves."
What do you think of Better Days? Is it what you envisaged?
"I’m proud of it. I like the different textures each track has and the different emotions the EP evokes. It was a bit daunting releasing it initially just because Still Life had done pretty well for a first EP. But Better Days is special too. As an independent artist at this stage you can never predict the outcome. Naturally, I’d like to see it do even better with even more support but this is a marathon and not a sprint. Patience, again."
What plans have you got for 2017? What are you working on at the moment?
"I’ve just started on some new music. It’s still very early days so I’m not sure what direction it will go - possibly another EP. Other than that there are no specific plans. It’d be nice to do some collaborations with artists I like and there’ll hopefully be more live shows in 2017."
And to finish off - why did you want to become a musician? Do you have a particular aim? What do you most enjoy about making music?
"I don’t remember making any sort of conscious choice to be a musician. I feel that a musician is who I always was and the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. My earliest memories are of me singing, learning an instrument, and simply listening to music. I love to create, I love the adrenaline and joy it gives. Nothing else compares to doing that and I’m just grateful that I’m able to do that today."
You can follow Lucas Fothergill on Twitter.
Listen to your favourite tracks no matter where you are with the MTV TRAX music app. No ads, no limits, no monkey business. Download it now for FREE at mtvtrax.com.