Having caught up with Toronto, ON singer-songwriter Julian Taylor just a few months ago at a house show in his home province, we never imagined that the chance to repeat the experience would come around so soon. But, upon hearing Julian mention during that evening back in March that he planned to play a few shows in the US, we quickly skimmed through his tour schedule and found that not only would he be almost in our backyard on a Saturday night, but be performing at Severeid House in Alexandria, VA – one of our favorite venues in the DC suburbs.
Performing two sets over the course of 1 hour and 40 minutes, with his natural charm and charisma, Julian endeared himself to the intimate gathering from the moment he was introduced. “Good evening. Thanks for coming and braving the weather,” he stated while adjusting the tuning on his acoustic guitar – and referencing a pop-up storm that blew through the area just prior to the show. “I came from Roanoke today, and had an interesting adventure there. I got to Roanoke and didn’t have a guitar. But one of the performers that I played with last night was very kind to let me use his guitar, a guitar that had actually been in two fires. So, when I picked it up, it already smelled like burned wood. It was very interesting.”
Having staked his claim as a legitimate folk-roots singer-songwriter during the pandemic (although several hints of this musical shift were dropped on his 2019 “Avalanche” album), Julian’s most recent albums were visited frequently on this given evening. He would open the show with “Wide Awake,” as found on his latest “Beyond The Reservoir” album – and would later add “S.E.E.D.S,” “Opening The Sky,” and “100 Proof” from this album. And, of course, Julian was eager to share stories behind such songs. “Every night I do this, it takes a tiny little piece out of me and I walk away exhausted,” he announced. “And I’ve been in rock and roll bands a lot, and I find that the mental capacity and the emotional energy is just as taxing, so I’ll do my best. They are very personal songs, all of them.”
With the commercial (and well-deserved) success of his first pandemic-era album, “The Ridge,” Julian would naturally draw plenty of material from this stunning release that earned a string of accolades – nominated for 2 JUNO Awards, 5 Native American Music Awards, and a Canadian Folk Music Award. Oh, and lest we forget this one being shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize – heck, this album earned a spot in my 2020 Year End Album Honors too as a Top Four Finalist. Sharing outstanding cuts such as “Ballad Of A Young Troubadour” one moment, then picking up the pace to electrify the room with “Love Enough” the next, Julian delivered a well curated set list.
For those of us craving music from “Avalanche,” we were not left hanging, as Julian delivered two popular radio hits from this transitional album – and addressed the room with some great tales behind the origins of the songs. “This song is about the circle of life, and my daughter, who is eleven, used to like my music, and was the first one to hear most of these songs,” he shared, prior to “Back Again.” “Now she likes Billie Eilish, which I am totally fine with, I can’t be cool forever, right?” Soaking up the feedback, he would continue. “But this particular song, I remember sitting in the garden and there were flowers. And she asked me what this was about, and I said, ‘Do you see that flower there, you see how it is blooming now? Well, in the fall, it will die … in the winter, it will rest, but in spring it will come back again. Everything has its moment to rest, rejuvenate, and then rise again.”
“Sweeter” would also be performed from “Avalanche,” and Julian had the room eating out of his hands with the tale that preceded the song. “Recently I’ve been working on new material, and going through papers of old songs. I found the original version of Sweeter – it was actually written by myself and my friend Tyler [Ellis] who wrote 100 Proof – and I am so relieved and glad that I rewrote the entire thing,” he commenced. “The lyrics are really bad on the original version of Sweeter. In fact, I call it Shitty Sweeter, and maybe one day I may post it if I get permission from Tyler to reveal how horrible we can be at writing songs. So, I am very grateful that I scrapped that whole thing … I’m not kidding, when people come over to my house, I’m like ‘oh my God, you have to read Shitty Sweeter,’ and you should see their faces.”
Songs and stories were woven together all evening – much to the delight of the audience – as Julian shared memories about his grandparents, his first cross-Canada road trip, and even the mutual co-ownership of an ugly holiday sweater with his ex-girlfriend (with whom he also co-shares a dog). All were great moments, but one that stood out on this occasion was hearing news of his next album currently in the works, before performing a song we had never witnessed live until now. “I’m working on an album called The Anthology because I’ve been around and recorded songs for over 25 years,” he shared. “I can’t even tell you how many songs I have, probably about 170 have actually been published into the world. And this is a song that my old band Staggered Crossing only recorded live. It’s called Georgia Moon.”
Another solid performance from this seasoned veteran, and a great mix of music spanning several of his later albums. For those of you who dabble with social media, Julian recently shared a post expressing his willingness to take requests into consideration for the track listing on his next record. For Team GDW, we’d expect nothing less than anything from his 2014 “Tech Noir” album, and should Julian happen to see this, we’re pretty sure he knows that hands-down, our choice would be “Do You Remember.” Such fond memories of his full band performance of this number in Hamilton many years ago – the clip can be found on our GDW You Tube channel – be sure to give that one a whirl some time.
- Wide Awake
- Human Race
- Carry Me Home
- Back Again
- Georgia Moon
- 100 Proof
- Be Good To Your Woman
- Opening The Sky
- The Ridge
- Be With You
- Desert Star (Who Could Ask For More?)
- Love Enough
- Ballad Of A Young Troubadour
- Just A Little Bit