Five Questions With Taylor Abrahamse

Toronto, ON-based folk-pop singer-songwriter, Taylor Abrahamse has unveiled his newest single, “I Won’t Put Up With It”, and it will have you dancing in your seat.

“I’m fascinated with pushing the boundaries for what’s possible in a catchy pop song” says Abrahamse. “‘I Won’t Put Up With It’ was bedtracked in Nashville with top session musicians… A Michael Jackson-inspired slice of 80s funk with a modern protest message, it twists and turns through key changes and a complex arrangement.”

The track was mixed and produced by Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin), with additional production by Taylor Abrahamse and Fred Mollin. Kramer discovered Abrahamse playing an impromptu song at the Canadian Music Week conference and insisted on working with him on a full album.

“Taylor Abrahamse is truly one of Canada’s most original and outstanding artists I have worked with in some time,” Kramer shares. “His sense of melody, lyrics, and song structure — along with amazing skill as a performer — will soon be revealed to the general public.”

Check out “I Won’t Put Up With It” below and find out more about Taylor via our Five Questions With segment.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Sure! I’m Taylor Abrahamse, a singer-songwriter from Toronto, ON. AKA, Ontario, the province that’s always ON – Run with that, tourism board!

I just put out a debut studio album. Out of his insistence & belief in my writing, I was mentored and produced by the great Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, KISS, engineer for The Beatles & more). He was an absolute joy – he still has the spark & wit of a twentysomething. I’ve also kept busy with cartoon voice acting in TV shows & writing music for TV.

I’m always asking myself deep questions, and I think my intention with music is to give people freedom through it – freedom to be completely themselves, whatever that really is – It’s usually the thing we’re a bit nervous about, the thing that requires some growth – whether that’s being brave, loving unconditionally, a nervous wreck, or The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald. And I find the first step at that freedom is getting good at catching our inauthenticities, so, while I often fail at it, I pursue honesty with my music. On this record, I touch what are some pretty bold subjects for me from my life like my journeys with gender identity, activism, depression, loss – and stick them into infectious little musical packages.

Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.

My sound is a bit hard to pin down (People say Paul Simon esque? Michael Jackson?), but I’m obsessed with music in all its forms – this record is a pinch Randy Newman, Neil Young, McCartney, jazz standards, Queen, Hawksley Workman, some modern pop… you name it, I dig it… as long as it sounds inspired. I’m very much a songwriter first – a song generally needs to work on its own with just a guitar and a voice – and filling up the mix with the other stuff should be a bonus, not a necessity to try and make a song work. Songs with real staying power are the ones you hum at 2 AM on the streetcar when your phone dies to keep your spirits up. ‘Songwriter’ used to be a full-time gig, rather than one of 12 skills independent musicians are now required to fulfill, and that fragmentation has, I think, gradually hurt the craft of songwriting & the collective soul of humanity in subtle but profound ways. I’m trying to bring that song craft back some more in my odd little way – In a way, just reminding people of the vast depths 70’s singer/songwriters used to cover harmonically & lyrically. It seems like we’ve been on the 80’s/90’s nostalgia train for a decade in popular culture – but the early 70’s singer/songwriter scene never had a true mainstream comeback. What’s up with that!?

How are you keeping creative without shows? What are you spending your time on?

Since I was a kid, I’ve trained my brain into a constant frenzy of ideas and free association (which I’ll let loose in improvised songs during my sets sometimes), so I’m not worried about keeping creative without shows. But certainly, shows are a wonderful validation of all the invisible hours of dead ends, loneliness, and suffering artists endure. For me, being without shows is the same as being without hugs – plus, I’m without hugs anyway cos of this Spanish Flu + 102! Livestreams are simply not a substitution, but they’re fun – and they create a certain intimacy. The same way it’s fun and intimate to watch Stephen Colbert lead The Late Show from a bunker as he downs whiskey shots. But I digress! (But you wanted it!)

I’m clearing my slate to make time to finish writing the next record, going through the growing pains of promoting this first record, and hoping to God the world isn’t too fragmented for it to get sufficiently experienced. I’m also flirting cautiously with what next online steps to take… more Livestream shows!

I also co-founded a pro recording studio (Silverthorn Studios), so there are always little odd projects or writing for other people that can keep pushing my creativity in directions it otherwise wouldn’t.

If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?

I wish I was a touch more astute, in which case I’d know what the single should be. But hey, I released 11 songs and tried to make them all equally good and hang together as a cohesive piece, in a world that is dominated by singles… so I ain’t exactly approaching this like a Spotify star(ving artist).

‘Fall’ and ‘I Won’t Put Up With It’ have been the singles so far, but who knows. Depends on the person. For those who have heard the whole thing, they really think all the songs are equal – and those people aren’t clones I made of my parents, I promise.

These days I’m most pleased with how ‘The Same Damn Story’ turned out. It’s a manic, melodic epic about depression and trying to hold on to innocence. I first started writing it ten years ago, and then I wildly revised it a few weeks before recording. If you want something goofy, ‘Ain’t Got No Cure For Love’ which has a jaw-dropping saloon-style piano solo from Steve Lavery and some purdy harmony stacks by my friend SH3 turned out very well. If you want to cry, I did my best to write a Randy Newman tear-jerker with ‘Endless Heaven’. ‘Fall’ has a ginormous CSNY-style ending that was magical to see Eddie mix – it’s a heartbreaking folk epic of sorts that might have fit on ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ or a James Taylor record. ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’ has always been a staple of mine, about being in denial about my first real relationship ending.

*(realizes he should promote his music video)*

Ah! Looky there! I see you’ve got the music video for ‘I Won’t Put Up With It’, my foray into early 80’s sounds with 2020 themes. I had to mainly edit the video myself for the most part because, again, artists do 12 jobs at once… that’s something I certainly Won’t Put Up With next time around ;)… I’m pretty content with how the song and video turned out, an experiment in writing an activist anthem that can be sophisticated, yet poppy and clear. I bed tracked this song in Nashville, that bedtrack produced with the fabulous Fred Mollin and a modern-day Wrecking Crew of sorts backing me up. The bassist, Larry Paxton, said it was the hardest bass line he’s had to play in about 18 years – but he slayed it.

I think I wrote it because I’m just sick of apathy winning in this world. I fear the boomers are chuckling now, already tuning out. But really, let’s look at this objectively, and I know this isn’t exactly music talk, but I think it’s still interesting & vital. If everyone in the world individually devoted an hour’s wage to end world hunger and it was effectively allocated – billions of workers, hundreds of billions of dollars – world hunger would be decimated in one day. Imagine that same allocation given to every one of our major worldly issues each day – you’d be living in a very different world. I really believe that’s possible, but here’s my current theory: apathy & resignation control the vast sum of the population – But, we are selectively apathetic & resigned – we’re apathetic & resigned when it’s convenient for us. Most people secretly want the ego boost of being right about how the world will never really work, so they don’t need to do the real work, but it works ‘well enough’ that they can eat their Toblerone at watch Mandalorian – And so, the apathetic & resigned hold back the ones who are trying to do the real work, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We will do whatever is the easiest way to be right and win, even if it gradually kills us. But the weird thing is, apathy only exists in language. It’s a concept, and concepts die if we don’t give them breath. The main reason apathy wins is I think people are scared of real solutions. We’re scared of the work, the sacrifices, and the empty void at the other end – we’re scared of what new struggle will take the place of the old one, or afraid of finding purpose in purposelessness. There’s not a lot of obvious incentives to make this world work for everyone, and they only make themselves present when we’re actively generous & authentic with people. Doing what is correct from a common-sense perspective is replaced with the word ‘idealism’ whenever we’re too scared of what life would look like with that thing solved. We spent eons merely surviving, we’re programmed to suffer – This whole ‘living’ thing and first-world civilization is comparatively new to our noggins, and we’re chronically trying to sabotage it for short-term gains that make us feel safer & like the tigers are less likely to eat us: aka, money & status. We really could solve things with shocking ease if we were a unified world, and that unification is a matter of a shift in thinking, and not dependent on anything else. We have everything we need, except the tools for true self-reflection. Music is a vital part of that shift at its best – at its worst, it just entrenches more of that addiction to money & status.

Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, so who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ artists?

I had the pleasure of co-writing a song with NEFE a little while back, which I hope we’ll release. I met her first at SongStudio (a songwriting workshop), and then got to see her opening up for Bruce Cockburn at Massey Hall – those are definitely the sorts of stages she deserves to be playing. A phenomenal up-and-coming voice and spirit. There are so many names I forget, I’m atrocious with names – but I hear a lot of Canadian songs that flutter through my psyche. At a certain point, I have to trust that the stuff that comes back through my head is the stuff that’s the best for me to remember, and that tends to be songs that again, just feel like a perfect blend of lyric & melody, and not more reliant on style over substance. There’s a lot of style over substance today, maybe there always has been. I seem like an old fogie because history has done me the favor of weeding out some of the more forgettable songs, but all the new forgettables float through our feeds every day. ‘The New Forgettables’, definitely should be a band name.

From what I see on Facebook, I’m a big admirer of Danny Michel’s daily hustle & the life he’s built for himself, same with my friends in Monowhales. Love Barbra Lica – just stumbled on the stardom-ready Laura Anglade. I grew up on Hawksley Workman, Buck 65, K-os, Joel Plaskett, Serena Ryder, Jacksoul, Sarah Harmer, everything early-mid 2000’s on Much Music, and have been pretty consistent at listening to all their work over the years. Rheostatics had a particularly profound effect on me – and Martin Tielli’s solo work. They told me to pick up ‘Miss America’ by Mary Margaret O’Hara, which also blew me away. Of course Ron Sexsmith, and my God, everyone needs to hear ‘Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs’ by Ron, Lori Cullen & Kurt Swinghammer – writing on that rivals most Bacharach. We are absolutely spoiled for great singer/songwriters in this country, it’s always been a goldmine of talent up here. I think L Cohen and our other obvious legends go without saying. But another thing I should mention is to go to any events curated by Jaymz Bee if you can – you will hear and see some of the most spectacular performers there.

It’s freaky how accessible most of my Canadian heroes are – going into 2020 at a New Year’s party, you were supposed to kiss whoever was beside you, and my new year’s smooch was Mary Margaret O’Hara!

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