Americana’s Julian Taylor premieres his stirring new single, “Seeds”. The Canadian singer-songwriter had a breakthrough in 2020 when his rootsy solo acoustic album, The Ridge, earned international acclaim and a series of award wins and nominations. His latest feels like a continuation of this earnest, folksy formula, once again produced by Taylor alongside Saam Hashemi at Toronto’s Woodshed. Taylor’s conversational vocals set him in the living room of every listener, speaking openly with them about their potential. It’s an inspiring tune with a rollicking rhythm accentuated by many instruments, from fiddle to pedal steel, congas, and more.
“Seeds” will release on 24 June, published by Taylor’s Howling Turtle Inc. label. It was written by Taylor and Robert Priest and mixed and engineered by Saam Hashemi at the Woodshed. Taylor is a chameleon and staple of the Toronto scene, playing everything between electric blues and acoustic folk that culminates in his ongoing Americana work.
In anticipation of the single release, Taylor took part in a Q&A with PopMatters.
What prompted you to write this song? What was the inspiration behind it?
I remember waking up to a text that my cousin, Ajika, sent me. It was the morning after the announcement in Kamloops where 215 uncovered remains of buried Indigenous children were discovered at a former residential school.
Her text simply read: “George Floyd and Kamloops” with a tear emoji, and, following that, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” Both events were about a year apart and weighed heavily on my heart, mind, and soul.
My mom also sent me a message that was equally as heartbreaking. She said she had a bittersweet feeling in her gut and said, “Now people will know that the stories are true.” Seeing and reading these messages from members of my family felt crushing but also gave me hope, and I started to write the song “Seeds”.
I mentioned to a good friend of mine, the poet Robert Priest, that I was working on the song and how the inspiration came to me, and then a few days later, he sent me a message, too. He said that he had been meditating, and as soon as he’d finished, he started writing down a poem about our talk. He sent me that poem by text message, and I began to fiddle with it here and there, and the lyrics started to take on a life of their own.
How did this song come together when you wrote it? What was the songwriting process like?
Like most of the songs I write, it just came to me. I wasn’t deliberate. I like to think that songwriters are conduits, and I feel that way about my work. The melody and the chords were written on a pontoon boat in Osoyoos in British Columbia in the middle of the moonlight during a beautiful summer night. I was strumming the chord progression and humming along with the melody. It was one of those moments when I had to grab my cell phone and record what I was doing so I wouldn’t forget it later. I still have the initial recording.
The lyrics are a combination of my own words and ideas, as well as the text messages that I received from my mother, my cousin, Ajika, and my friend, Robert. It took me a while to formalize them, but I am very pleased with how they turned out and the message behind them.
When you recorded this song, what kind of vibe were you going for? Did it end up sounding like you expected it to, or did it come out different from what you thought it would be?
The song was recorded several times. It started as a little acoustic demo recorded on the lake and morphed into a full-on, big band explosion at first. When we laid down the first studio version of the track, we were at Canterbury Studio in Toronto. It was a four-piece band that consisted of Toronto-based musicians. I really liked the version that we recorded but didn’t feel like the narrative of the song was coming through. Ironically, I felt as if it was getting buried. It was too much of a rock and roll version, and the message of love and resilience seemed to be getting lost. So, I tried it entirely acoustically when I was in Nashville for AmericanaFest. I stopped by my friend Colin Linden’s studio, and we did a few different takes of songs from the album there. I also love the acoustic version that we recorded but again felt like it needed something else. It felt too barren. Who knows, maybe I will eventually release them.
The final version that’s being released was recorded at The Woodshed with the same lineup from my previous record. My cousins Barry and Gene Diabo make up the rhythm section, and Derek Downham is on the keys. This is the version that really spoke to me, and my vocal take was done off the floor with the band, which colors the song and its message nicely, I think.
When the final mix was done, I still felt like it was missing something, so I grabbed my grandfather’s old traditional hand drum and just went for it. That’s why you hear that resounding thunderous bass drum throughout the song.
What do you hope listeners get from the song?
I hope that this song touches people’s hearts in some way and makes them think. Think about their lives in a different way, one that brings them closer to the natural world and the universe. I hope it makes them feel the need to help others and see just how important and special the teachings of the ancient ones truly are.
I have a love/hate relationship with the world of constant online information. One side of me thinks it way too much, and the other side of me feels, without it, some of the ugly truths about humanity wouldn’t find its way to as many people the way that it does now. Obviously, this is a double-edged sword.
To me, the subject matter is important and real. Even though it was initially written about specific historical events, the song, now that it’s finished, has a universal sound to it. It relates to everyone.
It’s a quiet protest about strength and hope. Everyone on the planet can relate to that, especially with what we’ve all been through over the past two years. There’s an old saying that goes, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” I think this song captures that.
How does this song fit into the over vibe and themes of your forthcoming album?
This is one of the songs in the middle of the new record. I was originally going to call the album “Seeds” after the song but decided not to at the last minute. S.E.E.D.S. = Somehow. Everyone. Eventually. Dreams. Someday. I’m glad I made the choice to change it because the album title—which I will be announcing soon—is far more engaging and meaningful now. It carries a lot more weight and really does explain the overall feeling and vibe of the album. It’s a heavy record. It has this infinite sadness to it, but it also has this infinite hope to it as well. “Seeds” is a bit more up-tempo than some other tracks on the album. As I said, it’s a quiet protest, and it is a statement I felt compelled to make right now.