interview by Michael McCarthy
Hudson Taylor, the duo comprised of Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor, is not easy to pin down. As I said in the first question below, I hear so many genres all at once when I hear their upbeat songs. Folk, Americana, Country, Pop – it’s all in there. The more I listen to their tunes, the more I can hear a splash of rock ‘n’ roll gusto, too. They’ve just released the catchiest EP I’ve heard in ages. It’s called Feel It Again and each of its five tracks could easily be a single. They all take you on a magic carpet ride where you sing along as you soar the skies. They bring an uplifting vibe that’ll plunge you deep into a state of euphoria. A state where you’ll be jumping up and down to the beat of their songs with a great big smile on your face. Like their contemporaries, Vance Joy and The Lumineers, Hudson Taylor’s secret weapon is the much-demanded producer Ryan Hadlock, who gives their songs a colorful sparkle and shine. Suffice to say, it’s no wonder their songs are so infectious that they could easily be played on top 40 radio, just as they’re played in their native Ireland where the brothers are championed by countless fans. Listen to Feel It Again – prepare to get addicted – and read Harry’s interview below.
MM: I’m not sure how I would describe your music to people who’ve never heard it before. I hear country, folk, Americana, even some pop sensibilities. How do you usually describe your sound to people who’ve never heard you before?
HHT: [Laughs] I would’ve said all the things you just said, actually. [Both laugh] Yeah, I mean, the one thing that I would add is that we’re a brother duo singing harmony. And that crosses over genres. It kind of crosses into the songs we sing and write. They’re folk, country, Americana – sort of – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle and harmonica and piano. It’s a band sound, I guess. We can play as a two piece and that’s the route how we write songs, and that’s how we live life normally, but for headline shows, we have a full band.
MM: Who would you say are your biggest influences?
HHT: We grew up listening to our parents’ greatest hits collection of records. They didn’t really have individual albums of bands. They had the greatest hits of The Beatles, the greatest hits of Simon and Garfunkel, the greatest hits of The Beach Boys. So, just kind of listened to all of the good songs. A lot of music from the ’60’s and ’70’s. Then we have an older sister, Chelsea, and she kind of also directed our attention to more modern bands when we were growing up. For example, the first song I learned all the lyrics to was “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis when I was five years old. So, that’s kind of a cross between a few genres. And ever since getting into those sounds a bit more, making a career was [possible]. We spent more time doing our own research into similar bands, people in the same kind of field and different. We’ve trying to expand our horizons and listen to as much music as possible. It’s the thing to do when you’re traveling so much. Download Spotify playlists or make your own playlists – I prefer that, actually, than letting these mad algorithms decide what I listen to and things like that.
MM: On “Run With Me” in particular, your harmonizing particularly reminds me of The Beach Boys. So, they were a big influence?
HHT: Yeah, The Beach Boys are definitely there. That’s another sort of album we’ve been playing in the car during these journeys and trips. Lots of Beach Boys. We’d be singing the harmonies with our parents and stuff like that. Yeah. We love them.
MM: Have you always performed as a duo or were you ever in separate bands or doing solo projects?
HHT: We’ve always performed as a duo. I mean, we both separately played in with other musicians but not really any actually formed bands. That happened when we were about 11 or 12. Then we realized we played better together. The foundation stages of Hudson Taylor began 10 years ago. So, that was in 2008 so we’ve been going for 10 years now, which is a strange thing to say.
MM: It sure goes by fast. So, how did you connect with producer Ryan Hadlock?
HHT: Actually, it’s interesting. About four years ago, he found us. At the time we were working with a UK record label and they wanted us to work with someone in the UK so it didn’t just didn’t work out. He expressed interest and he flew down to see us when were visiting L.A. one time. We were sold. Like, “Oh, yeah! Let’s do it!” It didn’t end up happening the first time around and then coincidentally, this time around what happened was our manager was listening to the radio and she heard a Lumineers song – “Ho Hey,” I think – and she was like, I wonder who did this? She did her own research and was like, I think this guy would be great for you to work with. Not knowing that we’d actually met him before. And then, yeah, April of last year we got in touch with him and then literally in May he’d had a cancellation for the whole month so two weeks after we decided he would be a good match for us he flew out and did a whole month. We did a bit of writing with him and we brought him over to Europe to kind of put our band on the album’s work. Because it was too expensive to fly a whole band out to America. We went out there and did some writing to finish up the album and the Feel it Again EP is kind of a sampler of the album.
MM: When do you think you’ll release the full-length album?
HHT: I reckon it’ll be towards the end of the year or next year. I’m not too sure, though. There’s always songs. We’ve got enough of a back catalog of things that are waiting. It’s just a case of pairing them with the right singles and stuff like that. We’re going to keep writing, as always. Searching for those jams. Playing live a lot is great for that. There’s nothing that really beats it. It’s honest and raw. And you have the opportunity in the moment to put out what you want to put out right there and then people can take it or leave it. That’s a beautifully thing. To road test songs. We just try out new songs now and again to see what works.
MM: On “Easy Baby” you have a lyric about a broken record playing the same moment over and over again. Are you a fan of vinyl records?
HHT: I am. I am a fan of vinyl. I am currently not as stationary in terms of a living situation. I’m kind of just living out of a suitcase out of choice. So, I’ve become less of a hoarder for anything, including vinyl, but Alfie has a lovely vinyl player and quite a nice collection. There’s really been a resurgence with vinyl. I mean, here in Ireland, even. We’ve been promoting the release of the EP and we’ve been going to record stores in for signings and performances and these whole businesses are being propped up and kept alive by vinyl. They’ve turned whole floors in their buildings into vinyl havens where they sell really nice hi-fi gear and just stack loads of vinyl.
MM: Yeah, I love it. It’s incredible how it’s made such a comeback.
HHT: It’s just amazing.
MM: You have a song called “Old Souls” where you describe yourselves as having old souls. What does that mean to you?
HHT: I actually can’t speak for that song personally because Alfie wrote that song himself and I just helped him finish it. I would describe describe my brother Alfie as an old soul. He’s always been kind of older for a time. We’re only 18 months apart in age, but he would’ve been able to get served alcohol. In Ireland the age for alcohol is 18. He would go into a place and not get asked for ID because he looked older even though I’m older than him. And I’d do the same thing and get asked for ID. I think Alfie’s always been an old soul. He’s got a wisdom about him. He’s someone who’s set in a nice sort of calm, not too erratic behavior, just quite chilled out and takes everything as it comes.
MM: How would you describe your personality?
HHT: Maybe quite the opposite. Maybe that’s why we work well together for this whole business. As I said, I’m not currently living in a house. I’m living out of a suitcase so I kind of take things as they come in a different kind of way, I would say. I’m a little bit more erratic. [Laughs]
MM: How does the writing process usually begin with you? Do you start with a title or a melody or a guitar part or – how does the magic happen?
HHT: All of those things are different ways we’ve started songs. For example, we’ve started songs with a title before and one of the songs on our first album is called “Night Before The Morning After.” That’s a song that started with a title. We were like let’s write a song about it. The story is a mesh of ideas of what was going on in both of our relationships at the time, but then sometimes I would write with just a guitar lick and we’d start jamming. The magical thing that we really love is when we just start jamming. We put the iPhone on the table and put the voice recorder on and start jamming. We might get five, six or seven minutes of stuff and then you listen back to it and it could be the basis [of a song]. Quite often that’s what’s happened for us anyway. Alfie will start singing some mad gibberish, a real nice melody, and I’ll just punch in on harmonies. We’re very easily able to just lock in and understand what each other is going to do. It’s almost like an interesting state of flow that overcomes us. Sometimes we can create a song in about five minutes. Other times, it could take two years to finish a song.
MM: I saw you opening for Gabrielle Aplin, who had you sing a couple of songs with her. Did you know her prior to doing the U.S. tour?
HHT: We’ve known Gabrielle for about eight years. Alfie and Gabrielle are going out so we’ve known her quite a long time, yeah.
MM: How many dates was that U.S. tour?
HHT: I think it was 13 or 14. We went to the East Coast then and little bit across the middle then the West Coast. We didn’t do any of the deep South. But, hopefully, next time.
MM: What was your impression of Boston when you were in town?
HHT: It’s a lovely town, Boston. It’s always hard with any city to [just] be there for a day and that kind of thing. But I got a pretty good taste of it the other day. I had a day off the day after so I was able to go sample the bar scene, have a few nice Boston beers. And it was lovely. A very nice city. A great feeling, that lovely Irish [vibe] about it, you know?
MM: Did you have any trouble understanding people’s accents here?
HHT: Not at all. No, no, no.
MM: Whereabouts in Ireland do you live?
HHT: We’re from Dublin. The sort of outskirts of the city. Not in the middle of the city, probably about 20 minutes from the city center of Dublin.
MM: Do you get a lot of airplay on radio stations there in Ireland?
HHT: We get a good bit of radio play in Ireland, yeah, which is lovely. It’s great to have home support.
MM: Do people recognize you when you’re out doing errands or shopping or whatever?
HHT: There’s a little bit about that, yeah. There’s a little bit of that in Dublin. Ireland’s a small place. You know someone by two degrees [of separation] or sometimes just one degree between you and someone’s grandmother. You always bump into someone who knows your cousin, you know what I mean? It’s a small place. If anything else, by comparison, there is less people in Ireland than there is in all of Manhattan.
MM: If you could resurrect any one musician from the dead, who would you bring back?
HHT: John Lennon. Definitely.
MM: If someone was giving you a million dollars to give to charity and it all had to go to one charity or cause, which would you give it to?
HHT: Don’t know. I’ve never thought about anything like that. That’s a pretty different question. I’d say I’d give it to some charity that could give it to other charities in a very fair and even way. [Both laugh]
Read Michael’s review of Hudson Taylor’s opening set for Gabrielle Aplin here: http://www.loveispop.com/reviews/concert-review-gabrielle-aplin-hudson-taylor-john-splithoff-at-the-middle-east-downstairs-2-24-18/
Extra special thanks to Harry for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do the interview and to Caroline Shadday and Jillian Santella for facilitating it.