Unreserved

'Making up for lost time': Julian Taylor on his first Juno nominations

Julian Taylor has been performing and recording albums for more than 20 years. This year, after the release of his latest album The Ridge, the Black and Indigenous artist received his first two Juno nominations.
(Lisa Macintosh)

Julian Taylor has been performing and recording albums for more than 20 years. This year, after the release of his latest album The Ridge, Taylor was nominated for two Juno Awards: Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. They are his first Juno nominations.    

"I think I'm making up for lost time," said Taylor, who identifies as Mohawk and West Indian. 

Taylor felt relieved when he heard about his Juno nominations, he told Unreserved host Falen Johnson. "It really, really helps me feel like I can keep going." 

Feeling burnout, Taylor took a break from playing music for several years. "I was so disenchanted," he explained. During his break from music, Taylor was working in bars and restaurants, "just making tips and wages," he said. 

"And then all of a sudden, I got the bug again. I came back, and I'm really happy that I did," Taylor said.  

'I wanted people to listen to the record and not look at it'

The cover of Taylor's Juno-nominated album The Ridge is a misty image of an old barn overlooking trees. Taylor chose not to include an image of himself on the album's cover.

"The way I look has always been something that strikes me as an issue for other people," Taylor explained.

'It was actually a conscious decision not to include a picture of myself on this album,' said Taylor. (Lisa Macintosh)

"It was actually a conscious decision not to include a picture of myself on this album."

The Ridge is "a very folk Americana, Canadiana, even country-sounding record," explained Taylor.  

"I just I didn't want people to to look at it and say, 'Oh, well, look, there's a dark-skinned guy with dreadlocks, and that's what the music's supposed to sound like.'"

"I wanted people to listen to the record and not look at it," he said.

Over the past two decades of performing, Taylor has noticed when audiences have been uncomfortable with the music he plays, he explained. 

Taylor recalled experiences of playing cover songs in bars in southern Ontario, performing for "predominantly white audiences." 

"If I played a song by Bob Marley, the comfort level of the people in the bar, the club that we were in, seemed to be OK," he said.  

But if Taylor played a Johnny Cash song, "people would turn their heads," said Taylor. "You could visibly see how uncomfortable they were." 

"People just assume something because of the way you look."


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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