I have a colourful wildly imaginative image of Claire Anne Taylor running and playing games as a child immersed in a far away world in Tasmania’s ancient Tarkine rainforest. It sounds like stuff of fairy tales but when you consider Taylor was born into the hands of her father in the family barn I guess anything is possible. That same child would grow up to carve her own path in life and music still surrounded by the beauty of nature. But with her feet firmly planted on the ground she is discerning enough to realise that life is both beautiful and dark. Through her soulful folk songs and her signature raspy vocals she captures that essence of life with heart aching warmth.
A few years ago she made a name for herself as one of Australia’s most intelligent songwriters of the back of her critically acclaimed debut album Elemental (2016). Since then she has toured and won over fans from all over Australia and continues to do so even as I write here. Taylor is currently back on the road again promoting her new studio album All The Words which was released back in January, 2019. From it comes a collection of great new songs that reveals more of her unmistakable honesty as a songwriter and storyteller. That said, it is her unmistakable honesty in particular that draws me into her world and one of the reasons why I reached out to talk to her about her new album, touring and being compared to Norah Jones. Here is some of what we talked about.
I get the impression you are very comfortable in your own skin. Does that come with growing up in rural Tasmania? How different do you think you would have been if you were a city kid?
Over the years I have learnt the importance of being myself and I’ve come to believe that the more I am myself on stage (however daggy and awkward I might come across) the more connected I feel to the audience. Perhaps being true to me allows the audience to feel more comfortable in themselves.
I think having a strong sense of who I am definitely comes from having an incredible home environment growing up and feeling a real sense of belonging. I grew up in a very supportive community in the bush in Tasmania and I think this helped me to know exactly who I was from a young age. I think if I’d grown up a city kid I would be a completely different person because my upbringing in the country has really shaped who I am.
All The Words is your incredible second studio album. If I am correct, you recorded the entire album in a cabin in Tasmania’s Huon Valley. What was that like for you? The setting must have been truly inspiring?
When it comes to my music, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Recording in my home in the Huon Valley made me feel so comfortable and at ease, which then allowed me to lose myself in the songs and focus on delivering them with the emotion they required. For most of the tracking process I was literally staring out the backyard at the little creek and gumtrees that surround our property. It was just such an inspiring space to record and it set me in good stead to make the album I wanted to make.
I understand Chris Townend helped you record this album. What can you tell me about some of the unsung heroes who played on it with you? Are any of these individuals currently on tour with you?
From the first conversation I had with Chris it was evident that we had very similar ideas about the recording process. We wanted it to be honest, recorded as live as possible, and with the ultimate hope that it would result in being as emotionally affecting as possible. He was so wonderful to work with because he would leave the room each time he hit record so that I could sing my heart out without feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder. It gave me a lot of freedom and space to get into the spirit of the song.
I was also really lucky to work with some incredible Tasmanian musicians. Actually, everyone on the album, except for the legendary Paul Williamson, was Tasmanian, which was a deliberate move on my part. I wanted to showcase the wonderful musicians we have here in Tassie without feeling the need to bring in hired guns from elsewhere. Beau Thomas, who played all the drums on the album was such a pivotal part of this record. He has such an instinctive approach to his playing and he understood the soulful tack I wanted to take and really took it there. Kelly Ottaway also brought the welcome addition of keys and piano to the soundscape and Pete Cornelius gave the album some hauntingly beautiful electric guitar. All of the musicians on the album played so beautifully and were stellar humans to work with, which is a real bonus.
Talking about being currently on tour around Australia, what has been the reception like to your album? Is there a song from the album that has become a fan favourite yet?
I have been so overwhelmed by the feedback I have received about this album. Releasing anything independently is always a bit of a struggle but the songs have been doing a lot of the hard work for me and people are connecting with them in a big way, which is all I could’ve hoped for. I have had a lot of people come up to me at the shows and tell me how much my music means to them and that makes me feel so bloody happy. I think the track ‘Pick Your Bones’ has become a favourite amongst my fans because I have had a lot of people tell me how much they love it.
I am smitten by Hold Me, Darling. It meanders gently along nicely with your smouldering raspy voice. What can you tell me about how it came about?
It came from a dream. One night I awoke abruptly in the middle of the night and I had this melody in my head. I remember grabbing my phone in my sleepy haze and recording some kind of jibberish along to the melody. I don’t remember what the dream was about exactly but I caught a little bit of the song and got it down before it could disappear from my head. Slowly the lyrics formed into Hold, Me Darling and further down the track I played it to my mate Matt Bone and he and I ended up working on the music together and he added some lovely chord ideas that helped complete the song. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
You sing across this new album of love, of family, and of course loss. Interestingly, it is also what Sarah Lansdown from The Advocate calls ‘a soulful ode to Tasmania’. How different do you believe your ideas and themes are on this new album from Elemental (2016)?
There are many consistent themes with this album as there were with Elemental, however, I think I have grown more comfortable in my skin and in my sound, as an artist, and I think that comes across in this new album. I also think there is an unmistakable honesty to the production and delivery of these songs and that is something I am really proud of. Overall, I’d say this new album is warmer and more uplifting than my first album.
Boogie River is sonically quite upbeat. Is that an organ I also hear in the background? Can you tell me something else surprising about it?
Yes, it is laced with organ played by the beautiful Kelly Ottaway. Organ is a sound that I adore and I really felt that it would help give this song that old school charm I was after. Another interesting thing about Boogie river is that there’s no bass guitar on the track and instead the Hammond organ is playing the bass notes with the foot pedals. This was an idea suggested by Chris Townend and I felt it really worked to give the song the punch it needed.
Another one of my favourite song from the album Rise To Your Door comes very late. It seems like a fitting conclusion to the album. Was that deliberate decision to have it end the album? And if so, can you elaborate a little about it?
I wanted to end the album on a high note. Although the song is underpinned by a sadness and grief, it is really a song about living each day to the fullest. I remember how tough it was for my grandpa Jack to lose his beloved Claire (my Nanna) and I remember how he was never really the same after losing her but he still carried on and greeted each day with a smile. That’s the place I wanted to leave my listeners with. It’s also a song that I am very close to because my Mum sings harmonies on the recording and having her voice in there just fills my heart up to the brim. I thought it would be nice to share that personal moment at the close of the album.
Finally, and forgive me I have to ask, have you ever been compared to Nora Jones or anyone else like her? How do compliments like that sit with you?
Indeed I have. I think it’s human nature for people to compare something new to something they know, something familiar. I guess it’s part of the human brain’s way of making sense of the world. Being a singer, you often get people come up to you after shows and compare you to other singers. I can’t actually remember a show where someone didn’t come up afterwards and tell me who they think i sound like and I’ve had the whole gamut of comparisons. From Melissa Etheridge to Jeff Buckley. The comparisons I feel are most accurate to my voice are those of Norah Jones and Ray LaMontagne. I can hear the smokey texture of similarity they are comparing me to and I take comparisons like these as compliments. But I have to say that nothing pleases me more than having someone tell me that I have a voice that is completely my own, with its own unique flavour. That’s a really nice feeling.
Claire Anne Taylor’s latest album All The Words is available via her online store and digitally. For more information on Claire Anne Taylor including tour updates check out her website. Follow Claire Anne Taylor on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | You Tube.
Claire Anne Taylor’s All The Words Victoria Tour dates:
Thursday May 2 – Gasometer Hotel, Collingwood, VIC with Aine Tyrrell.
Friday May 3 – Sedgwick Hall, Sedgwick VIC with Grim Fawkner.
Saturday May 4 – Sandy Point Community Centre, Sandy Point VIC with Grim Fawkner.
Sunday May 5 – Scrub Hill 1869, Newlyn VIC with Aine Tyrrell.
Thursday May 9 – Caldwell Hall, NSW with Grim Fawkner.
Friday May 10 – Pomona Community Hall, Pomona VIC with Aine Tyrrell.
Saturday May 11 – St Brigid’s Hall, Crossley VIC with Aine Tyrrell.
Sunday May 12 – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh VIC with Aine Tyrrell.