(Full disclosure: My wife happens to be Julian Taylor’s Canadian publicist. So, after a brief introduction, it’ll be just Taylor talking about his album. And I’d be writing this story, this way,  regardless of who his publicist is. Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.)

It looks like Julian Taylor is poised on the verge of broadening and deepening his international breakthrough of 2020.

That year, his album The Ridge earned more than five million plays on Spotify, praise from the press worldwide, and airplay from Canada and the U.S. to Australia and the U.K. Loaded with soulful Americana and country twang, The Ridge won Taylor the Solo Artist of the Year honour at the Canadian Folk Music Awards; was nominated for two JUNO Awards (Contemporary Folk Album and Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year); and made the Polaris Prize Long List of the 40 best albums in Canada. He also won Best Male Artist at the International Acoustic Music Awards.

In October of 2022, The Globe and Mail wrote, “Taylor is a unique and important voice on the Canadian roots-and-folk scene.” The ever-expanding list on the “Contacts” page of Taylor’s website now includes booking agents, radio promoters, and publicists in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, The Netherlands, and France. He’ll be touring Europe for the first time as a solo act in 2023. With his new album Beyond the Reservoir, out Oct. 14, 2022, Taylor’s already-sharp songwriting skills have taken a quantum leap forward, with ever more powerful content, memorable melodies, and singalong choruses.

Born, raised, and still based in the diverse city of Toronto, Taylor is proud of his mixed Black and Mohawk heritage. “I come from two strong oral traditions and cultures,” he says. “One was stolen from their land and brought here, and the other had their land stolen. It’s been an uphill battle ever since, and the fight is far from over…”

“When I was 21 years old, I was just coming out of a period where I was pretty rebellious, and didn’t really want to hang out with my family. I was out on the streets, in the parks, doing whatever I could. My Aunt Roberta gave me a ring with a little stone in it. When I was about six years old, and we were in Maple Ridge, we used to collect stones on Alouette Lake. She had one put into a ring, and it was an incredible gift to receive. They say that our ancestors live within the stones. It really brought me back to the source, to the core of family, and made me feel like I was doing the wrong things.”

“Murder 13”

“It’s about a friend of mine who was the 13th murder in the city of Toronto in 2005. He went missing, and all of us were, like, ‘Where is he?’ We knew that he was trying to get back on track. Sometimes you get to that precipice where you’re in too deep to get back on track, and there’s people that want to hold you back, because they don’t want to see you anywhere further than they are. It’s a hard place to be.”

“It Hurts (Everyone Was There)”
“This takes place in a space where I’m in my early twenties, my band [Staggered Crossing] is getting a bit of notoriety, I’m making a lot of friends on the open stage scene. I came up with the first line, ‘Everyone was there, everyone was happy.’ It was a time when I could have gone one way, like my friend [from “Murder 13”] or the other. So when I say that it hurts, it’s because I saw so many people meet their demise at that time. I often wonder whether the people that became fatalities, or ended up in jail, were the glue that held us together.”

“Wide Awake”
“It’s about feeling incredibly hurt and saddened by some things that have happened in my life with relationships, both personal and family: the choices that I’ve made, and the heartache that I’ve caused, and that it’s caused me. And at the end of the day, just going, ‘It’s gonna be OK.’ The song was originally called ‘Aren’t We Lucky’ [a line in the bridge]. I was in a major car accident during the pandemic. I was lucky to live. I was lucky to have all of my body parts intact. I crawled out of a passenger-side window. I  got up the next day and thought, ‘Wow, am I ever lucky.’”


“I can’t really take credit for the chorus. My cousin sent me a text after the announcement in Kamloops [the first broad revelation of the first 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children who died in residential schools]. It said, ‘They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.’ From there, I proceeded to write the song. Had a conversation with my buddy [celebrated Canadian poet, and frequent Taylor collaborator] Robert Priest, who’s a co-writer on the song. He sent me a text as well, and came up with a couple of wonderful poetic lines.”

“Stolen Lands”
“In classrooms, up until recently, they were teaching people that “this is our land,” and it’s not. I wanted to put that in a song, to honour both my families. I didn’t grow up on a reservation; I have family that did. I didn’t grow up in the ghetto; I have family that did. I wasn’t a slave; I have family that was. I feel extremely privileged to have been taught hope and resilience by my family. I talk in this song about my grandfather crying because he no longer knows how to speak Mohawk. In the second verse, I talk about a close family friend’s son, a Black boy, who was shot  by the Toronto police in broad daylight.”

“I Am a Tree”
“We’re here to be truthful to our own path, and it’s so similar to everybody else’s. There are oak trees, there are maple trees, there are birch trees, all sorts of trees living in the same place, growing in the same beautiful manner, and they’re not getting in each other’s way. But we are. I wanted to say that in a simple way, so that even a child would relate to it.”

“This is a tough one. I was in a very special relationship for a very long time. And I gave up, in a way. And felt really horrible about that. You don’t want to [give up]. Sometimes there’s moments when you feel like just giving up altogether, maybe not just on a relationship, but on yourself. I’ve got regrets. I’ve been in spaces where I haven’t taken ownership of things, ‘cause I’ve been too scared, too emotionally detached, or emotionally crippled. This is a heartbreaking story of love and loss.”

“Opening the Sky”
“It’s a song of advice for my daughter, both after I’m gone and while I’m here. ‘Opening The Sky’ is also my grandfather’s Mohawk name, in English. During my car accident, I think he was looking out for me. A lot of my relatives and my ancestors were. Like, “Not you. Not yet. You have more to do.’ I’m so fortunate: ‘Look, I’ve still got my arms. I can still play guitar, I can still walk.’”

Bonus Track: “100 Proof”
Tyler Ellis wrote it, and I just loved it. I believe he’s one of Canada’s strongest songwriters, in the folk realm. I really love his songwriting. So much of the song connects to my own life, that It felt like it was almost written for me.”


ThaisIn the second half of her twenties, Thaïs is looking straight ahead and finding a perfect balance for the pieces of her life. Accustomed to living with the type of fear that leads to pride – and convinced that grief leaves faster when dancing than when feeling sorry for yourself – she arrives with a fully-formed album that allows us to see both sides of a coin without having to flip it. On Oct. 7, 2022, she pieces everything together: Act 1 and Act 2 of Tout est parfait will become whole, and form her first LP.

“I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad,” says Thaïs. “I love contradictions, and this project is a bit like a statement that says, ‘OK, it’s sad, but let’s dance.’’’ The singer-songwriter is comfortably with the kind of spontaneity that comes by collecting endless song ideas in her phone, knowing that she’ll have to circle back to them. “There will always be a dose of solitude and melancholy in what I do, but I feel in control, I love my life,” she says.

The first stage of Tout est parfait was born during a creative bubble, alongside Renaud Bastien, during the pandemic. “I really enjoy recording demos on my own and then, with Renaud, who co-produced the album, it becomes easier to express what I want to,” says Thaïs. In this two-headed production process, the young singer-songwriter feels the need to hold the pieces together herself, to make sure that nothing escapes.

“I think it’s important that I reclaim that as a woman,” she says. “To confirm that I can make things happen. Producing as a team does bring some fresh air to my music, and lets my songs breathe while they’re in someone else’s hands.”

Her creative mode is often triggered by solitude. “I doodle on my keyboard and play around in Logic,” she says. “I create rough sketches of beats, with no precise idea of what they’ll become. I play songs that I’m obsessed with over and over, and I use elements I love as starting points for my own creations, a bit like you would trace a drawing and create an entire new one with your own style. It almost becomes an exercise in style.”

Relationships, family and heartbreak are central to her work, but all of that is presented as a huge fresco that’s not easily deciphered. “I’m very prudish, all things considered,” she says. “You’ll understand a lot if you take a moment to look a little closer.” It’s very important for her to place imagination at the heart of things, not just for her own power to generate ideas, but also ours.

“We can question, imagine, philosophize with Tout est parfait,” says Thaïs. “I’ll turn 27 this fall, and I often wonder what I did with all the time I wasted. But is that time really wasted? I want to know if I’ve properly managed my time on Earth so far.” Not a lighthearted line of questioning! “I know!” Thaïs says, giggling. “It’s intense, but I’m a lot less of a party pooper than I used to be. I dive deep into stuff that upsets me, but it’s to better emerge with something that makes me feel good.”

Once the songs were finished, the two acts were presented to the team as a matter of course: “Something happy and dance-y in Act 1, and something with autumnal melancholy and tranquility in Act 2.” It’s also to make the pleasure last that things are done this way. “We work so hard on these songs. We want the pleasure to last as long as possible,” says Thaïs.

She thinks of the song “Banksy” as “a bridge between her present and her future.” “It’s not the most radio-friendly, or the most danceable, but I open my shows with it because it’s kind of a portrait of who I am today,” she says.

Speaking of live shows, she does explore a variety of approaches. Jérémie Essiambre regularly joins her for a duo show. Then Antoine Perreault sometimes joins them on guitar. And on the album proper, we hear strings, played by Eugénie Lalonde and Camille Poirier-Vachon. “It’s super-moving to hear that. I played those strings lines on my keyboard, but it takes on a whole new dimension when it’s played in the flesh, there’s something magical about it,” says Thaïs.

Armed with her début album, she’s poised to conquer Europe as the opening act for Cœur de pirate. “I feel very lucky, and I sometimes find that de-stabilizing, but I always do everything with joy,” she says. “I talk about shows in Europe like it’s super-normal, but I’m always kind of pinching myself.”

If you’re writing songs in 2022, vulnerability is arguably the coin of the realm.

From Donovan Woods to Carly Rae Jepsen, TOBi to Shawn Mendes, Julian Taylor to grandson, JP Saxe to Savannah Ré, speaking authentic emotional truth is the currency on which careers are based, and (not coincidentally) the thing that resonates most deeply with audiences. This has been the case historically with some genres – from confessional singer-songwriters of the early ‘70s to emo bands of the mid-‘90s. But with the rise of TikTok as the main vehicle for music discovery, vulnerability has mainstreamed, and its currency has grown exponentially in value – as the likes of Tate McRae, Charlie Houston, and renforshort share their strongest feelings, and reach their largest audiences.

Jessie Reyez – whose new album Yessie was released on Sept. 23, 2022 – serves as a kind of Godmother (or midwife, or architect, or Patron Saint) of the new vulnerability. Reyez started out with her raw, painful breakup song “Figures” in August of 2016, about a month before TikTok was launched. She followed that with an equally personal, intense tale of threatened sexual exploitation in “Gatekeeper,” and she hasn’t stopped telling true, heartfelt, powerful stories of her life ever since.

Her meteoric rise – parallel to that of the sharing app – testifies to how much, and how relatively quickly, Reyez’s openness has reverberated with a worldwide audience. She won the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award in 2017, and the SOCAN Breakout Songwriter Award in 2019.  Her 2020 debut album Before Love Came to Kill Us charted Top Five on Billboard’s R&B Album Chart, and has amassed more than 1.2 billion(!) cumulative global streams. She’s received high praise from The New York Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Variety, and has performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In 2022, she played Coachella, and opened the Billie Eilish world tour. She’s been nominated for a Grammy Award, won four JUNO Awards and a Billboard Impact Award, and made a cameo in Beyonce’s Black is King visual album. It’s not an idle brag that the name of her Twitter account is Doing great things bitch.

The profile blurb of that account is, “I like to sing about shit I don’t like to talk about.” This remains true, even after her well-documented campaign of reading self-help books, undergoing therapy, and working toward self-healing that took place over the course of the pandemic. One wonders if it ever feels strange for her to be singing – to multiple millions of listeners – things that are so deeply personal that she wouldn’t even say them to another person (except perhaps a therapist).

Now it does,” she says. “Now, maybe because I’m more present. But it feels weird when we talk about it, when I’m doing this [being interviewed], ‘cause this isn’t natural for me. Singing is, performing is, so I don’t really question it. But this is funny, ‘cause it feels very analytical.”

Reyez has said more than once that it can be painful to continue performing her often gut-wrenching material; she’s even likened it to picking at a scab. Is it less so, now that she’s found some emotional equilibrium? “It’s still a scab,” she says. “But the difference is that I don’t stay in the space as long. So, if I’m in the studio and it’s coming out, then I’m in that space; but when I leave, I’m able to come back to the present faster.”

In another new direction for Reyez, there are some yearning love songs on Yessie“Forever,” “Only One,” and “Hittin” – that suggest she might just be ready for a lifelong partner. After a huge “did-you-really-ask-me-that?” laugh, she says, “I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m definitely more open than I was before… I didn’t know how to love without it being all-encompassing, like a tidal wave, breaking the doors of my heart. Ugh, that sounds so cheesy! But I didn’t know how to do that. And I also didn’t know how to recover, ‘cause heartbreak would fuckin’ knock me down. But now I just feel like I’m stronger… ‘cause if it doesn’t work, I know I’ll be OK anyway.”

In fact, the main idea of Yessie is that pursuing true love is a high-risk/high-reward proposition. Reyez has always made music about being vulnerable, but being willing to take the risk for a permanent love –  one that might not work out – makes it even more so. Still, she’s comfortable with it now.

“I was scared of love for so long, and I didn’t even realize it,” she says. “I didn’t realize how much I was letting my past trauma project into my reality… When I met someone that was kind, and honest, and present, and willing to wait, and all these things, I still couldn’t open… that was the indication of, like, they’re not the problem; the problem is me now. Which made it a harder pill to swallow.”

The one constant for Reyez, from the beginning, is that she always speaks her truth. And her dedication to the art of songwriting, and its purity – which allows her to share that truth – verges on the spiritual. In January of 2022, she posted on Twitter (though she’s since deleted it):

My favorite part
Like my FAV part of everything in the sphere of the music industry
Is not touring
Nor parties
Nor checks
Nor videos
Nor awards
None of that comes close
To just creating a song
And letting it be
And setting it free in the room
In that moment soul sees itself

She still feels that way. “It’s crazy. It’s alchemy,” says Reyez. “It’s so basic, too, because you could say that it’s just a song… But you walked into a room, and there was nothing there, and then all of a sudden you made something. From a space you can’t even see; from a source you can’t even touch… I think that’s fuckin’ lit.

“When the song’s out, you’re talking about DSPs, and politics, and artwork, and videos, and directors, and features, the list is endless. But there [in the writing room] – and I think that’s what I love most about it, too – it’s present. You have to be present… I love that.”