(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.”