Folk music star moves to Sturgeon Lake area
Julian Taylor finds solace in Kawartha Lakes’ nature
Canadian Folk Music Awards Solo Artist of the Year Julian Taylor released his Juno-nominated album The Ridge in June 2020, in the early days of the pandemic.
But the lockdown locked him up creatively, too, leaving him with a feeling of being stuck in Toronto. “I wasn’t writing a thing.”
Always drawn to writing about his life and his family, Taylor wanted to find a place that reminded him of his grandparents’ farm near Maple Ridge, B.C., where he spent much of his childhood. Taylor, 43, is separated and coparenting his daughter. They found a place on Sturgeon Lake and not long after, inspiration returned.
“Our place on Sturgeon reminds me of Maple Ridge because in the early 80s when I was there it was mostly farmland and forest. The home we have now even resembles the look and shape of my grandparents’ old place.”
He says that being out in nature, “watching the sun set or the sun rise and walking in the trees opened me up again. Now I’ve been working on a record, and imagery with nature is very prevalent.”
After feeling a struggle with his identity over the years, he says getting older has helped him finally become comfortable with being a Black, Indigenous Canadian who identifies as Mohawk and West Indian.
While it may not be what listeners expect from the long dreadlocks that Taylor has grown for many years, he has referred to The Ridge as a “folk, Americana, Canadiana, even country-sounding record.”
Being a father has inevitably changed Taylor’s writing, lending what he describes as a richer and authentic perspective. “I find that in my writing, if I’m not telling the truth, it’s not going to come across. I try to tell my truth.”
Money and fame do not drive the folksinger. “I have to make a living at it, but I don’t need to make millions of dollars.” Instead, he talks about success as something that means being able to share his story and share his art with people.
“If one of my stories helps one person, then I’ve done my job.” For him, a successful music career is about meeting other people from around the world, learning about their cultures and sharing his story in return.
The power of a live audience is something Taylor has missed during the pandemic. His first pandemic concert was at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in July, something he called “euphoric.”
“The energy you get from people and vice versa is so important. It harkens to actual ritual and celebration. It’s part of the human experience to celebrate.”
Many local people are celebrating the fact that Taylor has chosen to call Kawartha Lakes home and that he now draws inspiration from the land here.
“It was mornings like these when the breeze whistled through the trees.
The fog would hover and the grass would still be wet.
I’d put on my rain boots, and I’d get dressed, and head down to the barn beside the chicken coop.
I’d follow her out of the front door, down the path through the brushes and past the pond.
My sister and I used to catch frogs there until the house sold and we had to move on.”
Ballad of a Young Troubadour
“I left T.O. quite some time ago.
Sometime in the spring, with just a knapsack and a 6 string.
I’d made this deal, I was barely 17, armed with delusions of a dream.
Hitchhiked for days, all along the northwest, with no knowledge in my chest, of ways and means and schemes…
When in doubt, I look back to when I was 17. And all these miles and miles and miles that I’ve seen.
Each inch of pavement has a story to tell, some I can’t recall, others I remember all too well.”