Julian Taylor doesn’t fit in a box. He never has—and more power to him.
A Toronto music scene staple and a musical chameleon, Julian Taylor is used to shaking it up over the course of 10 albums in the last two decades. Of West Indian and Mohawk descent, Taylor first made his name as frontman of Staggered Crossing, a Canadian rock radio staple in the early 2000s. These days, however, the soulful singer/guitarist might be on stage one night playing with his eponymous band, spilling out electrified rhythm and blues glory, and the next he’ll be performing at a folk festival delivering a captivating solo singer-songwriter set. His songs have been placed in shows like Kim’s Convenience, Haven, Private Eyes and Elementary. He’s been invited to perform at two Olympic Games. The soulful blues, rhythmic soul, rootsy rock riffs and troubadour-esque folk songs that comprise his music are worth putting your busy life on hold for. In everything he does, Taylor has carved his own path, creating genre-free music with a generosity of spirit and a strong belief in the healing powers of song. Off stage, Taylor recently ventured into radio; when the Indigenous radio station ELMNT FM opened in Toronto in 2018, Taylor became the station’s afternoon-drive host.
Taylor’s journey began in a musically artistic family: his father plays classical piano, while his cousins on both sides of his family sing and play music, and his uncle is the conductor of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, which focuses on Afrocentric vocal music. Taylor started piano at age 5 and learned acoustic guitar over summer campfires. In 1995, while still in high school, he formed the band The Midnight Blues and started playing open stages in North Toronto. That band morphed into Staggered Crossing who were signed to a publishing deal in 1997, and their self-titled debut, released in 2001, spawned four rock radio singles, including top 10 hit “Further Again.”
When Staggered Crossing split amicably in 2007, Taylor started anew as a solo artist with two albums of rootsier material, while grinding it out on the cover band circuit in small towns across Ontario. In 2014, he launched the Julian Taylor Band and this time, all bets were off: all of Taylor’s myriad influences were on the table, masterfully combining and updating vintage sounds that inspired him to create bold, innovative new songs. Modern pop, vintage R&B, smooth soul, and the rock’n’roll swagger he was known for, were all tied together with an intense devotion to craft and a collection of some of Toronto’s finest musicians. JTB have three studio albums to date—their acclaimed debut Tech Noir, released in 2014, the double record Desert Star released two years later and 2019’s acclaimed Avalanche—and have no plans to slow down, although in 2020 Taylor revisited his solo career with 2020’s contemplative The Ridge.
Toronto poet Robert Priest describes Taylor and his work as “the kind of artist forever in the zone, the voice limitless, the songs full of feeling.”