INTERVIEW: Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a storyteller that is sharing his coming of age story in an authentic way. The rural Victoria singer-songwriter has grown up in the spotlight and has shared his story of love and growth through big platforms that nurtured his artistic essence. Throughout his musical journey, he had major success with his singles ‘Borrow My Heart’ and ‘When You Were Mine’ as well as had two #1 albums on the Aria Charts post his journey on The X Factor. 

After parting ways with his record label, Henderson has pushed forward with his career in the Independent music world where he has just released the emotionally charged new single ‘Moving On’ that hears him opening up like he never has before. After experiencing his first ever break-up, he finds words that he didn’t realise he needed to say. “Music allows me to sing about things I don’t really want to talk about. And with this song it really embodied that” he confesses. 

To celebrate the release of the new single and to embrace the idea of giving back to his fans who have patiently waited for new music, he is hitting the road for his first major city national tour in years. On top of that, he is also doing a special regional Victoria tour that celebrates the songwriters that have influenced him like Ed Sheeran who he’s idolised for a long time. “He wrote the way I always hoped I would write. And he still writes the way that I hope I write. It’s honest and clever” he explains of his connection to Sheeran’s music. 

I recently chatted to Taylor Henderson about adjusting into the independent music world, the vulnerable and raw storyline behind his new single ‘Moving On’ and the importance of family that encourages him to keep pushing forward. Check out the chat HERE;

TB: ’Moving On’ is a vulnerable and honest reflection on a break up that sees you baring your soul in an intimate way. So with the release of this song what were you hoping for personally? Was it a cathartic release to give internal peace from the situation? Or was it just a reflection that you wanted to share? 

TH: When it comes to this song, it does cut a bit deeper compared to what I have released in the past. when I signed with a new manager I just said to him that I have songs that are really emotional and I have songs that are up-tempo so I asked him what he would like me to release. And he just said to me “I want you to release what YOU want to release. Let’s take away radio, charts and streaming and lets just focus on you”. 

Music allows me to sing about things I don’t really want to talk about. And with this song it really embodied that. I was super proud of it and it really was just a song that I wanted to put out because I was starting to get tired of the whole process as I was writing so much and never putting anything out. I started to get insecure about the songs I was writing. I didn’t even know what I wanted to release anymore.

I was really proud of this track because it’s so raw as it’s about my first real break up and I didn’t hold back from just telling it how it was. There was no trying to sugar coating anything, it was just me. I didn’t expect anything when I put it out, I just wanted to share a real part of me with people and the reaction has been great so far. 

TB: Taking control of your artistry comes hand in hand with now being an independent artist. What are you loving about this new experience?

TH: What I love about being an independent artist is that I can have the full freedom of curating the artist I want to be. But it’s also not just about music to me, it’s about connection. Right now we are going to a bunch of schools where we talk about mental health and it’s just something that I really want to keep doing because I think it’s so important. We talk about how music is one of the few medications that have no negative side affects. So it’s been really fun going around and talking to kids who maybe don’t feel like they can speak up. It’s all about expression and connection.

TB: With most of your integral years being in the spotlight and your fans being well acquainted with who you were dating in your life, does it make these songs even harder for you to release? 

TH: Not anymore. I remember when I first started out ten years ago, I was really reserved. I used to think mystery was power, but it’s not. What it actually does is disconnects you from people. So I’ve learnt to be a lot more open with people through my music and through just talking to people. Obviously there are some things I keep private but I think the power of this song is that when I wrote it I felt like the only person going through this because there is no worse feeling than knowing you’ve got more to give but the other person’s tank is running dry. It’s a twist in the stomach that you feel and you don’t want to talk about it but it’s been amazing seeing so many people relating to it. 

I had some girl message me and she was like “It’s so weird because I’m getting emotional to this song but I’ve never been in a relationship but I’m imagining the feeling”. That to me was so powerful and special. So as an artist I’ve learnt that you have to be willing to let people into places that maybe you don’t want them to because that is the most powerful thing. Connection is key. 

TB: You’ve always kinda resorted to showing vulnerability through your guitar. Why did the piano seem like the right place to start this song? 

TH: That is a really good question! Well, on tour when I would sing this song I would always start it on guitar but when I went to the studio to record it we tried it with the guitar but part of me didn’t feel like it was right. 

To be honest, I had only just started playing piano and sometimes I feel that when I play piano over guitar that I get a completely different feel not just in how I play it but also how I sing it. It creates a different emotion. 

When we recorded the piano, I just sat there and I was like “let’s just try this” and it sounded very pure. There is something that is very storytelling and therapeutic about a guitar but there is something very pure about a piano and that’s why I decided to start there sonically for ‘Moving On’. 

TB: Family has always been a very important thing to you, so in these vulnerable and raw moments that life throws at us, who in your family has been your rock? And where do you find comfort? 

TH: Far out! It’s hard to pick one because I feel like we have all been really good at knowing when to pick each other up when we’re really down. But my grandfather was really a big rock for me. He was like the head of the family in the most selfless way. He really gave me a great example of how to treat others and keep me on the right path.

In saying that, I also have to say my dad because I wouldn’t be able to do if it wasn’t for him. Taking away the fact that he would play music around the house and taught me how to write songs, he was also just there for me. Post The X Factor and post releasing albums, I still lived at home and he allowed me to pursue my dreams. He encouraged and supported me in such a big way. Sometimes it was really hard to make ends meat but we made it work. I got to travel around and tour without the weight of having to pay the big bills of living out of home and he always supported me and I will forever be grateful for that.

TB: With the forthcoming release of your new music, where are you coming from lyrically and what’s inspiring you sonically? 

TH: I’ve always written from a place that is borderline painful. There’s a pain there and it’s a real pain but it also comes from a place that’s joyful as I’m glad I went through those things. I’m a young man, but I’ve been through things where I have had to battle them on my own. I’ve always had a good understanding of how to write something musically. I was so bad at English in school but with songwriting I aways just knew how to write the right words that mattered. 

With this new music it’s definitely a bit more cut throat. There’s a bit more purity and realism in it. I’ve learnt to write in a more authentic way and to capture what I am feeling in that moment. 

TB: It just sounds like you’re finally get more comfortable with yourself

TH: I’m getting there! There are still some times where I think, “I can’t write that. That’s a little too personal”, but then i think, “is it?”. I am learning to be more and more honest through my writing because it is what people want to hear. People want to connect. It’s the moment where a writer goes “this might be too much” where instead of running away, you need to dive in deeper. 

TB: You are going to be hitting the road later this year for some massive returning major city shows. So what are you looking forward to most about playing these run of dates and does this tour feel a bit of a full circle moment for you after doing a lot of regional touring?

TH: I’m not going to lie, touring is exhausting. You’re always on the go and your emotions are continually running high. But over the years I’ve learnt to embrace it because I love being on a stage and connecting with people. Rural touring has been so great for me because I have got to play to so many people that knew me from the TV show but didn’t get to see me during those album runs. That show is viewed by so many people in rural areas but no one ever seems to tap into that touring market. So I wanted to really focus on that for a while. 

But after doing that for a while I have to get out of my comfort zone again and play those big capital city shows. It was time. 

This round of shows is going to be a little different because we are going to some cities I haven’t been to in a while. And it’s going to be really fun as I’m showcasing new material but I’m also going to take requests and play those deep albums cuts and fan favourites that the crowd wants to hear. At the end of the day I want to give the fans the show that they want.  

TB: What has been the most surprising thing about these run of shows and the connection with the crowd that has taken you aback a little?

TH: The shows we did at the start of the year were really interesting because we only gave people one month notice. Now, I’ve learnt the hard way that you have to give people more time than that *laughs*. So there were some shows I was playing to really small crowds, but through that experience I learnt to have some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Part of me used to be worried if not enough people turned up to the show as I thought it affected the vibe and feeling. But I’ve learnt that you control that as an artist. You can still have the best show no matter how many people you are playing to. 

In saying that, this time around we have given everyone four months notice, so please come *laughs*. We are building the set to be bigger and better. We are putting in songs like ‘Human Nature’ that people have been asking me for ages to sing and am hoping to create one kick ass show. 

TB: Has there been any song requests from your fans that have surprised you other than ‘Human Nature’?

TH: Yeah! ‘Sail Away’ has actually been a popular one too. One of my mates who doesn’t openly listen to my music was like “man, you need to play ‘Sail Away’ in your set”, which really surprised me *laughs*.

TB: Later this year you are also going to go on a regional Ed Sheeran themed tour of Victoria. So what do you think it is about Ed Sheeran’s artistry that intertwines and connects with yours?

TH: Man, I was onto Ed Sheeran before ‘The A Team’ had even blown up commercially yet. I remembered watching covers of him and just being in such awe of his talent. I think it comes back to the ideology of connection. There was something so pure to what he was doing, as he was just being so authentically him. He empowered the people that just wanted to play guitar and make music again. We were in a time where there were calculated pop songs like ‘Dynamite’ by Taio Cruz on the radio, and it was a breath of fresh air to hear someone stripping it back again.

I loved his songwriting. He wrote the way I always hoped I would write. And he still writes the way that I hope I write. It’s honest and clever. 

I’ve had the chance to meet him a couple times and I completely fangirled like you would never believe. I also wrote a song with one of his best mates which was a lot of fun. So on this upcoming regional tour we will play that song live as well as some of my fave ED songs intertwined with my own tracks and some tracks from some other songwriters I love. 

TB: After having a pretty strong success on the charts and radio and to have established a strong connection with your fanbase and to then be dropped from you label must have been a bit earth shattering. Were you blind sighted by this? Or was there a bit of you that was relieved to be able to go on a new journey? 

TH: Yes I was shattered and yes I was blind sighted. I had been in the studio a lot, working on a lot of music that kept getting pushed back and put to the side. It was creating a lot of doubt within me as an artist, but I had some time to myself and I am excited to be in control of my music and how I release things now. 

I know that the most important thing for me right now is to keep releasing music, touring and keep my business relationships strong moving forward and just be pumped about it all. 

TB: At the height of your career it was all about selling physical units to get to the top of the charts. With streaming now being a massive factor, how have you adjusted in an independent world? 

TH: Honestly I’m still trying to figure that out. The way everything is moving towards is online. The internet is mainstream now. When I first hit the scene in 2013, Spotify was still really new. People were still illegally downloading music on things like Limewire *laughs*. I still remember my conversations with Sony at the time where they were telling me it was moving towards streaming and to start thinking of ways we could change our approach. Now if you don’t have Spotify or Apple Music it’s like, “what? How do you listen to music?”. 

I’m excited with where things are going because it means I get to be more creative with the ways I engage with people through my music and social media. And I get to encourage them in new ways to discover my music. Because if more people are streaming, it means that more people are coming to my shows and that’s how the snow ball effect works. It’s more exciting for me as an independent artist to go “here is a song from me to you. Take it!”. There’s no trying to go “buy this song, pre-order this album, it’s this much..” It’s just me giving people music and if they like it please share it as there is more music to come and we are doing shows so come along and be apart of the experience with me. 

In this industry now you have to be okay with giving something away for free and be willing to give someone more than what they’ve paid for.  

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind…

TH: Alright, game on!

TB: My pre show pump up song is…

TH: ‘Oh What A Night’ by The Four Seasons!

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

TH: Pretty rank, not going to lie!

TB: Guy Sebastian or Shannon Noll…

TH: Oh come on! Far out, that is brutal! If I had to ask my grade three self, I would have to say Guy Sebastian, all the way! I actually sent Guy a video of me singing ‘Angels Brought Me Here’ with a fake afro on, and I hope he has never seen it *laughs*. 

TB: The emotion that best describes my new single ’Moving On’ is…

TH: Pure.

TB: My favourite Ed Sheeran song is…

TH: Oh, that’s tough! But I would have to say ‘Kiss Me’. 

For all ticketing details to Taylor Henderson’s upcoming Australian tour, head to www.taylorhendersonmusic.com 

MOVING ON AUSTRALIAN TOUR

Friday 25 October – Jive Bar, Adelaide

Saturday 26 October – Memo Music Hall, Melbourne

Friday 1 November – Southport RSL, Gold Coast

Saturday 2 November – The Old Museum, Brisbane 

Saturday 9 November – The Lair, Sydney

A-TEAM REGIONAL TOUR

15 November – Westside Performance Art Centre, Shepparton

16 November – The Cube, Wodonga 

22 November – The Wedge, Sale

23 November – West Gippsland Art Centre, Warragul 

29 November – GPAC, Geelong

30 November – Latrobe Town Hall, Traralgon

6 December – WPAC, Wangaratta 

7 December – Horsham Town Hall, Horsham 

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