Photo: Ryan Maybee

Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Rory Taillon is no stranger to the road – under normal circumstances, you’ll find him at venues all over Ontario and beyond (including stops in Niagara, when we had the chance to shoot videos with him last summer). He’s just released his latest album, Drifting – so we caught up with Rory to chat about the new music, his advice for musicians, and his deserted island picks.

From The Strait: Tell us about the making of your new album, Drifting

Rory Taillon: For Drifting I really wanted to dive further down the path that I started on with my last album Only Whispers. With Only Whispers, I had stopped trying to write music that fit into a classification or that was very obviously influenced by music I liked or artists I wanted to emulate. Drifting also expanded on a lot of darker themes that mean a lot to me. There’s a lot of mental health struggle, remorse, frustration with the world, and my curiosity with the concept of death. Writing music for me has become a cathartic exercise in expressing things that I have trouble with just saying in conversation or outloud in general. 

The recording experience of this record was an amazing one. I once again worked with Dean Watson who recorded, co-produced and mixed Only Whispers and Theo Posthumus who I’ve been making music with since I was a teenager. We recorded this album at Dean’s new studio which was above a workshop in the middle of nowhere in Québec with my favourite people in the world surrounding me.

FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current influences?

Rory: In high school I was a huge classic rock fan. The first time I heard Jimi Hendrix, it blew my mind and made me realize that music could be an expression of yourself and that you didn’t have to follow the rules when creating music. I got really into Pink Floyd and old blues masters like BB King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker as well. Funnily enough, I was the singer in a heavy metal band in high school as well and was really heavily influenced by Killswitch Engage, Rage Against the Machine and System Of A Down. All of these influences definitely started the trajectory of my sound today, but I have stopped trying to emulate the sounds I was influenced by and actually did what Hendrix, Rage and Pink Floyd did by trying to discover my own sound. 

FTS: You’re an extremely hard-working musician, it seems as though you’re often on the road (during normal circumstances). What advice would you give another musician starting out?

Rory: I live for touring, it’s where I spend most of my time working. It’s been really strange not being able to tour during these times, but if that’s the price to keep people safe and to make sure our health care system isn’t overwhelmed, I am happy to stay home. For younger artists, I would say work hard on figuring out who you are and what your sound is. It’s going to take a lot of time to get there, but if you put in the work it’s satisfying as hell. Also, work hard. Listen to people, but apply it to your situation. Always be planning ahead for the next tour (when we can), release, etc. but don’t forget to live in the present at the same time and appreciate what you are currently experiencing. A support system is crucial too. My amazing and wonderful wife has been critical to my musical lifestyle in every way and I wouldn’t be still making music if not for her support.

FTS: What’s your favourite venue to play?

Rory: That’s tough because there are a lot of great stages I’ve played and also a bunch have closed down over the years. Favourite closed venue would be The Moustache Club (RIP) that was in Oshawa ON. LIVE on Elgin up here in Ottawa ON is a great room and From the Grind Up in Fort Frances ON is always a treat.

FTS: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 albums would you want with you? 

Rory: I always spend way too much time deciding the answer to questions like this. This morning I would say:
Wintersleep – Wintersleep   

At Last – Etta James   

Twin Solitude – Leif Vollebekk   

Heligoland – Massive Attack   

God’s Favourite Customer- Father John Misty

And I’d sneak Dan Mangan’s More Or Less in under my shirt.

Check out Rory Taillon’s new album, Drifting!


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