Hailing from Hertfordshire (United Kingdom), Kaleem Taylor’s captivating voice sounds mature beyond his years, combining an eclectic mix of influences to put a fresh spin on the neo-soul sound. His scintillating new single Fault dropped last week and it’s been on heavy rotation here since. We got the chance to chat with him about his newest EP, Surface, finding your voice and using music as a cathartic release.
How would you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you?
I’m a singer/songwriter and I want to make music from a real place.
You discovered singing quite late, how was this talent hidden and what was it that pushed you to pursue singing?
To be honest, it wasn’t hidden from the people around me, I just didn’t think it was something worth showing to people. I remember getting in trouble when I was younger and me and my cousin made a song to perform to say how sorry we were. Singing really became a thing after my friends told me I was good, so I’m grateful for those same people who saw enough in me to suggest making my own songs.
Who were some of your early influences vocally?
Stevie Wonder and D’Angelo for sure, I spent hours on YouTube finding their music. I had moments though, sometimes it could be Musiq Soulchild. They all subconsciously found their way into my way of doing things.
Your music is simultaneously futuristic and looking back at ‘90s neo-soul. What inspired you to pursue that genre?
It’s hard to really say because I don’t make music with that in mind, it’s just what feels right to me. If I think too much, I’ll lose what naturally comes. Obviously, the music I heard growing up has made me lean towards a familiar sound but I’ve never wanted to recreate something, I want to be different.
Your latest EP, Surface, takes an introspective direction. Was it difficult to expose more of yourself in the lyrics?
No, because for me it’s a release, it’s my way of sharing some of the things I’ve struggled to say to the people in my life. Outside of music, I usually keep quiet about things I may be going through, so a song is more than just putting words together.
Your songs are quite intricately built, what is your songwriting process like?
It’s mainly just melodies at first – how it feels, of course, but melodies first –, and then the concept follows.
How did your collaboration with the producer The Code begin?
We’re good friends and shared a passion for making good music so it just went from there. I’d worked with The Code on a song called Touch years ago and it brought something different out of me lyrically and vocally. Since then, it just made sense to put myself in the frame of mind again.
Growing up in Hertfordshire, what was your relationship with London and the music scene there?
I’ve always had a love for London because I was born there, but London’s played a massive part in my career from the start. I did my first shows there, the radio showed loved, it’s just always been love.
If you could collaborate with one contemporary artist, who would it be and why?
I’d love to work with Noa, I just think our voices and our songwriting together would be a vibe.
How does your intimate, soulful music translate to the stage in a live performance?
How it translates is based on how I feel in the moment and how the crowd reacts. I’ve spent years trying to break down barriers like nerves and self-doubt but I’ve been blessed enough to receive love from crowds, comments after the shows, looks on people’s faces and it’s all reassuring. Overall, I feel like the message and the root of the concepts connect with the people.
What are you listening to right now?
Earl Sweatshirt and James Blake.
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