Interview with Peterborough native & Toronto-based Canadian Entertainment gem, Taylor Abrahamse.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to ask a few questions in the direction of the compelling Canadian iconic all-around, entertainer, musician, singer/songwriter, actor/voice actor, recording studio owner, and educator, Taylor Abrahamse. Welcome to The Wire MEGAzine Taylor, hope this finds you safe & keeping the musical faith.
You first started talking at the age of 4, as you were humming music instead. By the age of five, you were an Elvis impersonator at county fairs, and begging your parents for an acting agent.
At the age of 6, you transitioned over into supporting TV movie & series roles which included Jimmy Osmond in the ABC biopic Inside the Osmonds, you were Eliott in PAX TV’s Doc, a series starring Billy Ray Cyrus, and you also played Cinco, in the Ross Petty pantomime Snow White & The Group Of Seven. In addition to various supporting roles. You have also played a lead voice role in other television series, including ‘Yuki’ on ‘Beyblade: Metal Fury’ (Cartoon Network), Luis on the Emmy-nominated ‘The Future Is Wild’ (Discovery Kids/Teletoon), and Luke Stanley on ‘The Stanley Dynamic’ (YTV), a live-action sitcom.
At the age of 12, after receiving an Elton John songbook, you became passionate about singing, songwriting, and playing the guitar.
By 16, you were a Top 30 finalist on Season 6’s, 2008 Canadian Idol alongside our very own Peterborough musician celebrity, Lindsay Barr.
Post Idol, you were traveling across Ontario writing, producing, and performing upon stages including Dundas Square, The Mod Club, Festival of Lights, and you were even the closing performer for the Ontario Special Olympics.
You also performed various songs for the popular YouTube channel, Super Planet Dolan – videos centered around those songs have amassed over 20 million views. You also wrote the music & lyrics for The Beaver Den which is A New Canadian Musical, you have written for CBC, and for hit artists including Danny Fernandes & Peter Driemanis (of July Talk). You were a section contributor to the Amazon #1 best-selling book entitled The Song Creation Formula in 2014. In 2016, you were writing the official theme song for both Disney XD’s Fangbone which you had the lead role, and in 2017, you wrote the theme song for DHX’s upcoming Kitten Pony Princess. Your voice can be heard around the world in a variety of television properties like Jonas in Bob! The Slob (Teletoon), in addition to many supporting roles in series such as The Cat In The Hat, Total Dramarama & Looped!
After an on-the-spot performance at Canadian Music Week, you were contacted by Grammy-winning music engineering Producer legend, Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Carly Simon, David Bowie & many more), who insisted on producing & developing you which you collaborated with him on your debut full-length album of 12 songs, and the hit I Don’t Care Anymore became your album’s natural closer.
Eddie Kramer sharing that, “Taylor Abrahamse is truly one of Canada’s most original and outstanding artists I have worked with… His sense of melody, lyrics, and song structure along with an amazing skill as a performer will soon be revealed to the general public upon the release of the first album.” As well, “Taylor has all the talent of some of the world’s mega artists like Michael Jackson, Prince… His range is almost off the audio scale. Seeing him perform is an overwhelming experience,” states Chris Birkett, Grammy Winning Producer (Sinead O’Connor).
DEB: Q. !. What is it like for your talent to be revered in such high regard by the likes of Grammy Award-winning Producer/Engineers Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles), and Chris Birkett, (Sinead O’Connor)? TAYLOR: “It’s nice and gratifying, helps me feel like I’m getting closer to the right path – but I try to remember, people are just people, regardless of the esteem or fanbases they have. There are various famous people I’ve met &/or worked with over the years, and I feel like there’s three categories of them – those who really just seem completely down to Earth, a person who happens to be famous – Then there are those who are pretty faces trying to survive it, swept up in it all but not prepared and not sure they deserve or want it – Then there are ones who you feel crossed paths with something divine at some point in their lives, something beyond words, and they carry that spark with them – you feel it as soon as they walk in the room. And it’s wonderful to just be in the energy of that. Eddie is like that. He’s a man who is so playful and full of life – and to be in his late 70’s like that – is inspiring. Chris Birkett has also had some profound experiences you can feel in him.“
DEB: Q. 2. When you first entered the entertainment realm, did you ever foresee your career unfolding the way it has? As well, did you ever imagine your songs would make such an impact on the world at large the way they have? TAYLOR: “One time I literally wrote out my whole career on a piece of paper as a kid – pretty funny actually. 12 year old me thought I was supposed to put out a hit album in 2009 called ‘Rice’, and a masterpiece called ‘Chain Of Anger’ in 2012. For as long as I can remember, I have had a little voice saying I would find my place in the world and things would work out for me. Life provides so many chances to leave behind something wonderful, I always felt like I would contribute something that would at least have a cultural shelf-life. But as a younger kid, I didn’t want to know how my life would unfold, I just wanted to be in the moment – which is healthier, for sure. Later on, there was a time I was watching too many movies and VH1 Behind The Music documentaries and was absolutely shattered when my life wasn’t perfectly fitting the ‘beats’ of them (charismatic person tries really hard, lucks out, finds fame by 18). On some level, I was convinced my life had to go that way, or else I had ‘wasted’ my life. Lately, I’ve been unlearning that nonsense and letting it be an adventure again. And while I have plans and outcomes prepared, my life doesn’t have to unfold in a particular way, there’s a lot of room for surprise. There’s a lot of ways to get to those milestones. After all – Murphy’s Law. As for the impact on the world of the songs, I really can’t gauge that as I’m just one person, and the impact goes far beyond Spotify plays, etc. But, I’ve gotten a lot of kind personal messages from people who are genuinely touched by my music, which is very nice. We are surrounded by such a whirlwind of often pointless entertainment and ‘content’, that to cut through that noise and manage to move someone deeply is definitely a high compliment.“
I Won’t Put Up With It https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJS8BQQqZ-s will have you dancing in your seat.“I’m fascinated with pushing the boundaries for what’s possible in a catchy pop song,” says Abrahamse. “‘I Won’t Put Up With It’ was bed-tracked in Nashville with top session musicians… A Michael Jackson-inspired slice of 80s funk with a modern protest message, it twists and turns through key changes and a complex arrangement, shares Taylor.
WOW, I am exhausted just thinking of all the amazing things you have accomplished in a quarter of a century since your career began. Since 2019, you and Bryn McAuley voice the gophers in Norman Picklestripes (Universal Kids) alongside Dwayne Hill as the main character. You are now a studio co-owner of Silverthorn Studios, a professional recording facility in Toronto, you are a voice instructor, not to mention that you are also a co-lead at the acclaimed Song Creation Workshop with Signe Miranda. DEB: Q. 3. Is there one thing you have not yet accomplished that you wish to? TAYLOR: “Oh, endless things. I have song ideas or show ideas every day I’d like to manifest – my phone is filled with thousands of them. I’d like to invent a machine that can transfer my imagination into video & audio form right away because the videos & ideas in my head are often a thousand times better than what the hands and the voice can accomplish without a trillion-dollar budget. With the internet, we have instantaneous consumption – now if we had instantaneous creation, I think that would be a nice thing! But probably a bit sci-fi dystopian as well.“
TAYLOR: “Specifically, I’d like to be a TV showrunner for an animated series, I’m working towards that with my connections in the animation world. I’d like to make some clever, humorous, musical TV show that stays with you long after it’s done. I want to have a hit, or write some hits – been writing for others in the background, so who knows. I’d also love to travel the world. I’d love to find the love of my life ASAP. I’d love to go to some exhaustive spiritual retreat and lose my mind for a bit. I want to meet McCartney & shake his hand, I need to meet Jim Carrey. Randy Newman. I want to roll around in frosting and make a Youtube video of it that I sell as an NFT and make a mint off of, and then plant a million trees with that money. I want to be part of real climate solutions, and live by a lake in a cabin, in air made fresher by my activism. I want all the things alternate universe Taylor gets to do! If it’s creative, I want to do it all. I want to create something unexpected I can put out into the world every week. And I want structure, a life where there’s maybe 3 or 4 balls in the air at the same time, and that’s it. Too many things at once cheapen them all. At the same time though, I’m committed but not attached to these things. The only way I would ever die with regrets is if I spent my life living like I ‘have’ to do these things to have had a life worth living.“
DEB: Your self-titled studio album touches on dealing with your experiences with love, depression, loss, and even gender identity. Your voice is super velvety resembling a combined flavor to that of Paul Simon meets Prince yet, I sincerely hear more influence and likeness regarding Michael Jackson. Michael’s vocal tone carried from an E2 – F#5 which equates to a Countertenor or would it be a light-lyric tenor? Your voice harmonizes with itself brilliantly to create a luscious and layered texture that is predominately light with rhythmic dexterity that allows for its complex vocal runs that shows your strength and flexibility especially when you reach those desirable stratospheric highs. DEB: Q. 4. What would you say your octave and range is? TAYLOR: “I think my range in octaves is around 4.5 – 5. The quality of my voice, its timbre, can make it sound a bit higher than it actually is. So my range is wide, but my highest notes aren’t quite as high as they sound. But I can also get a really high ‘kettle’ pitch sound if I inhale inwards that sounds ridiculously high. I had someone compare my vocal quality and range to the late-great Jimmy Scott, which is a very kind parallel to make. His voice always felt very childlike, but also beautifully wounded – he lost his mother to a car accident at an early age. Fun facts – A singer so unique and special, both Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles vouched for him and helped him get a record deal. He was the only singer who could make Madonna cry.”
DEB: Q. 5. What is your daily vocal routine to keep your voice in pristine shape? TAYLOR: “When I’m trying to train it, I do consistent daily warmups and drink plenty of sencha green tea. Coffee is awful for me – if I have coffee in a day, it’s a write-off for any serious singing, so I’ve mostly avoided it. I’ve had a lot of teachers over the years, and use an amalgamation of their techniques – lip trills, intense breathing exercises, tongue twisters, visualizations. Lately, I’ve also been trying to do some warmups with one of those tubes that you blow into the water as vocal therapy, and definitely, they’ve helped my endurance and helped relax some tight vocal muscles. The night I recorded the background vocals on Chris Birkett’s ‘Precious Love’ back in January I was using that in-between takes because my voice was a bit fatigued and out of shape, and it definitely helped out. But what’s most important is to have a vision for how you’re going to sing, to try and wring out the value in each word and phrase. Studying jazz vocals was vital for that, and trying to live a BS-free life is also very helpful, while simultaneously finding freedom in knowing it’s never possible.“
DEB: Q. 6. You released on Monday, March 22nd, your official new single, called I Don’t Care Anymore https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvFqkkeNwTY which is a sunny ballad with a 1970’s feel that is lyrically reminiscent of James Taylor and Randy Newman, with beautifully melodic instrumentation. Written by Taylor Abrahamse, Produced by Eddie Kramer, and additional production by Taylor Abrahamse. Mixed by Eddie Kramer and Mastered by Joao Carvalho and specialist Jono Grant with additional mastering by Mariana Hutten, Taylor Abrahamse & Patrick ‘Riksha’ Bardos. Album art by Joel Esposito Photography. Taylor acknowledges the financial support of FACTOR and the Toronto Arts Council for this recording. Contrary to popular belief, ‘making it’ in the art of music isn’t merely a game of luck. It requires talent, strategic, and determined effort based on your vision, goals, etc. Share with your fans all about your creative writing process? TAYLOR: “Ultimately, I write every day, regardless of inspiration – a real Burt Bacharach approach. That way, the tools are sharp when the real inspiration strikes. Sometimes to get quasi-inspired I set limitations or make little games for myself as a writer, finding some sort of concept, even if you can’t quite put it into words. For example, ‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ was me trying to write a Canadian-flavored version of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ by The Beach Boys. ‘Did Ya Know??’ was written after hearing Randy Newman’s ‘Its Money That Matters’ and ‘Life In A Northern Town’ by The Dream Academy and having the vague feeling of wanting to write an ironic misleading song with a bridge that appears within the first minute. Even with vague limitations, some framework to get started within, I can sometimes write a song very quickly – ‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ was pretty much written in 15 minutes, just following first instincts. ‘Feelin Small’ took months of stops and starts to properly write, because the idea was to take an epic cosmic journey in five minutes from microscopic to absolutely gargantuan and back, and still have it hang together. When I write for other artists, for TV, or when I write musicals, that’s all with very specific boundaries – which makes it a mix of easy and sometimes incredibly hard to create. A song from my ‘Beaver Den’ musical which was a deliberate homage to ‘Ya Got Trouble’ from ‘The Music Man’ took weeks because its patter-song source was so ambitious already – PLUS I had to make mine entirely out of Canadian lingo.“
TAYLOR: “The songs that feel divine, where you’re not quite sure where they came from, but they feel like they have a pebble of something immortal in them… those ones just come, whenever, however. If you live enough life, put your heart on the line enough times, take enough risks, and shake up your creative juices enough, I think you can get more of those types of songs. And, if you’ve done the daily training of writing on assignment or just for the sake of it, the lightning rod will be strong enough to transfer the divine to paper with a great deal of ease. And the cliche is true for me – the songs that come the fastest tend to be the best.“
DEB: Q, 7. Tell your fans what your songs aim to say? Many artists would consider this a loaded question. The purpose of this question, however, is to assess how aware you are of what your audiences see in your work and what it provokes, and why you make music. TAYLOR: “Ultimately, whatever the listener gets is what my songs aim to say – it can be a bit naive as a songwriter if you go about it with a specific agenda of what message you want to put out in the world. And the truth is ‘messages’ that are spelled out to people usually don’t make a difference. If you’re open to it, you’ll hear whatever you need to hear in whatever you’re surrounded by – some art just makes it easier to hear what your heart is already trying to tell you. As for me as an artist – I think there’s a vibe that permeates me, even if it’s not obviously spoken. Underneath each song is some version of encouraging people to be young at heart and to get there by having a hunger for being completely yourself, regardless how confused and messy who you really are, happens to be. Heck, I feel like I’m a sea of contradictions – I deal with heavy themes with a childish voice. I hold onto innocence while embracing maturity. Often I make happy-sounding songs that are actually sad or vice versa. I pursue fame, but only to burn down the lies it perpetuates. I’m looking to always walk the line, and shake things up. I’m musically literate, but only so I could effectively discover how to break music rules or combine ingredients that haven’t quite been combined. I put out a thoughtful 70’s singer-songwriter-inspired album in the age of singles, zero attention span, and laptop music. I tend to think paradoxes are as close as humans can get to the truth. The path I walk is a difficult one, but it’s also vastly more interesting. All my favorite artists are somehow one of a kind – which can only really come from courage and a willingness to be a bit messy & bold. I’m bored as hell by the rest.“
DEB: Q. 8. Some of the most historical and revered music always plays a deeper role in the transformation of societies. Some consider how their work relates to the current sociopolitical landscape or how the music can address these themes, Do you think some of your masterpiece originals touch on current social or political issues? TAYLOR: “I’m not sure I’d call them masterpieces, but thank you! Definitely – the album is riddled with songs about very contemporary subjects, even if its inspiration is from the great singer/songwriters that began their careers in the ’60s and ’70s – to the point where the project is even (Nelson) riddled with lovely string arrangements. ‘I Won’t Put Up With It’ is an overt protest anthem, really an anti-apathy anthem – about choosing a cause and sticking with it. We are profoundly more effective and creating a real result when we don’t get distracted; but the news cycle always flips the general public back and forth between causes, removing any momentum. ‘If I Was A Woman’ is about my journeys with gender identity. ‘Same Damn Story’, for me, is very much a mantra that took years to write & refine, but was meant as an anthem for depression & mental health. I don’t write about specific political stances, I think just because I haven’t found anything new or useful to offer there – just like how Randy Newman wrote an anti-Trump song but never released it.
DEB: Q. 9. Who would you say has influenced you the most musically now and then? TAYLOR: “I can’t say who influenced me the most. As a kid and throughout my life, a continual through-line has been Queen. I consumed their whole catalog at a very early age when my mind was an absolute sponge, so they can’t help but influence my writing & willingness to push the boundaries. I had an experience when I was 12, listening to Queen, where I literally felt like Freddie Mercury gave me a shard of his soul to take with me. Whether that’s true or not, it definitely feels like his presence is there and I can draw upon it in my music and daily life. Queen’s styles and approaches are so vast across all their records that listening to them is very much a 101 education in the possibilities of songwriting as a whole. Although I’d say the one fascinatingly weak part about Queen is their lyrics – but the words are still very singable and performed with such conviction that you don’t really care! So, lyrically speaking, I would think more of Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen as substantial influences. The other night I was on a Billy Joel binge, digging through every bit of pointless Wikipedia facts about him – as a kid, he was huge for me as well. And Elton John was why I first began songwriting, and a huge impact as well. This may sound like a diss, but I don’t mean it like that, but Elton & Bernie are writing machines, and proof to me that even if you’re writing album ‘filler’ (as his contracts required back in the day), the filler can still be very enjoyable and necessary in the big picture of making a great album. That freed me up to just start writing instead of expecting every song I write to be ‘Your Song’ or ‘Rocketman’.
DEB: Q. 10. Some artists seem reluctant to speak of just how frustrating and baffling the whole experience of navigating the general music realm is, let alone add in Covid-19 and how hard they try to still be ambitious about getting their artwork seen, heard, and or sold. On February 26, 2021, you shared a Press Release around the world informing that millions of people are living with Parkinson’s Disease, and you created a throwback rock & roll song, Out Like A Light, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5MZBQOR5KA that aims at creating awareness around the chronic, degenerative neurological disorder and raise funds for its research. What are some other ways you’ve chosen lately to engage with your legions of fans, whether that’s within the top echelon of international art circles or based on your involvement with your local community, despite the challenges of trying to bring your art to the new formatted audiences at home thanks to the Corona Virus? TAYLOR: “Legions is a generous word, I’ve got a little crew of fans that’s growing. COVID has been tricky – especially since I feel gross almost every time I use social media, but it’s pretty much the only way to connect with people these days. I’ve been experimenting, weighing the pros and cons – ultimately I think social media is a problem and cheapens art & the human experience – and COVID has only made it worse and more tempting. Ultimately, I feel like I’m part of the problem and ruining attention spans unless I’m trying to use social media to create real, impactful connections, something special that will stick with people – and to encourage people to view social media critically and use it less. For example, I’ve left hundreds of little personalized, improvised mini-songs as voice notes to friends and fans on Facebook & Instagram. A little bit of direct kindness can go a long way to really brightening someone’s day. I’ve also done interactive live-stream concerts, and I’ve been focused more on using social media ultimately as a way to get people on my mailing list. Mailing lists are one of the few things that are vaguely democratic online – you opt on and will always be very likely to see & read that message. All other services will usually hide content from fans unless they pay to promote a post, or are an absolute lottery.“
TAYLOR: “I was on a very strange live-streaming app called BIGO for a bit, which was paying me well, but was too chaotic for me to sustain without sacrificing my sanity – and ultimately, again, wasn’t a way to really find fans. I’m more a fan of the ‘1000 fans’ theory, getting a small and mighty group I can make a real difference for who want to support me, not millions of views making super safe content that means very little to a lot of people. I still think there’s got to be a way to have my cake & eat it too as a songwriter, but first things first.“
DEB: Q. 11. What was the best advice you ever received when you first started out in the industry so young? As well, what advice would you offer others starting out in this entertainment realm? TAYLOR: “I don’t consciously recall any advice I received when I was just starting out – I was just flying by the seat of my pants. But I certainly had some intuitive insights about navigating it all. I started by my own volition because I wanted to be like Jim Carrey – to make a living being as absolutely free and wild as the characters he played. I literally saw my life like a movie. For example, I vividly remember meeting a potential acting agent in Toronto, and thinking ‘this is the scene where I get my agent!’. As delusional and destructive as that line of thinking ultimately is, it did provide me with a calm & certain confidence growing up that helped me get gigs & took me on a lot of adventures – after all, I was the protagonist in my own movie, and everything always works out for the protagonist. I remember thinking ‘Things work out when people are confident, so just be that. It’s simple.’ and I think that’s certainly good simple advice for finding success at something, but not at living a balanced life. Unchecked confidence that is used to being perpetually rewarded becomes an entitlement, becomes arrogance. For me, when the acting parts dried up, it meant becoming someone who didn’t know how to really handle failure, or manage negative feelings – I didn’t make negative feelings an option for myself. So, I became someone who spent a long time resenting my lot in life, missing those highs, and believing I had ‘wrecked my destiny’ and all that sort of stuff. That’s a lot for a kid to put on themselves, and certainly sparked an experience of depression that I carry around in some form to this day. Our minds are so susceptible as kids, and the world still values fame & success and ‘making it, which is really just starry-eyed propaganda, above true balance. There’s more money to be made in everyone scrambling around trying to be famous, being addicted to being admired, than there is in someone realizing happiness isn’t some external thing. But if you’re in entertainment, you’re sort of stuck – your survival depends upon making it, but you can make it on your own terms. To me, it’s very sobering & comforting that Jim Carrey, the man I looked up to, said later on in life: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” I love seeing how he’s using his fame now – playing mind games with people & being as well known for his comedy as for his wisdom. I’m trying to see that without having really fulfilled my insatiable ego’s bucket list, but it’s not going well so far despite all the quasi-wisdom I’m spouting. There really are things that we just can’t learn till we pass through them.“
TAYLOR: “As for advice – always be true to yourself, no matter the pressures around you. For a while there, I was very good at making time and space for my emotions – But at a certain point as a kid, I wanted to take a break from acting but kept burying that feeling. I made it about fame and the pressure to be confident & productive at all costs, and that caught up with me and gave me a lot of numbness, anger & sadness to contend with. Stuff that it took a long time for me to talk about.“
TAYLOR: “Also, have the grace to know that as a human being, we will always be a bit full of it, you’re going to mess up at this, and there’s no top to the mountain. The best service you can do for yourself & the world is to just be yourself and enjoy the ride. To paraphrase Alan Watts, if life was about the result, symphonies would only be finales. People would get dressed up and go out to the theater just to hear one final, crashing chord.“
DEB: Q, 12, What does success mean to you? TAYLOR: “It’s funny that you mention this because this is literally the question we are digging into in an online seminar I’m about to finish – probably why I’m giving you such overwrought answers. Success to me, today at least, means having fun & trusting myself. The rest sorts itself out. Anything outside of that is noise, part of the never-ending trap we’ve all inherited of having to be ‘successful’ and ‘make it’. Just like how you can scare people into goodness with the concepts of heaven & hell, you can scare people into being diligent consumers with the concepts of wealth, fame & admiration being something we have to attain in order to be worth something.”
Your fans can stay in tune with you by visiting your social platforms at:
Thank you so much for your time, Taylor.
Stay safe and keep the musical faith.