He’s 17. He was captivating at the Open-Mic in Shoreditch’s Blueberry bar. Came on his own 5 minutes before his slot. Played his songs. Raw, acoustic set. A mellow voice surfing on pop, rap and jazzy vibes. He improvised with his loop pedal and asked the audience to join in singing.
Simple guitar chords, a distinctive flow, brutally honest words.
“That song is a bit different, trying spoken words- You may as well go for it. If you have just arrived…my name is Ralph Taylor.”
One week later, we’re standing on Bayswater road for an interview, just after his warmly received intimate set at the Notting Hill Arts Club. I ask him about the loop pedal, and what inspired him to use it. The answer was as unexpected as discovering his music in a Shoreditch bar.
“I’m from Suffolk. And my neighbour last 7 years was Ed Sheeran. Back when I moved to Suffok he was just starting off, playing in those sorts of venues I am playing now. He used the loop pedal in his shows. Seeing him do it, I thought DAMN that’s cool. I wasn’t doing any music before that. So I kind of taught myself the guitar with the loop pedal. And I just kept using it since. “
What’s striking about Ralph Taylor is how comfortable he is on stage in creating the sound of a 5-piece band simply with his guitar, a pedal and 2 microphones. When he writes his songs, does he think about how they can be played live?
“I definitely write with the loop pedal in mind. I picture in my head how to play the song, then I try to figure it out with the loop pedal when there’s no one in the house.”
He released his first EP in 2015. When did he start writing songs? “Probably when I was 11. Like any other eleven or twelve years old I was into Eminem. So I just started writing really aggressive rap and the most outrageous lyrics. I look at them now and I’m like I CAN’T believe I wrote that.” (laughs)
The 17-year-old man moved to London recently, lodging in a house with a family. He finds “less place to practice” in London than Suffolk, but it is the “hub of British music. A whole new world of people to meet.”
He says he loves to inject what he listens to into his music. You could tell from songs like Subtlety which mixes jazzy chords, rapping and a spoken words introduction. “I learned jazzy chords on the guitar by playing Amy Winehouse’s Frank songs.” He confesses.
What are his three biggest musical influences?
“Ed Sheeran, definitely, because he was a neighbour, he’s what got me into music.
Loyle Carner on the rapping front. At the moment he’s an underground artist, not massively known. His flow is awesome. And that’s what inspired my rap in Subtlety.
Then a third artist…There are so many. So many. And I know I’m gonna think later-I should have said that. It doesn’t necessarily shows in my music, but Supertramp. My dad is a massive fan of Supertramp. Their music is so cool. And the way their songs build up.”
It’s 10 pm. People are starting to leave Notting Hill Art Club, and recognise Ralph on the pavement. “You were insane!” a blond, 20-ish girl shouts, giving him her contact details if he “ever needs a backing vocalist”.
He might have just moved to London, but it is clear that he is already starting to leave his mark on London’s underground pop scene. Does he consider a Coldplay-type career, playing Wembley?
“I only want to play Wembley if I felt like I earned it. If I manage to play there one day it would be amazing but that’s not what I am aiming for. Do you know what I mean? I aim to work my way up the venues. At the moment, I wouldn’t want to play Wembley.” (laughs)
He tells me he is not signed to a label. Does he want to get signed today?
“I want to take it slowly. I want to develop as an artist, work my way up, find my sound, mature as an artist, build a strong fan base.. I want to avoid getting signed into labels who mould me into someone I don’t want to be.”
Not being rolled into someone I don’t want to be were his last words in our conversation. And that says a lot about the potential and ambition of this artist. An artist who doesn’t want to take it the easy way using his good looks and luck in becoming a blend product mass manufactured by labels for mass opportunities. He wants to write his own path. He wants to develop as an artist. He wants to work his way up. He wants to do what he enjoys most, writing songs, putting what he loves into music, enjoying the journey… He wants to deserve Wembley.
Ralph Taylor’s official website: http://ralphtaylormusic.com/
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