SEAN Taylor likes to live a little dangerously when he steps in front of a live audience.
“I never have a set list,” the London-based singer songwriter says. “I tend to just get on stage and hope for the best. I like to get up there with a blank sheet of paper and see where it takes me. It’s exciting and I like that. I see gigs as an inter-play between the audience and the artists. If you go up there with a rigid structure you don’t get everything you can out of the gig.”
Sean first picked up a guitar at the age of 14 at a time that Oasis were the biggest band in Britain but he quickly soaked in influences like Chicago blues.
“I started singing around the same time as well,” he says. “I got hooked on John Martyn, who would be a big hero, and all kinds of songwriters. Guitar playing is a means to an end for me. Give me a great song every day.”
The catalyst for a career in music came two years later.
“I went to Glastonbury for the first time. It was crazy. Four days of music and madness. Everything about it, like sitting out at night watching all these people taking in live music was great. I thought ‘this is what I want to do’. A year later I played my first gig in London. That was 2001. Since then I have done at least 100 gigs every year and have toured all over, Europe, Australia.”
Sean’s now six albums into his recording career and his latest album Chase the Night has received some of his best reviews ever. It was featured on Bob Harris’s BBC Radio Best Of 2013 and 6 Music’s Tom Robinson featured the track River as his song of the week. Sean himself sees Chase the Night as the album he has always wanted to make.
“All the albums have worked towards this one,” he says. “I think it’s the best of everything I have done.”
Despite being recorded in America, the album is still steeped in the sights and sounds of Sean’s London home.
He says: “I don’t want to sound American. I’m English and glad to be from London. So it’s important that the references let people know who I am and where I am from.
“I went to America to work with producer Mark Hallman, who is just amazing. I heard him first with a great singer called Eliza Gilkyson and I love the way he makes albums. He can play everything, which is scary in a good way. The session players in Austin were also just incredible, so you feed off that, and you do soak up the influences, but you have to remember who you are.”
Chasing The Night is also Sean’s most personal album to date.
“I have tried to stay away from that before,” he says. “I love beat poets like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg but their weakness as well as their strength is that they always talk about their own lives. I have always tried to look at the outside world and talk about stories as well. These songs are about things I have done, places I have been, but twisted. Life isn’t always that interesting so you exaggerate or change to create an ambience.”
Sean says the reviews of the album have been “flattering” (Mojo gave it four stars and The Guardian loved it) but he says that’s not why he makes music.
“You use those things for the business side of it,” he says. “You have to do that but you can’t get carried away with it. I have to keep making the music I want to make.”
Sean says all independent artists have to work hard to keep their career afloat. “That’s because of the way mainstream music is sewn up,” he says. “If it’s not Pop Idol or a major label forget it. For everyone else you have to work hard to promote yourself.”
But 2014 is proving Sean’s biggest year to date with tours of the UK, France, Spain, Holland and Finland.
“March was amazing,” he says. “I did a load of stuff in England, a festival in Spain, one in France. I look at people, meet people, pick up stories and you feed off that as an artist. You have to. It’s all part of the experience of being a troubadour.”
Sean Taylor can be seen at the Brewhouse, Burton, at 8pm on May 3. Tickets are £10/ £9 in advance. Call 01283 508100. Visit www.seantaylorsongs.com.