Interview with Brittunculi Records & Books UK

Cursty Hoppe talks with Jonathan Taylor about his wrting...
English singer / songwriter born Warwick 1966.

Taylor notes with a smile, “At 15 when I bought my first second-hand guitar and amp for 75 pounds, my mother said it was a complete waste of money.” Although it’s left unsaid, one gets the feeling she’s probably still eating her words today. Since then, his reviewers have been somewhat more generous. It’s been said he is the possessor of a ‘marvellous dusty, dusky voice full of resonance and beauty’ by local press and a ‘real talent’ by the British Politician Tony Benn, while fans continue to liken him to Don Mclean, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and even Neil Diamond.

Taylor’s lyrics remain consistent in theme, his overwhelming need to lend his voice to those who remain without. Whether they’re victims of the Bulgarian Communist Regime (Izvinavi) or an elegy to those lost in 9/11 (‘If Only’) and the messages they left behind. Again and again he returns to his subject, in ‘Holocaust Denier’ written after meeting England’s only known Jewish Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman, his words convey not only the horror of genocide but implore us to remember, should we let it happen again. Both tracks featured on BBC and worldwide radio and for which British PM of the time Gordon Brown, wrote to thank him. Even the house he now calls home in central Bulgaria, used as a Partisan hide-out for anti-nazi resistance fighters throughout WW2, has brought him inspiration in the form of the song ‘Partisan.’ You begin to get the feeling Taylor needs this kind of connection to the past and a large helping of tragedy for both sustenance and creativity.

Taylor’s music urges us to question why atrocities happen, whether they are individual or collective. He takes tragedy, seemingly internalising the pain and then slowly from his depths comes something beautiful, skilful, deeply memorable and strangely- immensely listenable.

Cursty Hoppe, 2012.
Andrew Liddle reviews Hub a Bud, poetry and song
Halifax Evening Courier. April 24th 2009. Hub a Bub at QFolk, The Victoria Theatre, Halifax. UK.

Maybe it's something in the West Riding air or water, but we do seem blessed at the moment with some prodigious talent in the folk world, as John Sharp, QFolks promoter, continues to demonstrate. Jonathan Taylor, Warwick born but these days very much a Halifax lad, is a rare talent indeed. Not only is he the possessor of a marvellously dusty, dusky voice full of resonance and beauty, which invites comparison with Neil Young in vocal colour if not in style, but he writes some awe-inspiring songs, both lyrics and melody. His partner, Shipley based Steve Wilkinson is a poet of the Northern Voice School, refreshing in his use of conventional metrical patterns and rhyme schemes, whose pithily worded poems often take the form of dramatic monologues or dialogues. Together, they launched into an 'anti war pro soldier' tirade, beginning with The Great War and coming right up to date with that in Iraq. Jonathan's Soldier, Soldier, Don't Look Back was deeply moving, and perfectly complimented by Steve's heart felt tribute to Shipley born Sgt Steven Roberts, the first British soldier to die in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a varied second half, Jonathan turned romantic and sang some beautiful songs, including his own tear jerker 'Please Close The Door Quietly,' the iconic 'I Put A Spell On You' and, would you believe, a profound version of 'Dolly Parton's Jolene.' And Steve gave the world premier of his satirical take on the eccentric Greek philosopher, Diogenes.

Author: Andrew Liddle
Taylor wins 'Best Folk Song' 2015
Jonathan Taylor, known as ‘Odd Jonathan’ due to his profound dyslexia and learning difficulties has been awarded the prestigious ‘Best Folk Song December 2015’ by top record industry executives of the Akademia Awards, Los Angeles, with the comment that judges considered it to be:

“Odd Jonathan, despite the name, offers one of the most lucid narratives folk music has produced this year, fluidly foiled by an intricate fiddle descant.”

The comments made by Ken Wilson, who supports musicians interested in receiving a higher degree of market exposure and recognition in the new music business era are most appreciated by the artist. From senior posts at Arista Records, Columbia and MCA to J Records and Warner Brothers, veteran record executive Ken has shaped the careers of legendary artists such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Seal, Sade, George Michael and many more, leading to record sales in excess of $2 Billion.

The winning song “If Only (The Falling Man)” details the desperate plight of those trapped within the burning World Trade Centre following the attacks of 9/11. It was inspired when Jonathan watched the TV documentary ‘Voices from The Towers’ in which anguished relatives and loved ones spoke on film about how last minute answer machines messages from those trapped gave them a lasting memory, a farewell and a sense of closure. The artist has never detailed which particular story the song focusses on, merely to add that he “considers the track to be for all of them, none are any more significant than the other. This is a work that remembers them all, the victims of an unspeakable attack that killed so many.”

He adds “I am delighted that this song has received such a high status of recognition from such a high profile figure. My own experiences of profound abuse gave me a talent, I never know whether to consider my condition as a curse or a gift. Somehow I can descend into very dark places and return again with something beautiful. In many ways this is the song that should never have never written, but if such a song should exist, then I am delighted that it be this one…”

Jonathan was born in Warwick; UK. 1966, but removed to Bulgaria in 2006 to concentrate on his writing career. He has been regularly featured on Bulgarian TV and press and is an outspoken critic of the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage; which gained him much public support in his new homeland. “This is the second major recognition of my life” he states. In 1998 he was awarded, by nomination, ‘The Principles’ Award for Outstanding Achievement in Education’ whilst studying for his youth work diploma at Bradford & Ilkley Community College, North England. He had no previous formal school education, being placed on a supervision order at the age of just 13. A persistent truant he was quite illiterate when leaving school without qualifications. “I had not been entered for exams as all others were due to years of nonattendance. I was hated by many teachers and peers alike. I was terrified of school and was horrifically bullied and abused, you soon learn to keep away.”

I returned to part time education in my late 20’s and there after studied fulltime. After nine years I eventually gradated as a teacher, how ironic now when I think of it… These days I spend most of my time teaching English and have the pleasure of writing learning materials (to music) for the Cambridge based teaching and learner resource: English Club online. The 98 award recognised my need to succeed at all costs. I was hungry for education and loved every second of mature study; though had to do many resits including a full year. These days I have completed 15 solo albums and have written seven books; fiction novels. Sadly upon my diagnosis for dyslexia (I had no idea what the problem was at the time but just knew I was capable of so much more) my stepfather said “so you are still looking for excuses for being stupid” and upon receiving by Honour’s Degree (2.1) my mother added “Well anyone can get a degree there…” This was extremely hurtful, you realise it’s not what you do that matters but what people actually think about you. You just have to believe in yourself! This Akademia award means so much to me, it doesn’t matter what happens now, only that somebody has acknowledged my contribution to art and culture”.

If Only (The Falling Man) already features as part of the artist memorial gallery of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York and former English language students of Jonathan’s, of The American College Arcus, Velicko Tarnovo: Bulgaria, created the accompanying video. “I told them what I wanted and they just got on with it” he said. An American flag drifts gently in the win as the names of all victims scroll upward across it. As the song finishes, due to the sheer number of named victims contained, it continues afterward for a further 15 minutes in silence. The song debuted on BBC Radio Leeds and features a sample recording,
Published 2016-03-14.
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