East Toronto’s Julian Taylor performing virtually and live, releases album The Ridge

Julian Taylor, who lives in the Woodbine and Danforth area, recently released his tenth album The Ridge. Photo by Lisa MacIntosh


Accomplished folk musician and east-end Toronto resident Julian Taylor has kept busy despite COVID-19 disrupting the live music industry.

Taylor recently played virtually for the 2020 Beaches Jazz Festival and said he was honoured to be asked to be a part of it.

“It’s always a bit strange because you don’t get any sort of feedback that way. You’re just playing to a camera really,” said Taylor of the online performing experience.

Taylor has lived in the Woodbine and Danforth avenues area for close to 20 years now and often takes part in local shows in Toronto.

Taylor said that his favourite part about the neighbourhood is that it doesn’t feel like living in a large city.

“I could just walk down the street and see the sky and I couldn’t do that in downtown. I just felt like the east end is like a little town on its own,” he said.

Taylor also recently performed live for the first time since the pandemic began as part of the Ottawa Bluesfest Drive-in concert in late July.

“I did get fan interaction but it was honking horns…It was exhilarating to be there, it was so much fun,” said Taylor.

Taylor said that the live performance industry is in “dire straits” and has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, but that he has hope for the industry’s future.

“I always see hope for the future. I think everything has changed and we’re adapting to our surroundings, and I think live music is such an important thing that we’re going to figure it out,” said Taylor.

He said that he has already received an email about a venue opening up for live music this fall, but adhering to the half-capacity rule put in place by the province.

“What I don’t foresee is the big stadium arena tours happening because I don’t know if people are going to be interested,” he said.

Taylor released his tenth album titled The Ridge in April, where the title song is based on his summers with his grandparents in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

“We lived on a little farm. We had horses, we had chickens, my grandparents bred boxers as well, so I got to spend my summers on the left coast with them,” he said.

Taylor said that his family has always been very musical. His grandfather loved blues music, his father played classical piano, and Taylor sang in a church choir.

Taylor’s cousins Gene and Barry Diabo also played on The Ridge with Taylor.

“They used to play in bands all the time, so they came down to play on the record, which is great. It really is a family affair,” said Taylor.

Taylor, who is part Mohawk and West Indian, said that some people have preconceived notions of what genre of music he plays and what his voice will sound like.

“I just play whatever. I’ve always played what I love and I love everything from Bob Marley to Johnny Cash. And it was always funny to see their faces when I sang a Johnny Cash song. They just look dumbfounded,” said Taylor.

Taylor said that he and his manager purposely chose the cover of the album, a picture Taylor took himself of his great aunt’s farm in Creemore, Ontario.

“Finally we decided that we were not going to use my face because he and I both felt that the best possible scenario would be for people to see the cover, not a Black person with dreadlocks on the cover so that they would listen to the music without any preconceived notions,” he said.

Taylor’s said that his take on social change in general amid the Black Lives Matter movement is a little different than most people, in that he hasn’t taken an activist approach and is a spiritual person.

“When it comes to social changes, my whole take is that it has to happen. The doors have to open for women and for minorities, because the doors haven’t been open for them the way that they have been open for other people,” said Taylor.

Taylor said that he believes the conversations happening are positive, even if they are difficult.

To learn more about Taylor and to listen to The Ridge and his other albums, please visit https://juliantaylormusic.ca/home

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