Interviews

Life is a stage: an interview with singer-songwriter Craig Taylor-Broad

The latest single from Cornwall, UK artist Craig Taylor-Broad touches on depression, sadness, isolation, deals with his inner demons and overcomes them. In his own words, “most importantly it is about your loved ones, pretending to them that you are happy, and essentially living a lie in order to make others happy.” The track comes from Craig’s new unnamed album, a follow up to his melancholic and creey EP “For The Organs”, created in cooperation with Will Salter and Chris Trevena. IDIOTEQ caught up with Craig to discuss both recordings, his new music video, the fatal experience of depression, healing through art, photography and performing live.

Hey there Craig! How are you? How’s Cornwall? Is it already freezing cold out there?

I’m currently in a quiet library and I got the strangest looks diving into your recent release “For The Organs”. I’m really stunned by its compositions and specific atmosphere of both calm and anxiety you have created here. Congratulations on that!

Hey, I’m okay. Currently in a pub, soaking wet, hiding away from the torrential rain outside. We’ve just had so much rain lately. It’s pretty depressing.

For the Organs is definitely a strange one. It’s the first full album I’ve written and recorded myself. I don’t consider myself a natural musician and I know the production is awful on it so I don’t know whether to be really proud of it or embarrassed by it. It’s definitely a segment of where I was this time last year.

Your new track “Lying” reveals a bit smoother and more accessible sound. Will you continue along this path and develop similar soundscapes on your next, yet-unnamed record? Tell me more about your plans to deliver new musical creations, the process behind it and some details on your new release.

Lying is one part of an album of tracks I’ve written. It’s moving into a more rounded and well visualised idea I think. For the Organs was a concept album of sorts but musically it flitted between spoken word and post rock and folk and singer song writer stuff. I think lying, and the new album is me sort of finding my sound and getting more comfortable with singing and playing guitar.

I’d love to give you release details of the new album but there aren’t any. I said it with my last album and it feels the same with this one too in that, I’m not even sure I will release it. Sometimes I think it’s better to just make an album and just give it to yourself. This feeling did change for the last album though and I ended up putting it on CD and cassette but no one bought it, so god knows where my head space will end up on the new record.

Craig Taylor-Broad lyring

“Sometimes I think it’s better to just make an album and just gave it to yourself.” – I think the world of music would be way better if people kept this idea in mind.

“Lying” is a powerful, touching take on the harsh experience on depression. Can you please expound a bit on your idea for both this track and its visual?

I’ve suffered with depression for a long time and it’s such a fatal illness. I’ve gone through periods where I wouldn’t talk to anyone, then times where I’d be telling everyone how bad I felt until they were sick of me but as I’ve got older I’ve found that I lie to certain people about my happiness in order to make them happy.

There are psychological studies on how we put on different masks with different people, playing different parts. The world is a stage and all of that you know? Lying is about that and sometimes lying to yourself in the process.

I know that it’s probably a tough topic to listen to but I’ve always felt that through my creativity I have the potential to break through barriers, things we don’t want to heard sometimes. I guess as well that sometimes music should be difficult and awkward and emotional. And for when it isn’t, we can listen to Rihanna or something.

Do you ever feel a bit reluctant or confused because of the fact that there’s so much personal stuff in your recordings? How much does it take to make a decision to open so much and literally heal your soul through art?

It’s difficult because on the one side I have this cathartic thing that’s really important to me and my health and my mental health. But then on the other side there’s this need for acceptance. I want people to listen to my songs, and buy what I create and come to watch me play. I’m never going to be massively successful financially with this but what I work for is a cult following.

The problem comes when the music isn’t cathartic anymore, or there doesn’t feel like there’s an audience that wants to listen to it. There have been times where playing shows have felt more self destructive than anything else.

Do you believe art making processes can be a part of people’s grief or emotional process? Technically, how can it help?

I think creativity can help people a bundle. Alongside music I also photograph local shows and I find it so meditative. A couple of years ago I used to run creative writing classes with people from people suffering from anxiety to Alzheimer’s and they all came away commenting on how much better they felt. In terms of illness I think art is something that needs to be tapped into more so.

Craig Taylor-Broad playing

Ok Craig, so let’s go back a bit and learn more about your background. What kind of music did you grow up listening to and what have led you to create these romantic and haunted soundscapes?

I’m old, so my childhood was spent with a lot of Michael Jackson and QUEEN. It doesn’t really make too much sense I guess but there’s a theatrical performance to them which I guess touches upon my music.

The first bands I really obsessed over as I moved into secondary school were NIRVANA, NINE INCH NAILS and MARILYN MANSON. I’m still heavily into these bands. I reckon you could get that from listening to my music, strangely.

Did growing up in Cornwall and your closest area influenced your approach to songwriting?

I think lyrically Cornwall has had a huge impact on me. While it is a stunningly beautiful place, it is also home to some of the poorest areas of Europe. I happen to live in one of the poorest areas. It would be hard not to be influenced when you are seeing people poor and destitute being constantly overlooked by a government that will rarely admit that Cornwall is a part of the UK. I mean, we’re one of the biggest counties and yet we are one of the lowest government funded. Figure that?

So yeah, I’d say that the beauty of the county mixed with the poverty of it all has had a huge impact on my music. It’s also impacted my equipment. I’ve never had the best gear and never will. My first EP, Suicide Songs, was written on an acoustic guitar that I picked up secondhand for £3. It actually disintegrated while I was playing it this year. I’m rambling now, apologies!

Craig Taylor-Broad live

Haha, no need! Feel free to shoot me more stories like that!

Is there anything specific you’re exploring artistically right now? Tell me about your currently adored music pieces.

I’m currently not working on any music. The idea is that I’m going to finish recording this album and then I’m going to spend some time learning other people’s songs, experimenting with effects pedals and just being a better songwriter.

Instead I’ll just be mostly working on my photography and doing portraits.

Tell me a bit more about this leg of your artistry. Do you carry around your photo camera wherever you go, or do you prepare and set out to photograph something in particular?

A bit of both to be honest.

I usually have a compact camera with me when I’m walking around just so that I can capture anything that I see and find interesting. Usually that’s how people pose themselves against things such as lampposts etc.

I’m also doing portraits in people’s homes at the moment as well, these are more posed and more emotive I think!

Craig Taylor-Broad

Craig Taylor-Broad photography ! !

What are your thoughts on the power and the meaning of photography? What did you learn from taking photos and experiencing this process?

Uhm, it’s a tough one. I think mainstream media and technology is ruining creativity as a whole. Nothing is sacred anymore. If we’re not capturing every moment of our lives through our iPhones and Facebook and stuff, then someone else is capturing it. It’s actually quite weird because I think the power of an actual camera has diminished so much now, it’s all about those units where you can do everything; listen to music, take photos, surf the internet. If I see someone with an actual camera walking around and taking shots, I kind of freak out. So it’s kind of tough as to what to say the power or meaning of photography is, because in its original format, photography doesn’t exist so much anymore, and even then, it’s all subjective.

Having said that, if I wasn’t going to dodge the question, I’d say photography has the same power and meaning as any creative art form. It’s about documenting a moment, and sometimes making lies out of the truth, and truth out of the lies.

Ok Craig, so let’s wrap it up. How would you sum the year 2015, both in terms of your own development and the state of independent music scene you’ve been following for years?

Okay! I’d say that 2015 has been an incredibly tough year. When it started, a bunch of my mates where talking about what would happen and we were convinced that local acts SLEEP CYCLES and OLIVE HAIGH would push on, get some big gigs and get signed, and that didn’t happen at all.

In terms of me, I had my band, KANINCHEN, split up after around three years of being together, which is always super hard, and I didn’t get the reaction I wanted when I released For the Organs. That said, I feel like 2015 has been the making of me in terms of confidence in playing live, and also the development of my vocals and guitar playing. 2016 has the potential to be something better than 2015 but I’m not willing to set the bar very high so I’m not disappointed!

What do you think is next for you in your work? Can we expect you hitting the road for some intimate live performances in 2016?

It’s a tough one. I need to finish recording the new record and then we’ll see. I get really anxious about playing and it can be utterly exhausting when you’re playing to a bunch of people who would rather pay an entry fee for a gig and then spend all their time smoking outside. I’m at my best when I’m in cafés and playing in peoples living rooms. Me and Max (SLEEP CYCLES) are talking about doing a tour but it’s just talk really. I’d love to go out and play non-stop next year but you just never know if you’re going to get booked.

Feel free to use my secret booking list then ;)

Ok Craig. Tell me… Your music seems to reflect so much desolation and sadness, but, eventually, do you want your art and message to be somehow uplifting?

Thank you!

Well, I’ve always thought of my music as kind of hopeful in a way. Sure, it’s sad, but if you’re listening to it, and relating to it, it means you’ve come through something big, something that could’ve killed you but didn’t. And I’ve come through the same big something that could’ve killed me. The message is definitely bleak but there’s a strength in still being here, and being able to share that with others.

I’ll do my best to share your future record with as many of my readers as I can reach.

Thanks a lot for your time! The last words are yours.

Thanks a lot, your support means a whole bundle to me, and thanks for letting me selfishly about myself haha!

Craig Taylor-Broad Bandcamp
Craig Taylor-Broad Facebook
Craig Taylor-Broad Soundcloud
Craig Taylor-Broad Photography
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