Hudson Taylor

by
Jessikah Hope Stenson interviews Irish folk duo Hudson Taylor.
Hudson Taylor are currently touring the UK to promote their new album, yet they were kind enough to spare a few moments to chat with our writer, Jessikah Hope Stenson.

I hear that you’ve loved playing music from a young age. When exactly did you decide to make it your career?
Harry: We’ve been playing since 2008 and until 2011 we used to play as a hobby. We used to mess around doing covers and busking; it wasn’t something we took seriously.  About four years ago, we put a song online which got a lot of attention from management. The lady who manages us now came over and saw us in Dublin. She lived in London, so we went back and forth to London to work and meet people and after a year of doing that we thought, why not just bite the bullet and move to London?  Now here we are, there’s just over a month before our album comes out.
Alfie: Yeah, we put stuff up on YouTube and for the first year it was covers. The second year we started writing songs and putting them online – it took us a while to get the confidence to do that. We were busking on the streets of Dublin, just trying to get a pot of money. We released some stuff on our own label and we didn’t have money for marketing or anything like that so it was basically word of mouth until we got signed.

Your debut album, Singing For Strangers, is already released in Ireland. How have you found the response to it there so far?
Harry: It was brilliant. We released it in Ireland first because that’s where we’re from so it was great to go home to do a ‘soft’ release. If we’d released it in the UK and then everywhere else then we wouldn’t have had anywhere near as much time to do anything in Ireland. We went on every radio station in the whole of Dublin, which was mad.
Alfie: And we got to go on a TV show we’ve been watching since we were kids.

So what’s more important to you: the sales figures or the quality of reviews you receive?
Harry: I prefer to know that people have criticism or something to say about it than how many copies we’ve sold. It’d be lovely to get loads of copies sold because it means you can justify going somewhere to play – then you can probably guarantee that people will come and see you in that situation.
Alfie: Really, the best thing is being happy with your album. We had to record things quite a lot of times and now we are really happy with it.

You have quite a few previously unreleased songs on your upcoming album. How do you normally go about writing songs?
Harry: It’s different every time. The best things have really come out of writing in the spur of the moment. Actually, that can’t really be true because for a lot of songs we actually sat down and thought “Let’s write a song”. The most fun ones are those that just happened accidentally. There’s a song called Care which we wrote when we were specifically in a place where we were trying to write songs.
Alfie: Yeah, we went to this island and we’d been talking about this song. We knew we wanted to write a song that was a bit like this with something like that, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We just sort of played it. I started singing and Harry was in there with the harmonies, and we started writing down some lyrics. At the end we worked more on the lyrics, making it into a story and making the lyrics mean something to us.
Harry: It was the last evening we were in this place and within about ten minutes the whole song was written – it came out of nowhere.  We pressed record on an iPhone and played it. When we listened to it back we wrote it down basically word for word.

So do you prefer the writing process, touring, or busking?
Alfie: Touring! I mean, you can’t do one of them without the other. Well, you can, but touring is even better when you have new songs as well as old songs that people know.
Harry: It’s a good feeling when you go out and play a song that no one’s ever heard before and you get a good reaction to it.

Out of all of the songs you have released so far, which is your favourite?
Harry: So we haven’t released this one yet but there’s this one on the album and it’s got a video up on YouTube. It’s called Butterflies and I really liked the production of it. We’ve had to work hard to get what we do translated on the recording. I think that song does it justice and even if Butterflies isn’t necessarily a massive song, it’s nice to have something that is exactly what you want.
Alfie: For me it’s probably a new one that’s a bonus track to our album. It’s called I Don’t Know Why. We wrote it – me, Harry, and our friend, Jack – in our Mum’s conservatory back in Dublin. That was another really natural one. We just started playing one night and I stayed up to write down a load of lyrics and then the next morning we all played it. The first time we played it we couldn’t stop smiling. It was just a really fun moment.

You’re quite active through social media, which is becoming  popular platform for many musicians. Do you think it’s the main platform for getting your music heard?
Alfie: There’s a bunch of ways to get into music – such as touring! It all ties into each other. You can play a gig and people will go there and take photos which they put up online. Today, in Exeter, we went busking where people took photos of us. So, social media just sort of helps everything out and it’s also a nice way to interact with everybody.
Harry: It’s very useful because of the small world we now live in with the Internet and how easy it is for information to travel. You get this mad thing where you put something online and within like, an hour, potentially thousands of people from around the world could have seen it. If the video is good and they like it then that means that one day they might come and see you, which is invaluable. We used to do lots of busking and we had a sign that said ‘Hudson Taylor’ and it included our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube details. Then like five years later we’d be walking down the street and someone would say they saw us in Dublin years ago.  It’s also lovely to see people online who are writing such heartfelt comments – you have to remember they are actually people, not just a username.
Alfie: We use it to document what we’re doing; it helps us remember where we are by looking back and going “Oh yeah, look at that”. It’s weird because ten years ago, people would have found it weird for us to post everything we do all the time.

So do you think you’ll keep using social media even as your career grows?
Harry: I’m sure it will evolve with time, I can’t imagine that Facebook will be around forever. The thing I find most valuable about it is for the people who are genuinely interested – then the online sphere is good for them to go to. It’s also good for people who accidentally stumble across you, but for a fan of a band there’s nothing better than being able to go to a few places on the Internet to see what’s going on with them. If you don’t do that, I suppose there is an air of mystery about you, but at the same time people just don’t know what’s going on, like when you’re going to play a gig.

Lastly, who else should we be listening to this spring?
Harry: This lad that we have supporting us, Jack Morris; he’s a proper Dublin poet. He’s not got much stuff online after all that talk of social media, but he’s got a Soundcloud link. He actually got me and Alfie into songwriting. Before that, we just played covers but he got us focused on playing original songs.
Alfie: I met him when I was about fifteen and he was just playing songs under a tree. I went and listened to him and he taught me some chords on guitar and we wrote songs together. There’s also Orla Gartland and Gavin James. You’ve probably heard all about them.
Harry: Yeah, Gavin James and Orla Gartland – two lovely ginger people from Ireland.