When Aaron Taylor first opened the email, he suspected it was spam. An understandable reaction, really. After all, how many up-and-coming musicians are contacted by Apple directly? And yet there it was, in his inbox; a message from one of the tech giant’s many music supervisors. It was brief, asking whether or not Taylor would consider licensing his soulfully staccato track, Lesson Learnt, to soundtrack the latest Apple Watch advert.
“Yeah, I definitely thought it was spam,” Taylor laughs, his voice low and smooth. “I forwarded it to a music lawyer, who told me that it was actually legit — and that they’d take it from there.”
And take it they did. Taylor’s already-burgeoning career saw an uptick after the advert aired and, when 2019 came to a close, he’d had over 10 million streams on Spotify. But we’ll come back to that. Firstly, how did such soul and spirit enter the life of the now 34-year-old musician?
“The first time,” Taylor nods, “I was only seven. I’d been sent to classical guitar lessons — not exactly Eric Clapton — and the guitar was bigger than my body. But I just didn’t want to put it down. My mum played a lot of classic records, too — and as soon as I discovered the radio I started doing some musical digging for myself.”
Dig he did, and Taylor soon struck gold. His singular musical style began to take shape; a heartfelt fusion of honest sentiment and hot, heavy riffs and motifs. His first EP, Still Life, featured only three instruments on each track — “If I couldn’t make it work with just three instruments,” he says, “it wasn’t going to work at all…” — and, as his confidence and producing abilities developed, so did his style evolve.
By 2018, there was a new EP; The Long Way Home. It had synthesised basslines drizzled with melted trumpet melodies, lyrics lilting over lazy drum beats and rolling, chewy refrains. More people had noticed Taylor by then — Apple included.
“It was a blessing,” says the musician. “And I think it is a blessing that musicians can be discovered in so many ways. There’s no set formula anymore — and that stops loads of musicians bottlenecking down a single avenue into the industry. It’s still really hard to get noticed, but I believe the good music always cuts through.”
It’s ironic, with such soft and subtle work, that Taylor’s music has cut through so readily. As well as Apple, his music has featured in multiple worldwide television series — and he was recently named the first artist in Virgin Money’s Emerging Stars programme. His debut album, Icarus, was also released this summer. But, despite the success, Taylor is wary not to get completely swallowed up by the modern music industry.
“In this day and age,” he says, “people’s attention spans are affecting music production and construction. People are rushing to get to the chorus within the first 30 seconds — just to keep people’s attention.
“And Spotify for Artists,” he adds, “while a great platform, is also a result of the era we live in. All of that data. How many streams, how many saves — even knowing where your top fans are in the world to help plan a tour. It’s useful, but it can feel like a prison.”
There’s still fun to be had, however. Taylor’s favourite Spotify function allows him to see which playlists users are adding his music to. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his rhythmic, sensual tracks seem to be primarily played in the bedroom.
“That’s not really what I had in mind when I wrote my songs,” he laughs, “but hey! People can use them however they want to use them!”
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