- 03 Jun 22
Folk-pop brother duo Hudson Taylor talk authenticity, pre-tour excitement, and the lockdown creative surge that birthed their fabulous new album, Searching For The Answers.
Hudson Taylor are no longer pulling their punches. Whether it’s beating up on each other in the uptempo music video for ‘You Me Myself,’ or exposing a fragile vulnerability in the highs and lows of their newest single ‘Hold Out Hope’, the brothers are back in the ring – with an album that straddles what is often a fine line between realism and optimism. It is, you might observe, an honest reflection of life and living in an increasingly uncertain world.
It has, after all, been a long, bruising two years since Harry and Alfie Hudson-Taylor’s most recent album, 2020’s Loving Everywhere I Go. And – as with so many artists – the tumultuous, and in many ways alienating, period forced them to think long and hard about their priorities. Were they in this for the long haul? What sort of music should they really be making? And what if the pandemic went on and on and on – which, of course, in a way it has.
Lockdown pushed them into a new realm of unfamiliarity: creating music that existed only in their own hearts and minds.
“With the two albums before,” Harry explains, “we were playing some of the tunes live for a few years before they were even released, and we’d just wait and wait to put them out. It was like letting the birds flee the nest, letting our babies out into the world. On this occasion it was different – some of the songs weren’t even finished this time last year! And that’s amazing. It feels so good. It’s such a cathartic release.”
The result: the most authentic collection from the duo to date. It’s baked into the name of the album, Searching For The Answers – from which we can infer that the brothers are no longer afraid to look uncertainty in the eye.
“These songs are out now, less than a year later after they were written, and so we still mean what we say,” agrees Alfie. “Before, when we were making an album over the course of five years, we were different people by the end of the process.”
He can afford a wry smile.
“These songs are fresh and raw. It’s just Hudson Taylor, as we are right now.”
It’s been a long journey towards finding their signature sound. After two years of quiet reflection and the production of their most intimately constructed album to date, Hudson Taylor are taking a peek over their shoulders.
“We started our career back in 2008 by putting songs up for free on YouTube,” Alfie recalls. “With our first album, you can find the whole thing for free online; so there was really no element of surprise when we were releasing it.”
Now, after 14 years of writing, touring and live test-runs, the brothers are in many ways going back to basics – delivering an album that has the potential to redefine the Hudson Taylor sound.
“This is our most cohesive album to date,” Alfie enthuses. “In the past, we would try and write a lot of singles, but this time we put a lot of thought into how all the songs work together — we’ve made a really conscious effort to try and make a body of work that ran from start to finish.”
The pandemic may have strong-armed the pair into changing their methods – but in the end, it seems, it re-connected them to their creative roots in an undeniably exciting way. For both the brothers and their listeners, Searching For The Answers is unexpected, but wholly genuine.
“With the production, we feel like it’s a different sound,” Alfie continues. “We’ve gotten closer to what we’ve been trying to capture for years with both the live sound and the studio sound. I feel really privileged to be in this position.”
“It’s just nice to surprise people again!”
KILLER LIVE GIGS
‘Hold Out Hope’, the pair’s April single, is on the surface exactly what you think it should be. Marrying syncopated guitar with waterfalls of piano and smooth vocalisations, it sounds like a summer anthem – the type of song you could roll down your car windows to. However, hidden beneath the obvious layers, lies something much deeper - a quiet admittance that sometimes life takes without giving back, and hope is what we use to make up the difference.
“Lyrically, it’s actually quite sad,” says Alfie. “Things have not gone great, and the only thing left is hope. In a sense, when things are beyond our control, the only thing we can do is hope that they get better.”
“I think both the singles, ‘You Me Myself’ and ‘Hold Out Hope’, have a little angst about them,” adds Harry. “But there’s a sense of ownership about that – I’m going through this, but I’m aware of it. It’s got this element of self-awareness.”
“Can I say this? Can I say that I’m afraid?” they ask in the opening line of ‘Hold Out Hope’, the lyrics almost hidden behind the sun-soaked backing rhythms. It reveals a new sort of vulnerability for the brothers, offering a peek into the real humanity of the men behind the Hudson Taylor name. As the track continues, the lyrics refract into a repeating chorus of “Hold out hope, because better days will come” – an assurance to themselves, one suspects, as much as it is aimed at the listener.
“Whenever that song comes into my head, I feel nice,” says Harry admits. “If I’m having a shit day, it’s like, ‘It’ll be grand! It’ll be okay. Better days will come’. It’s nice when your own song affirms something real and truthful for yourself like that. It helps you – and then there’s the extra thing of people saying, ‘Oh, that was really helpful for me as well’.”
Searching For The Answers may be the brothers’ answer to pandemic uncertainty, but now, moving forward with an Irish tour in June, they’ll be dusting off their instruments and facing those insecurities head on. Whether it’s their roots as buskers on Grafton Street, the tradition of a Christmas residency at Whelan’s, or opening for The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, Hudson Taylor have become renowned for their killer live gigs. No wonder, after the pause of the last two years, they’re looking ahead to the run of shows with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension.
“I do have fears about it,” admits Alfie. “In a way, we’ve had two years to plan the best show ever. But then, in other ways, yeah, the pressure is on. You’ve got to plan the best show ever. I veer between being nervous and excited. But now, we’ve got our last album – which we never got to tour – and our new one, so we have loads of songs to play with. That makes me feel much more confident. Because ultimately that’s what we’re here for, to play the music.”
A SORT OF HOMECOMING
In addition to breaking back onto the live scene, the tour will mark a homecoming for Hudson Taylor. The boys have spent the last few years living away from Ireland, but the place is never far from their hearts. Kicking off at St. Iberius Church in Wexford, they will be travelling to every corner of the island, reacquainting themselves with their earliest fans, as well as attracting a host of newcomers, switched on by what is a powerful record.
“The Olympia in Dublin is my dream venue,” enthuses Alfie. “It’s one of these places I dreamt about playing in as a young, aspiring musician – and then you do, and it’s everything you can imagine and more. I really can’t wait to be back. It’s nice to feel comfortable in venues, after playing them a couple of times – which is true for us in Ireland. I’d be way more nervous if I’d never been to these places before. But I know the staff, I know the people – the show is automatically better if you feel at home.”
Whether looking ahead to their album release, finally getting back onstage or just coming home to Dublin, Alfie and Harry are, above all, impatient to jump in. They are ready for the shuffle, ready for the deal. But if they can, they’ll keep control of the steering wheel. They’re ready for what’s next! To put it mildly, the two years of musical drought have been more than enough.
“It’s nice,” Alfie says, “in that we’ve already achieved what we wanted from this album before anyone’s even heard it. We wanted to make something, that was written by mostly us, in the strange world of 2021. And we’ve done that. Now we’re here on the other side, and we’re so, so proud of what we made. The album is being released way quicker than anything we’ve done before, but I am just itching for people to hear it as a whole.”