Hudson Taylor: On the street to stardom

Their busking days stood Hudson Taylor in good stead for their highly anticipated debut album, writes Ed Power

Irish brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor look set to make a big impact withtheir album, Singing for Strangers.
Irish brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor look set to make a big impact with their album, Singing for Strangers.

ALFIE Hudson Taylor never stopped believing. Together with older brother, Harry, the singer and guitarist has spent the past four years toiling on their debut album. The road hasn’t been smooth — it has been cratered with difficulties. Still, they persisted and here they are, Singing For Strangers finally finished and in the shops.

“It was a bit of a learning curve,” says the 22-year-old Dubliner. “We took a long time. The album was actually completed once already. However, we didn’t like it, so we scrapped it and started over. You don’t want to put out a record you aren’t passionate about. In the long run, it just would not be any fun.”

Their tale could be read as cautionary, albeit one with a happy ending. In 2011, the siblings were snapped up by Universal Music. They’d been fixtures on Dublin’s busking scene; it was hoped their puppyish exuberance and soap-star good looks could be parlayed into pop stardom. This was not as straightforward as hoped. Rather than having arrived, they were just starting out.

“It was a learning curve,” says Alfie. “We didn’t want it to be a flash-in-the-pan thing. We thought it important to mind how we went. We were lucky, in that the people around us at the label agreed: they weren’t after a quick-fix. A lot of the songs were recorded two, three times before we were happy. You owe it to yourself to do the best job possible.”

The upside, he says, is that he and Harry could tour widely, try half-finished songs and hone their chops as performers. It’s a cliche, but they truly were able to develop at their own pace.

“We did a lot of tours, a lot of festivals. We played with Jake Bugg, Kodaline. So there’s been space to grow. It’s really cool. Their audiences were very supportive, as well. Jake Bugg’s fans seemed really into what we were doing,” Alfie says.

The brothers moved to London several years ago, to further their career (their label felt the UK a better launch-pad). It wasn’t a huge upheaval, as they had spent a lot of time there as children.

Their parents are from the south of England, but believed Dublin to be a more suitable environment in which to raise a family, so they relocated there in the late 1980s.

Alfie and Harry grew up in leafy Monkstown (as a teenager, Harry received a scholarship to prestigious St Finian’s Music college in Mullingar). Their parents have since divorced and moved back to the UK. However, the brothers are proud of their Irishness and believe their Dublin childhood shaped them hugely as artists.

“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to busk somewhere else,” says Alfie. “If we’d lived in another city, you wouldn’t have that tradition of simply going out and playing. It is part of who we are and something we owe an awful lot to.”

In the UK, they hang out with other Irish musicians, including members of the Coronas and Kodaline. To see Irish bands doing so well overseas is enormously encouraging, says Alfie. There is no reason Hudson Taylor cannot follow where those artists have led.

“Eighty per cent of the bands people talk to me about are Irish,” he says. “Now, fair enough, part of that is probably because we are Irish, too. But you look around and it’s so exciting: Kodaline, Hozier, The Coronas. Why this should be happening, and now, I don’t know. However, it’s simply fantastic. Hopefully, we can jump on the bandwagon.”

MUSICAL YOUTH

The brothers grew up in a musical household and have performed together as long as they can remember. Still, it wasn’t until they took a sun holiday with their parents that they twigged they might potentially have a career in music. It was a genuine light-bulb moment.

“We were on the beach and had guitars and started playing,” he says. “It got a good reaction. I remember feeling as if a switch had flicked. It was like, ‘Hang on, this could be the start of something’.”

Busking is often seen as a final resort for ambitious musicians. Actually, singing for their supper was the best thing they could have done, says Alfie.

STREET SMARTS

“You learn so, so much,” he says. “We wanted to catch people’s ears and, at the start, would play songs everyone knew. Then, one day, we decided to play our own songs. Nobody listened.

“We took a step back and had a think. It dawned on us that, to make songs people wanted to listen to, we would have to do better. Your music needs to be able to stand alongside the fantastic material you are covering.

“For that reason, busking makes you a more polished writer. You’ve no choice.”

Alfie is in a long-term relationship with English singer Gabrielle Aplin. In 2012, she had a number-one single with her cover of ‘The Power Of Love’ (as featured on a John Lewis ad). Ferociously independent, Aplin’s career is largely self-created. She started posting videos to YouTube and continues to maintain a hands-on approach. Watching from the sidelines has been inspirational for Alfie.

“She’s almost like her own one-woman industry,” he says. “She has her label and is signing other artists. It’s something we would definitely be interested in. I haven’t even talked to her about this. We would love to work with her. For the moment, however, we are very busy.”

And, you’d have to suspect, these brothers will only be getting busier.

  • Singing For Strangers is out now. Hudson Taylor play Olympia, Dublin, Feb 26; Dolan’s, Limerick, Feb 28, Savoy Cork (sold out), March 1. A May tour also includes the Olympia (30) and Savoy (31).


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