Joanne Shaw Taylor Talks Upcoming Concert At Rams Head

Blues Singer, Guitarist To Perform April 12


British blues singer-songwriter and guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor is touring the U.S. in advance of her new album, “Heavy Soul,” which will be released June 7 via Joe Bonamassa's Journeyman Records. In the meantime, she is releasing songs from the album individually and coming to Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on April 12.

Discovered by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics when she was 16 years old, Taylor has earned praise from Jimmy Cliff, Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox and other musicians.

The Severna Park Voice caught up with Taylor in late February before her U.S. tour started. 

SPV: The album “Nobody’s Fool” was a bit of a departure, a little more pop and rock driven than some of your previous blues albums. What inspired that evolution to branch into those genres but return to your blues roots on the “Heavy Soul” album?

JST: It was just for myself really because I had done the blues album, which was 10 or 11 traditional blues covers and then we did a live version of that, so they were the two most traditional blues albums I had done. So when it came to writing “Nobody’s Fool” and doing an original album, I just felt like doing something completely different to be honest, and also, just having fun with it, you know? I just wanted to focus on writing the catchiest choruses I could and not worry too much about it fitting into a certain genre because, again, I had just done two very traditional blues albums. So it was really kind of a fun one for me.

SPV: You usually start with a song title and then work around that because it gives you structure and discipline. Was that the same process on both of those albums?

JST: Yeah, I tend to write like that if I really want to focus myself, so I’d say 80% of time I write like that and then, you know, leave a little bit for, thankfully there’s always that song that creeps into your head when you’re in the shower or something and you realize you’ve already got it and it comes to you naturally, which is a gift and unfortunately it doesn’t happen all the time (laughs). So yeah, it’s like 80/20 I guess.

SPV: You have also talked about each album being this snapshot of where you were in a given year, so when you were writing “Heavy Soul,” it sounds like that snapshot was of you being a mature woman, comfortable in her own skin?

JST: Yeah, it was just kind of interesting to come to that revelation really of all the things I wrote about when I was 22, and maybe it was more about relationships and realizing 20 years later you have a different viewpoint on those relationships because you have changed a lot as a person and I’m sure you appreciate being nearly 40 is different to being 20. So same person but different. So it was fun to readdress a lot of those same emotions and how they’ve changed.

SPV: Right, so maybe some things that did not fit lyrically on your first record, “White Sugar,” because of the perspective you have grown since debuting as an artist.

JST: Exactly. It’s been 20 years of touring the world. I’ve lost a parent, gained friends and lost friends, and just a lot of stuff happens in two decades. So yeah, it was fun to see how I look at some of those earlier experiences through older lessons.

SPV: Do you have a favorite track on the new album?

JST: Probably “Wild Love.” I really enjoyed that one. It’s also different. It’s a lot funkier, so it’s a fun one to play live. I love the written part. We had a lot of fun shooting the video. So yeah, that’s probably my personal favorite.

SPV: I think you said that song was inspired by young love?

JST: Yeah, that one came naturally in terms of I wrote the music and had the “Wild Love” thing stuck in my head, just thinking what is wild love? Like wild attraction. Those kind of feelings you tend to have younger, before the mindset comes in of maybe I shouldn’t run off with this person or three weeks of disappearing and no one knows where I am, those kind of fun things. So it was based on that, loosely.

SPV: As far as the album as a whole and collaborating with (producer) Kevin Shirley, why was that the perfect fit for “Heavy Soul” and for you?

JST: We did an album in 2015 and he was meant to do the follow-up. I changed record labels. I changed to Sony and then COVID hit, so it wasn’t able to happen and then obviously things have opened up a lot more in the recent 18 months. Me and Kevin were hanging out in Nashville, and it was just like, “Hey, is now the right time?” He was on board. The timing worked out perfectly for both of us this time.

SPV: You have had some special collaborators like Dave Stewart and Joe Bonamassa, so beyond that, are there big-picture goals you want to achieve or collaborations you want to have with other musicians?

JST: I think I would like to start writing for other musicians. I’ve always predominantly wrote for myself. I think that will be an interesting challenge for myself at this point. Because I sit down and write a song specifically for me, something I have gone through, something I want to sing about, so I think it will be an interesting challenge to see if I can write for someone else about what they are going through and what they want to say, sort of use their voice I suppose. I think that would be an interesting step forward for me.

SPV: Yeah, because I know you have talked about, from album to album, you want there to be some level of consistency so over the arc of your career, it sounds like one artist. Whereas this way, you can maybe use some material that may not fit into that box.

JST: Yeah, exactly. I love writing. It’s fun. But it sucks to sit there and say I can’t do that and I can’t do this. Which I haven’t really done. But it would be fun to sit down, and hey, why can’t I write a song with loops that is ridiculously electronic and poppy, or hard rock? Maybe I’m not going to put it out, but it might be a good song that works for someone else. So yeah, we’re just going to be like busman’s holiday, as we say over here (in England).

SPV: Rams Head is an intimate venue, which suits your style well. What can longtime fans of yours and some people who aren’t as familiar with your music expect in April?

JST: Well, a good mix of blues, rock and soul. Lots of guitar playing. A few stories in between. I like to connect with the audience and let them know what the songs are about because I think it maybe helps them sometimes. So many times, you hear a song and think it’s about one thing and it’s about something completely different. So yeah, just a good time and good live music.

SPV: Is there anything else you would like people to know?

JST: The new singles are out there that they can see online and just really looking forward to the U.S. tour and playing songs for the fans.

SPV: That’s the new age of music, right, releasing the songs as singles rather than one bulk album.

JST: Yeah, we’ve been doing that on this one. We have not done it before. So we’ll see how it goes, but it kind of makes sense. It’s like touring, particularly for blues and roots artists, is the bread and butter and we get like four weeks of promotion out of an album, so it’s like, “Hey, why don’t we get 12 months’ worth of promotion and just release a song every few weeks?”

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