Kaleem Taylor discusses his latest single ‘Not Alone’, the practice of songwriting and the spontaneity of live performance

Kaleem Taylor, the immensely talented and soulful vocalist whose new single Not Alone premiered on BBC Radio 1Xtra recently, cuts a guarded figure. A sense of distance runs through his latest release, its lyrics alluding to breakdowns in communication and its accompanying visual exploring the dimly lit double existence of its central character. But his is the sound of an artist maturing, observing the details that escape the many while confronting the emotions that the many suppress. Premiering the new video recently, Complex highlighted Taylor’s ‘surprising gift for undressing the painful minutiae of modern day relationships’ and we were keen to touch upon that, asking Taylor about the subtext of his latest lyrical construct, before moving through his key influences, collaborative projects and aspirations for the year ahead. Kaleem Taylor performs live at YES on 10th April 2019.

You released your new single Not Alone recently. Its lyrics appear to be heartfelt and candid – can you tell us a little about their subtext and the headspace you were in when setting those to paper?

Kaleem Taylor: ‘I’ve always fought against the voice inside that wants to talk to someone about the problems I have. Not Alone is me saying it’s ok to let my guard down, trust the people close to you, they will listen.’

As a writer and lyricist, what kinds of environments draw out your creativity? Do you prefer to work in isolation or is it the energy of other people and busy places that inspires you?

KT: ‘I prefer being alone, thinking, taking my time. It’s not such a bad thing to have people around you because they might have some good ideas for melodies or they might hear the song in a completely different way, but when it came to making this project, I needed to look at myself and get my complete thoughts out’.

You’ve been working with producer The Code for some time and it seems that you have a strong understanding. Can you describe your working dynamic and how the two of you typically collaborate or communicate to create a track?

KT: ‘I just think over time, you start to understand what works and what doesn’t. He knows what I like and he’s open to making changes to help me creatively. Usually I just get sent the music and I just vibe solo, but we have worked in the same room before and the outcome is never any lesser’.

Who were the vocalists that influenced you in your development as a singer? Were there artists who, by example taught you about dynamics, timbre and diction?

KT: ‘For me, it’s hard to say which ones subconsciously taught me particular things but I know I’ve always listened to Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill and some other names of course but I guess they’ve just all played a part in how I sing today’.

How much is music a part of your daily life? Are you able to switch off those creative impulses, or is it something that’s always present?

KT: ‘It’s an everyday thing. There’s always something to talk about, even when I’m out and I see something, whether that be an old couple, people in a rush to get to somewhere, driving at night, whatever it is there’s always something to write down or a voice note to record for later’.

What do you enjoy most about performing? Is it something that comes naturally and does it present you the opportunity to connect with the audience is such a way that you can’t on record, or communicating online?

KT: ‘I would say it’s the idea of freedom. You rehearse of course but there’s no plan, it’s all about how it feels and for me, when an artist and the audience can feel together it’s a beautiful thing’.

What are your aspirations for 2019, be they musical, creative or otherwise?

KT: ‘This year I wanna keep sharing music, keep spreading love and continue growing. 2019 is finally the year when I make an album, it’s something I’ve been working towards but I feel like I’m now ready for’.