“You can move forwards with the times but you can still have meaning. You can put new sounding music out and still stand for something. Every time.”
In 2016 Lawrence Taylor’s aim was true as with his freshly recorded debut EP, Bang Bang, he made his mark. Taking a YouTube/ streaming route that’s been much copied since the simple, emotive yet devastating title track proved a heart-stopping, compelling bolt for audiences, as with limited radio airplay the EP clocked up around a quarter of a million streams a day around release. Laying it all on the line for the sake of the song, the Birmingham-born singer’s the passion and pathos not only chimed with listeners, but his accomplished songwriting suggested this was no flash-in-the-pan but the emergence of an important new talent. Indeed, having cut his musical learning how to work a crowd – or rather a moshpit – in hard rock bands as a teen, before relocating to London where he developed his own sound via a gruelling round the clock grind of playing open mics at night and working supermarket shifts all day, Lawrence’s breakthrough was no accident. “It’s a constant chase for that sound, it’s exhausting, but it’s the reason I’m here and I love it,” he says of the graft.
A follow-up to Bang Bang has not been immediate, but there was good reason for not rushing. When you write honestly from the heart getting everything right is vital – and with the Poor Boy EP now set for release via Glassnote Records it is clear the wait was worth it.
“My best work come out of weird circumstances,” muses Lawrence of the gap. “I need things to not be quite right for it to work. Which is annoying, because you can’t be organised and plan.” The “weirdness” comes from his self-revelation that following Bang Bang’s success he had to avoid the temptation of just repeating its template ad nauseum. This led to two intriguing years of exploring ideas and sounds, both alone and in collaboration with producers.
“It’s tough, you could think, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, do the same thing again’, but I realised I had to go another way and that was a nervous time for me because you’ve got to take a risk,” explains Lawrence.
The four tracks of his new EP are the first results of this journey. Grappling with new ideas and new ways of working, while there is a freshness of approach, the soul of these new songs is truly Lawrence Taylor at his rawest. Bold and beautiful, emotionally vivid and vulnerable, the Poor Boy EP is a collection of contemporary yet timeless pop, driven by a distinctive, original voice – both in terms of how he sings and what he says.
“Before I’d do a great recording combining vocals and guitars, but on this record I said to myself ‘You’re going to have really use your voice here’ and that’s what happened,” says Lawrence of the emotional resonance he’s achieved. “I’ll write and record with guitars again in future, but I really found my vocals and my delivery gained a strength working this way.”
The redemptive title track builds from a foreboding lyrical opening, to its smouldering, shimmering climax, while baring its emotional bones, No Messiah is an evocative meditation around accepting that sometimes we are helpless. The soaring Fight For Your Life is an honest “emotional response to how I feel I’m fighting for everything at the moment” before the rolling beats and swelling melodies of closer Home provide the backing to a simple, yet affecting expression of missing the people and places that matter most.
“I write pop songs, but I want to break the current formula. I want to get behind the system and find my space,” says Lawrence of this this forward-thinking yet immediate collection of songs. “I feel thanks to this record I’m freer, I can go anywhere with this. I’m excited, I just need to think smart and continue to keep pushing forward.”
Perhaps a little later than expected, with Poor Boy EP Lawrence Taylor remains on target.