Arts Q&A: Singer-songwriter Taylor Lally on Jeff Buckley, William Blake and her favourite gig

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, singer-songwriter Taylor Lally

County Down singer-songwriter Taylor Lally
County Down singer-songwriter Taylor Lally

1. When did you think about a career in music and what were your first steps into it?

I can remember having an interest in music as young as learning the tin whistle in primary school. I used to make up my own melodies and follow my mum around the house and perform them for her. I was encouraged by school to learn the Clarinet then and I took to that really well too. But it was my Dad who inspired me to play guitar and taught me some chords. I didn’t enjoy singing at first, I was easily embarrassed and way too self-critical to enjoy it. But over time I fell in love with the way I could express myself in a few seconds of breath. Singing and performing is a powerful thing and I enjoyed watching how it moved people. The career choice was a single thought at 14. I just decided that I would do it forever.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Supporting Mary Coughlan in The Black Box, 2021. It was the year that gigs came back after the world changed so much. My set was only 30 minutes long and flew by. The audience flew out of their seats to a standing ovation and I cried my way through my last song. Emotion; it’s so powerful. I think people enjoyed it.

Another special gig was when The Open House Festival asked me if I would like to do a show in Bangor’s new venue, The Court House. I have lived in Millisle all my life but I consider myself a Bangor girl. I played in their bars every weekend for eight years. Little did I expect the tickets to sell out overnight.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Hawaiian singer-songwriters and fantastic musicians Mike Love and Jack Johnson playing together, peace and happiness. Under a glorious fairy lit canopy with candles and incense burning. I know a gig is good when I only need one drink and at this fantasy gig I would probably forget the existence of alcohol.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Grace by Jeff Buckley.

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island?

The Complete Poetry of William Blake.  It’s so large I know I can find the whole world in there.

6. Top three films?

Fantastic Fungi, a documentary on mushrooms. It is fascinating and hopeful.

Into The Wild. A poetic and inspiring story about a guy who leaves it all behind to bond with nature and life. The music is by Eddie Vedder too and it’s amazing.

Almost Famous. A funny story about a young journalist who goes on tour with bands and gets involved in all the antics of the music business.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

You People on Netflix. It’s about dark and light-skinned people in America and their difficult cultures. I thought it was cringe-worthy and negative. I almost believe it tried to hijack my brain into thinking racist things.

8. Favourite authors?

Charles Buqwoski, William Blake and Jim Morrison’s poetry.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

I liked rock climbing at school. I did it for a few years and I’d like to get back into it.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

A music festival in Europe, somewhere warm.

11. Pet hates?

Time going by so quickly.

12. What’s your favourite food?

My favourite food is generally anything made from scratch that’s organic and vegan. Most of my meals are thrown together before I fly out the door, but if it’s a properly cooked meal and we’re all sitting down to eat together, the food tastes so good and love just comes out of my face.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Melissa. We met in primary school and played every summer around the fields, climbing trees and making up games that would include hay bales. We’re still very close.

14. Is there a God?

Finding God is a beautiful and very personal experience. I was brought up agnostic, so I had the blessing of starting from scratch. I was interested in Buddhism first, then I looked at Christianity, I enjoyed Satanism and then I looked at Hinduism. I respect all religions, because they are all the same and lead you to the same realisation. That we are all one, God is in us all and love is the answer to everything.

:: Taylor Lally – CQAF 2023 Artist in Residence – plays The Sunflower Public House on May 1. For tickets and full festival programme, visit Cqaf.com.