Born and raised in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs, Taylah Carroll recalls entertaining her family and friends with musical performances from an early age, often until her audience relented and sought escape. It was never Carroll who ended a performance. Now, larger audiences have started to take notice – Australia’s Triple J radio station, responsible for discovering and championing many new and upcoming artists, has likened her sound to Sharon Van Etten, Jeff Buckley, and Mazzy Star no less.
Carroll’s music is intimate, genuine and confessional. “I drink too much coffee, I don’t sleep enough,” she sings on latest single “I’m Not Sold,” revealing that she buys things just to have things to hold, but that it isn’t satisfying a deeper need. Without the rampant post-production polish that can remove all human fingerprints from music, there’s an old-fashioned vibe to Carroll’s songs. Not Victorian, mind you – but her gothic-edged romanticism is redolent of Nico’s Velvet Underground days, with the pared-back storytelling skill of folkie Joan Baez.
“I think I would describe my music as alternative folk meets rock. I think especially the stuff I’m writing lately leans more into rock. [It’s] a bit darker and I’d say there’s a focus on lyrics,” Carroll says. In 2019, she released two songs – “Sometimes Good People Do Bad Things” and “Vermont” – but there’s a lot more to come from this rising star.
Before Melbourne’s first lockdown, Carroll had been preparing to start pre-production for an album with producer Tim Harvey. It was essential to Carroll that she work with people who could honour her vision and enhance her sound rather than try to impose their style on her. Carroll reached out to Harvey (who has also worked with Jade Imagine and Gena Rose Bruce) through a mutual acquaintance. “We worked on the three singles I’ve so far released and we regularly catch up and talk ideas. He’s a very gentle soul. I can say very little about where I want a song to go, and he just knows.” The two worked together in Harvey’s home studio, in addition to Soundpark Studios in Northcote (in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs). “It’s a really lovely space – really close to home, which is nice,” she says. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has changed her plans for releasing the album.
“That was incredibly frustrating. I’ve had everything ready for a while now,” she shares. “We’re still fine-tuning what will end up on the album because I’ve been writing. I need to work out what fits with the theme of the album, to ensure it’s cohesive – the rest will be for the second album! There’s three [more] tracks ready to be mastered and released.” This includes her next offering, “To Please You,” a song about the challenge of making choices versus letting life happen, and sacrificing authenticity for the sake of not rocking the boat. Carroll has felt the struggle to maintain her own perception of the world whilst also loving and honouring the perspective of people around her.
“I’m Not Sold” was inspired by Carroll’s fear of failure, a quarter-life crisis of sorts. “I was in a long-term relationship that I’d been in since I was 17, so there was pressure building in that. I felt like 25 was looming. I feel like I should have done all these things by 25 and felt this pressure to have gotten all my ducks in a row by that age,” Carroll explains. “I’d also internalised this pressure that I felt from the music industry to be young, and I’d given myself a finite period of a year after my degree in psychology to do my music in before returning to do my Masters.” Though she hasn’t gone back to school yet, her music career is certainly picking up. Just as her childhood performances would continue until her audience finally left, Carroll is built for endurance. She believes work, faith and dedication will ultimately prevail.
“The way I deal with periods where I focus on something stressing me out or affecting me adversely, I focus and feel it, feel it, feel it and let go. Then it doesn’t evoke the same response in me anymore when I think about it again,” she says.
“I’m Not Sold” features Jade McInally on drums, Damian Meoli on bass, and Harvey on lead guitar, but her live band, which played the Corner Hotel in Richmond this past weekend, is shaping up to look a little different. Carroll met Ruby Whiting, who plays synths and keyboards in the live band, via bass player Sean Gage (also with Foreign National) whilst Gage and Whiting were dating. Cassie Kumashov plays drums – she had been in Hot Springs when Carroll first saw her and felt that her “emotive, feeling-based” drumming was the perfect fit for the band. Carroll and company will support Olympia at the Gasometer on the 20th of January, and are slated to play Federation Square towards the end of January, in Melbourne’s central city district.
Carroll’s intentions for the next video clip may challenge those close friendships, if the athletic requirements prove necessary to make art. She’s working on a video clip for the next single with Nick Mckk, who’s collaborated with Julia Jacklin, Estella Donnelly and John Butler Trio. “The ideas are still in the works,” says Carroll. “I really wanted to have the band in this one, but it’s a really fast song; I wanted to record in double-time then put it into slow motion, but that would mean everyone playing an already fast song twice as fast. So we’re nutting that out at the moment.”
Later this year, the album will be finalised, and in the meantime, her next three singles are scheduled for release in February, April, then July approximately. “Provided all goes to plan, which normally it doesn’t!” admits Carroll with a laugh. Whatever happens, we’re sold on the soulful folk singer, and can’t wait to hear what comes next.
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