Interview with Dione Taylor
Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with Juno and Gemini nominated singer/songwriter Dione Taylor. Taylor is a Canadian jazz musical artist born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Dione studied jazz at Humber College in Toronto. In our interview, topics include her musical family, performing for the President of the United States and Queen Elizabeth II, tips to mentally prepare for festivals and events, her new single “How Many Times” and much more.
1. Music has been an integral part of your life. Your whole family sings and plays instruments. Can you describe the kinds of music you used to sing and the different instruments that you and your family play?
My whole family is connected to the gift of music which has been an integral part of my life. Because I grew up in a Christian church, (my father is a Pastor) I wasn’t allowed to listen to ‘secular’ music, only Gospel. I began taking organ lessons when I was 4 years old and I became the musical director and organist at my family church (Shiloh Assembly) in Regina, Saskatchewan when I was 10 years old. I also learned to play and sing by ear. My younger brother, David, is now the organist and my brother Robert is the drummer. Neither of them have taken any formal musical training but they both have amazing ears, too. My mom plays a mean tambourine (probably where I got my mad tambourine skills from!) She is also an incredible singer. My dad is a great singer, too. Music comes very naturally to us.
Some of my early musical influences were Aretha Franklin, Son House, Andrae Crouch, and Etta James, just to name a few.
2. At 10, you were the music director and organist at The Shiloh Assembly Church (Apostolic) in Regina. Do you have any fond memories of this experience?
I learned how to play and sing by ear very easily (still do). I’ll give you an example: we used to host a colourful variety of guest preachers from all over the world who would begin their sermon or ‘message’ with a song. They usually didn’t have sheet music, just some handwritten lyrics. They would begin to sing. While they were singing, I would decipher the key or pitch of the song by playing a note on the organ and compare it to what they were singing (that’s how I developed ‘relative pitch.’)
Once I knew the pitch then I would figure out the chords to the song and accompany them while they were singing…in real-time! This all happens within the span of about 30 seconds to 1 minute so you have to have a great ear, work fast, and figure it out because they are not stopping. This train keeps a-rollin’. Sounds complicated but back then I didn’t think anything of it because I was just …playing the organ.
3. You have performed for the President of the United States and Queen Elizabeth II. What it was like to perform for them?
Being given the opportunity to perform for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and for the President of the United States is quite honestly just like performing for anyone else. Of course, it’s a great honour to perform for dignitaries and I’m grateful for the opportunities to do so but I’m not one of those artists who adjusts her ’ Self ‘ for the audience…what I mean by that is, I don’t perform ‘better’ for the Queen than when I perform for a regular audience. My show is an extension of myself so I always strive towards being the best and most authentic me as possible when I’m on stage. (although, I do dress UP a tad more!)
4. Do you have tips for new artists on how to mentally prepare for festivals and events?
If I may offer any advice to new artists on how to mentally prepare for shows I’d say to memorize your music and especially memorize your lyrics. Internalize and understand the lyrics so that when you’re on stage you can concentrate on being in the moment. There’s a certain MAGIC that happens musically when you’re present to what’s happening in the moment in real-time. That way, you’ll have the freedom to bring the audience on a memorable and musical adventure.
Another way to mentally prepare for shows is to learn how to be still and breathe deeply. There’s so much power and energy that comes from being still.
5. You collaborated on Spirits In The Water with Joel Schwartz. You wrote and developed a sound together. Could you describe your sound?
The “Prairie Blues” is a term I coined which best describes my music. The “Prairie Blues” is a dynamic blend of folk, roots, and Americana with a dash of gospel on top! I studied southern acoustic/country blues artists such as Son House, Robert Johnson, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe because I want to continue the lineage of the black experience through the blues. Lyrically and emotionally, the internal struggle between the idea of having to choose between singing for God and or singing for the Devil resonates with me viscerally as a PK (Pastor’s Kid).
That internal and external struggle of temptation inspires me to write more original music based on my personal experience as a black, Canadian female. There is a direct historical link between folk, gospel, and blues that’s often ignored or dismissed. Often, in society, those styles are separated but the Prairie Blues aims at keeping those genres married together. My previous album “Born Free” was the beginning of my “Prairie Blues” sound. My upcoming album, “Spirits in the Water” is a continuation of that journey.
6. “How Many Times” is the first single release from your long-awaited album Spirits In The Water. Could you tell us more about the messaging in this song?
“How Many Times” is dedicated to all of us who continue to protest peacefully for equal rights and justice even when our prayers remain unanswered. From Black Lives Matter to the #MeToo movement to Gay Pride, the ongoing struggle for equality, understanding, and respect continues on many fronts.
My faith in humanity and its ability to show equality and unconditional love towards every human being on earth is being challenged right now. We all deserve the freedom and the right to be our best and most authentic selves regardless of race, religion, creed, sex, or gender. When our freedoms and rights aren’t met, in spite of seemingly endless admonitions and honest prayers, we feel more than frustration and anger. We feel helpless and hopeless. But, we still believe and dream of a better world.
Youtube – How Many Times – Dione Taylor
“How Many Times” is the first single to be released from Dione Taylor’s upcoming album “Spirits the Water”. Release Date: Friday, September 11, 2020.