Tailor - The Dark Horse
That half of Tailor's debut album was written in a day is remarkable enough. That those songs spilt out of the Cape Town-based singer without any warning is as strange and striking as 'The Dark Horse' sounds.
After four years laying the groundwork for her first solo project, in February, Tailor travelled to her hometown of Johannesburg to record half a dozen demos. To her surprise, she finished the session with twice as much material and a new-found understanding of what inspires her songs.
"As Tailor, it was my first time solo in a proper studio with a producer," recalls the singer, who was first signed with a band at the age of 15. "I took what I thought were my twelve best songs, written over a few years. Just as we finished laying down the last one, I began playing about on my guitar and singing lyrics that seemed to sail in to my head. I didn't even realise I had written a song until the producer asked me to play it again because he hadn't hit record."
That song, the bewitching 'Wolf', is Tailor's first single from 'The Dark Horse'. But it wasn't a one-off.
"One by one, new tracks just flowed out of me," says Tailor. "No one could believe I hadn't prepared them. It was a bizarre, spiritual experience. I felt as though I had floated out of my body and was watching someone else. I learnt a lot about myself that day. I discovered a side to me I didn't know was there."
Discussing those songs now it is obvious to Tailor that all address her need to escape, to break free, to start her life over and be honest with herself. The lyrics, she admits, had probably long been floating about in her subconscious. They deal with personal issues on which she won't elaborate and childhood memories she tried to forget, but forced herself to face.
"The title, 'The Dark Horse', is significant," says Tailor. "I felt like a dark horse that day. I felt as vulnerable as I did as a child. The songs aren't about any particular childhood event, more that moment of clarity when you realise not everything your parents told you is true; when you discover your values are different and what you've grown up believing is not what you believe in at all."
One of the songs Tailor dreamt up that day was 'My Faith', an operatic, cinematic, bile-soaked ballad built on broody piano and classical-style strings. As her vocals grow from a growl to a primal, passionate wail, Tailor bares her soul so openly listening feels like intruding. It's a song she couldn't have planned to write; if she had, she would have masked her emotions, exposed a lot less of herself.
The need to escape drives much of 'The Dark Horse'. It's there in the gorgeous, spritely acoustic guitar-driven 'Ghosts' and in the sinister lyrics of the otherwise poppy 'Step Back', a song for a friend in an abusive relationship, now due to be married. It's at the heart of the oblique 'Indian', a song Tailor wrote after watching the Fritzl horror unfold on TV. Even the album's sunniest song, the glorious, handclap-backed 'Love Anthem', isn't as happy-go-lucky as it sounds on first listen.
"I always write happy songs when I'm sad," says Tailor. "And I was very sad when I wrote that. The song is about suspecting something's not right in your relationship. Am I in a rut, or have I completely fallen out of love with you? It's about someone questioning their relationship, whatever type of relationship that is."
The lovely 'Lucky Lucy' is an ode to Tailor's beloved grandmother, who died at the age of 88 on 3rd January 2012. Lyrically, it's the album's most straightforward song – "Three days in and I'm already heartbroken." Typically, those lyrics are put to the fore by a powerful, beguiling vocal performance.
Yet pinning Tailor down to a single style is impossible. Musically, the album flits from modern folk to blues-rock to pure pop and spooky soul. Songs can be rich and cinematic or simple and sparse. Vocally, Tailor is as versatile. You'll hear hints of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey in her rockier songs, but also of Feist, Florence Welsh, Ellie Goulding and Kate Bush.
"I have several different voices," says Tailor, "possibly because I've never been influenced by any particular singer. But I have listened to a lot of Kate Bush since I started recording. Of course I knew of her, but I didn't really listen to her music until my producer played me 'Hounds Of Love'. I was struck by how similar our pronunciation is. She's the first singer I've ever thought I sometimes sound like."
For Tailor, 'The Dark Horse' marks the end of her escape and the start of a new chapter.
"I love the drama in the album because it sort of sums up my life - lots of ups and downs, like a rollercoaster ride. It's odd, but it's also in your face. It's not just like me, it is me."
Release Date : 30 Jul 2012