radionotes podcast episodes

Taylah Carroll came out of the blocks with the Single Vermont about personal baggage in 2019, then in the same year followed it up with Sometimes Good People Do Bad Things a darker turn with equal punch. On the back of just these two outstanding poignant numbers – radionotes spoke with them about the language of music, family and a hauntingly honest classic from Tori Amos.

There’s also some left-of-field coffee and Spice chat in the mix of the conversation to….

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Background: Chat was held over Skype in early November 2019

SHOW NOTES: Taylah Carroll episode

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Feature: Taylah Carroll

Next Episode: Ukulele making and playing Manitoba Hal

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[Radio Production – notes: Taylah Carrol chat takes the whole episode and best tune to spin would be the Singles, both if time permits. There is a natural edit point about 26 minute in, email for details]


Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio   

Web-design/tech: Steve Davis

Voice: Tammy Weller  

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First version provided by REV team member Brenda N – check to audio before quoting wider

John Murch: Taylah, thanks very much for joining radionotes.

Taylah Carroll: Thanks for having me.

John Murch: Over the last couple of days you’ve been supporting Feelds.

Taylah Carroll: It was a really good night. I love Feelds. Yeah, it was a really fun night, I love playing at The Gaso Downstairs as well, good spot. Yeah, it was really good, it was fun. Had a really present show.

John Murch: The latest single is Sometimes Good People Do Bad Things. It’s the second single from you ahead of an album in probably 2020, 2021. Is that the vibe we’re getting?

Taylah Carroll: Yeah, would definitely love to do an album. Plenty of songs. As far as release goes, no sort of set plans. Definitely on the mind, in the works.

John Murch: Let’s have a look where that song title may have actually come from in the first place. Psychology at university, a BA. Is there some links to your university days within this song?

Taylah Carroll: Perhaps, on like more of an inadvertent level. The song mainly is about earlier than that. I think it’s about getting older and looking back at some of the things that happened earlier on in my childhood and having a more nuanced approach to judging people’s actions and I think it came more from being introspective and it probably has more to do with getting older than it is university and such.

John Murch: Let’s talk about forgiveness. When did you first realise that forgiveness could be a positive?

Taylah Carroll: I think with my parents, learning to forgive my parents for some things, and realising that it’s liberating. It’s a lot to carry if you hold on to things. I think a large part of forgiveness is empathy. I think when you empathise with someone it makes it easier to forgive them, which again kind of keys into that theme of having that nuanced approach to relating to people and dodging people that may have hurt you and so on. And I think empathy informs that process and then you can forgive and feel free.

John Murch: There’s also a sense of knowledge base as well to get that empathy to actually put yourself in that position. How much does education play a part in forgiveness?

Taylah Carroll: Yeah, I’ve never thought that, that’s an interesting question. Yeah, probably a lot. And I think also like informal education as well. Just even, I think, appreciating and reading lots. I think those are all exercises that require empathy.

John Murch: I’d like to get back to those themes maybe a little later on in the conversation as we touch base with the current single, but I’d like to note that you’ve actually been mentored by the wonderful Olympia.

Taylah Carroll: Yeah, she’s incredible. Liv is the best. The relationship started because I was in an amazing program, a music Victoria called The Push and she was assigned to me as my mentor. And I guess the first time we caught up was, we went out for dinner and at the time that I first started having that relationship with Liv, I hadn’t done anything, I hadn’t released a song, I was only just starting to perform around Melbourne more. So, she was really instrumental firstly and giving me confidence. But also, she doesn’t beat around the bush, she’s very driven, she’s very direct. And so her advice was always very helpful and you always felt like it just was straight down the line.

John Murch: What’s your favorite coffee?

Taylah Carroll: I normally have a drink, mostly long blacks. If I’m going to treat myself, I’ll have an almond latte.

John Murch: Dare we ask how many coffees a day?

Taylah Carroll: Probably depends on the day and how much sleep I’ve had. Probably have between two and six.

John Murch: Speaking about six, when you were five or six years of age, The Wizard of Oz, what was happening there?

Taylah Carroll: I’ve always been like a singer, so I guess just watching things as a kid, I was really drawn to anything that had music in it and singing, and it wasn’t just The Wizard of Oz, I liked Grease for a while. But The Wizard of Oz, I think particularly, the very reason I held onto that was that I loved Nikki Webster at the time, like every good Australian six year old in that time frame. I love Nikki Webster and I went to see the stage show, like the theater production of The Wizard of Oz, and she was in it. And I walked away and just that was that. I made my mum buy me the book with all the lyrics and everything in it.

John Murch: Has musical theater played a part in your life in the last decade or so?

Taylah Carroll: No, not really. If anything, when I was young, I was in CPCA for a while, Children’s Performing Company of Australia, which was very like singing, dancing, acting kind of in that realm, and I don’t think I really enjoyed it, but then I didn’t enjoy music in a structured sense much at all. Like when I was doing piano lessons, I was never obviously invested, for me, something that’s more self-expression. Definitely not in the last decade, especially because I would say for me as a musician over the past decade, what has been most important to me is lyrics and song writing, music in terms of being impactful in an emotional sense. Anything that is authentic. I think the more authentic the roots of a song are, the more likely it is to connect.

Taylah Carroll: Obviously everything to a degree is bound in some sort of structure, like even just for notes to sound good together, there’s something structural there. I think if that’s what you are thinking about, it’s not going to be at its heart just like authentic self expression and I think that, at least for me, is what connects.

John Murch: That, have interpersonal skills, are very much like that as well. We know that sentences and words make up the communication, but it’s actually the feeling and the vibe of how we actually communicate those words and ideas that give us some sort of connection or worth to each other.

Taylah Carroll: It’s so much like that. Like music’s this language and it is like another language, it’s just a different modality to impart meaning and to communicate, maybe sometimes in like a less direct way.

John Murch: I get the feeling it wasn’t till your late teenage years that music really grabbed you as a singer songwriter?

Taylah Carroll: I’ve always sung. I’ve always been a singer and I can’t remember a time when I haven’t just wanted to sing all the time. One of the most important things to me, but in terms of the songwriting and the process of that, when I was probably early high school years, I started writing poetry and it wasn’t until later on that I worked out that I don’t want to write songs like a poem, they’re different crafts.

Taylah Carroll: Probably, it was when I was 17 that I started, the song writing became a much more important part of the process to me, and it’s probably the most important part to me now. My labor and the pop that I’m proud of from like a creative perspective, because for me performing the songs is so second nature, but the writing of this song is like the craft and the lyrics is what I’ve worked on.

John Murch: A song that was inspired by an artist seeing Thelma and Louise, the movie, is Me and A Gun by Tori Amos.

Taylah Carroll: She’s probably one of the first artists I got into that I wasn’t just … I think I first accepted because of connecting to it sonically, but she was first of all just an amazingly strong woman and performer, but her songwriting was different to anything I’d connected with before. And she was probably one of the first people that got me really thinking about lyrics.

Taylah Carroll: Me and A Gun, I remember listening to with my friend in the car and I showed it to her. I was like, “Oh, you need to listen to these lyrics.” And I was probably 13 at the time, so there was some of it that I didn’t get or connect with in the same way that I might now. But there was still a rawness and a storytelling that I recognized and was just like, “Hmm.” Like it just gets you in the gut, and it’s important. I think she doesn’t stray away from writing songs, and I don’t necessarily do this or strive to this, but it’s something I admire in her, is that she definitely doesn’t shy away from contentious grounds. She has important points to make.

John Murch: Amos also has a sense of history as well that is very much interwoven within her lyrical content.

Taylah Carroll: It’s funny talking about the writing process, the process of writing lyrics. A lot of thinking about what you do and what you draw on is like, after the fact, it’s done after the songs are written. I am not methodical about the way I write and when I said before that it’s like a craft I’ve worked on, I think that’s more being, I express myself and then I weed out the stuff that doesn’t work and then the practicing it has made me realize what hits. But I don’t have a structured process, it’s still very spontaneous when I write.

Taylah Carroll: I don’t know how she, Amos would write. I feel like, because she does have historical references that aren’t personal historical references, it would be interesting to know whether she researches things and wants to communicate that in a song and if it’s like a very conscious process for her that she wants to put that in a song.

John Murch: Speaking about history, Simone de Beauvoir, what’s your interest or impact her writings had over the years?

Taylah Carroll: I did a lot of philosophy at uni, so came across lots of her writing there. I think, as a feminist, she’s a very interesting figure and I really, a lot of her philosophical discourse resonates with me about that.

John Murch: Would you class yourself as a feminist and would you class your songwriting, some of it, as a feminist text?

Taylah Carroll: I definitely class myself as a feminist. I think it would be silly not to be. I’m a perfect feminist. It would depend on the framework of your feminism, I suppose. My songwriting, I’ve never analyzed it through that lens. I’m sure I could pick some lyrics apart and find flaws if I was to approach it from a feminist mindset. Perhaps, like if you were to really critically analyse it.

Taylah Carroll: I think my songwriting, it’s definitely not consciously informed by feminism. I hope some of the ways that I live my life more broadly are. There’s probably one song I’ve written that could be sort of interpreted as having a feminist message and it’s one that I play live, it’s not recorded. It definitely wasn’t written from that place. Again, it was just written from feeling and experience and it just kind of after the fact turns out that I looked back on it and was like, Oh you know, a lot of this is about having conversations with men as a woman about your experiences and being told that that’s not how it is and that’s not how you should feel. But that wasn’t an intention.

John Murch: But it’s very empowering?

Taylah Carroll: It is empowering, that song. I think also because it is about a specific experience that I have had as well. And one of the great things about music and songwriting that makes it empowering is you can take things that are really difficult or hurtful and you can make it productive. And I think that makes you own that experience, and I think that’s powerful.

Taylah Carroll: I think with the song in particular, I’m always cloudy, for lack of a better word, about what it is about specifically, not lyrically, I think if you listen to the lyric, it’s there, but it’s probably not something I’ll ever explicitly state this is what happened and that was my experience.

Taylah Carroll: The specific experience that does feature in the song is something that way too many women have experienced. It’s called Not A Man. I have a habit of changing the names of songs. I don’t really think about what I name a song, it’s normally just like I write a set list, and whatever I write there so that I know what song I need to play ends up being the title, and at the moment on my set lists I write it down as Not A Man.

John Murch: We’re currently in conversation with Taylah Carroll. Her current single is Sometimes Good People Do Bad Things. The one that got my attention was Vermont. That is the debut single from them, they join us on radionotes today. What is Vermont for you? I believe it’s a leafy suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Taylah Carroll: It’s a setting for, I guess, to just get really just into the thick of it. The song is about me analyzing my own behavior in a romantic relationship, thinking, you know, what have I learned and where did I learn this from? Realizing that a lot of it was behavior that I learned through the breakdown of my parents’ marriage and the kind of tension and mess that followed my parents’ separation. A lot of it was around location because my family, when we were together, was in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in Blackburn actually in suburbia.

Taylah Carroll: Then my mom moved to the Mornington Peninsula and a lot of the tension and a lot of difficulty, sort of the location, was a real prominent factor and I was moving between these two places and shifting between these two lives and one was down by the beach by the water, and this other place was the Melbourne suburbs. It was finding a location to place where my baggage and where my habits had come from.

Taylah Carroll: The song, I guess, is about a relationship where you’re not getting what you want and maybe you’re wondering why you’re putting up with it. I found location really interesting, but then there’s also an element of hope in the song. The chorus is bright. That was kind of me seeing that this place, the location, again, being something that was painful, there was also beauty in it and maybe projecting that onto a relationship as well.

John Murch: Have you spoken with either/or of the parents that were possibly, maybe they both were the instigator of that separation?

Taylah Carroll: Mm-mm (negative) In the thick of it, yes. As an adult, after post unpacking myself, not properly, no. Maybe that should be on my to-do list.

John Murch: It’s the day after the Australian Music T-Shirt day here in Australia, how do you as a singer, songwriter, musician, tap into ways of keeping your mental health?

Taylah Carroll: I write songs. That helps, and also I have really great friends, deep and good relationships with my friends, and so I talk at length with all of them and unpack things with them. I am very lucky in that way. I also really feel so much better when I get into nature and I don’t do it enough. But if I am on a beach or in trees, just being in nature, is such a pressure release. That’s something I probably need to do more frequently.

John Murch: Talking about nature, you mentioned the Mornington Peninsula, a very beautiful and beach like area, what is, when it comes to nature, your favorite escape?

Taylah Carroll: If I get amongst trees, you’re generally more alone. I feel like on a beach if there’s much more of a feeling of it being a shared space. Whereas if you’d go for a walk through trees, you feel like it is just you and nature, which sounds wanky, but you definitely get that it’s more of a direct connection.

John Murch: Which Spice Girl are you?

Taylah Carroll: Hmm, when I was a kid I just wanted to be Baby Spice, but that’s really tricky and it would probably depend who you asked as well. I really like Ginger Spice actually. Maybe Ginger Spice.

John Murch: Okay, talk us through it.

Taylah Carroll: Maybe I’m picking her because I know less about her. She seems a bit like an enigma. She was there and then she left and everyone was like, what happened to her?

John Murch: What kind of dancing is Taylah into?

Taylah Carroll: I love dancing on the floor, on the dance floor. Well actually my favorite type of dancing is when you’re at a big family party and everyone’s just playing songs and everyone’s just getting really into it, but I definitely enjoy that. I also, don’t do it anymore, but for a while if I was home alone, I used to actually practice interpretive dance in the house.

John Murch: Is this to Phoebe Bridgers?

Taylah Carroll: I have done it to the album actually. If I’m in the mood in the morning, yeah, I’ll dance by myself in the house while I’m getting ready.

John Murch: Super cool. Where in high school would have you have been found?

Taylah Carroll: This is going to sound so sad, but in early high school I walked around by myself a lot but that’s okay, between groups, but later high school when I settled in more and was in a different place, I used to sit in the bus bays, which is odd. It would make sense if you went to my school, but there were these weird like big pergola things in the bus bays and people used to sit there and eat, so I sat there with my group. We’d just sit and eat and chat.

John Murch: Let’s go back to you walking between groups though. What do you think you got from that experience and how did that work from going from group to group? Because I think I’m leading to the fact that may have been the start of your empathy, to actually listen to different kinds and groups of people.

Taylah Carroll: Maybe. I think sometimes I do just walk, and walk around by myself. I think early high school I was, and again, going back to other stuff that was happening, I was going through things that made me deeply, chronically stressed and sad and it was very difficult to relate to other 12 year olds and 13 year olds being in that space. And I was also having conversations that were in a very adult world and then going to school and trying to interact with people.

Taylah Carroll: And then there’s all the things that everyone experiences as well, you learning about yourself, you don’t know who you are, you know you don’t know how to relate to people because you don’t know who you are yet. Those things probably affect people differently and at different stages. But I think the walking between groups things, it was more because I had, first of all, I think I connect with people better one-on-one than I do in a group setting. In a group setting I get quieter because I don’t like to compete to be heard. So, that might be one thing I did even later on in years. I had numerous really good friends from different places and different groups, but I think a lot of it earlier days, was that I was only relating to people, getting to know people on such a surface shallow level that I didn’t really belong anywhere.

John Murch: Private or public?

Taylah Carroll: Catholic school actually. So, a little bit in between. I’m not christened or anything and I got in because I was one of those outsiders that they need to bring in. The Catholic school’s have like a two percentile allowance, the heathens. I was one of those.

John Murch: Did you have conversations that were more enlightening with the nuns?

Taylah Carroll: They weren’t nuns or anything, but definitely during that stage actually, that early high school stage, where I wasn’t able to relate to people at school, absolutely had this feeling of relating better to adults and having conversations with adults that felt easier. Maybe it’s because they weren’t as socially threatening, I don’t know. That was a theme during that time. And I think also, you know, I was living in Mornington at mum’s house, and I was going three out of four weekends back to Blackburn [inaudible 00:21:13] when people would go to parties and stuff, I was always not on the peninsula, I wasn’t there, so there was disparity in our experiences in that respect too. I wasn’t functioning in the same way that they were. If they were talking about parties or drinking, they were things I didn’t do because on weekends I was at dad’s house.

John Murch: How much does family play a part in the singer, songwriter aspect of Taylah?

Taylah Carroll: What I’ve learnt from it definitely informs my perspective. I mean, maybe a lot. I’ve written two songs about one of my sisters. One of them’s inspired by an argument that I had with her, but she likes it to be very clear that the song is not about her. That the argument was the catalyst to the song. We had had an argument and she made some comments. We have this relationship and I’m sure a lot of siblings have it, where you just say it as it is, and sometimes can be quite harsh in the directness and that there’s no … She made a comment about me, that I was … that is by pretty much the first line of the song, which is that my sister sees through me.

Taylah Carroll: And then the song kind of goes on to be about me getting older and trying to do it right and growing up trying to do it right. It’s kind of an indignant song as well because it also touches on being scared to pursue music. Feeling like people have told you that it’s like dangerous or something that you’re probably going to fail at, having this feeling of, ‘Well, I’m going to do it anyway.’ So, it isn’t just about her, no. But it just started with that argument.

John Murch: True to say that you have no plan B at the moment?

Taylah Carroll: Oh, definitely. Like compared to any other point in my life. For so long I was really scared of pursuing music in a way that looked as full. Being a kid, I always said I wanted to be a musician forever. And people’s reactions are always, or most of the times, kind of like, ‘Oh, you must have a backup. What are you going to do if it doesn’t work?’ Or like, ‘Oh, that’s a hard path.’.

Taylah Carroll: I was really petrified of pursuing it and so for so long my backup plans had been what was taking up most of my energy, or all of my energy. And I finished my degree and I was traveling. It’s the first time that I’ve been like, ‘No, this is where my attention is going and this is where my energy is going. I’m going to invest all of my time into this right now.’ I still have to work to pay for the music and make the music happen. one day I have a vague plan to go back to psych and finish that off in some way, or do a Masters.

John Murch: Think you still do the waitering gig? But you used to work in a swimwear shop as well?

Taylah Carroll: When I was in high school, I worked Saturdays at a swimwear store called Michelle Ann. For some reason there were just so many older women that worked there, so many older women worked there and they were great and they were all like so energized and a laugh, so great. They did mastectomy fittings in this particular swimwear store as well. Women would come in to get, it’s like an external prosthesis, and so there was this woman, I think her name was Betty, and she was older and beautiful, and she was like the mastectomy girl and everyone would come in and she did those fittings.

Taylah Carroll: A lot of the time when you’re serving people with swimwear, women are coming in and a lot of people have hang ups about themselves, but especially sans clothing and you’ve got to make people feel really good about themselves in there, and pick things that made them feel really great. So that was nice.

John Murch: When were you first introduced to The Smiths and who introduced you to them?

Taylah Carroll: Probably my stepdad. He actually introduced me to a lot of music. He introduced me to Tom Waits, who I love now. He was in a quiet taste. When I was 10 and he started playing it, I was just like, what is this? Because I was still listening to Nikki Webster and Missy Higgins and Delta Goodrem, all the Australian goodness, and I just was like, this is so strange. Now, I just think he’s an absolute lyrical genius.

Taylah Carroll: I actually grew up in a house where there was always music playing, always heaps and heaps of music playing, and it was always quite eclectic. Listen to Delta Goodrem’s first album the other day, I just wanted the nostalgia of it. I was playing it with my sister in the car and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the production is so early 2000’s and I had never noticed it. And you don’t notice it, and to go back and listen to it and you’re like, ‘God, it just sticks out. I can just hear when this was made.

John Murch: Artist that I rediscovered, thanks to you, is that of Kate Edwards.

Taylah Carroll: I heard her song, Good Girl, and loved it. Though, it was this like one line, that just like … and it was like, ‘You don’t treat me like you should but I stay like a good girl would.’ I just could relate to it I guess, and I just thought it was very powerful songwriting especially because she’s only 19. Also one of those lines that saying something different to what it’s saying, which I find really powerful in songwriting as well, I like to work for my listening a little bit. Yeah, I do like to unpack to understand songs but then at the same time I also adapt to authenticity. I think it just hits because sometimes directionists can be very powerful as well. Especially Courtney Barnett, for example, has this awesome ability. Or like Father John Misty’s Rivals In Love has this awesome ability to say things that are really simple but it’s not lost in metaphor or embellished by metaphor, it’s very direct. Still said in a way that’s unique and impactful.

John Murch: Who would you class as some of your contemporaries at the moment? Who are you enjoying playing alongside of?

Taylah Carroll: I love Gena Rose Bruce, who is also a very, very sweet individual. Good Egg.

John Murch: Is it true that Tim Harvey is the gent who got you screaming into a piano?

Taylah Carroll: Yeah. So, for Sometimes Good People Do Bad Things, we have the loose reference tracks, but there was a reference track by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, we wanted to create some weird sounds, kind of creepy sounds. Yeah, he was just like, ‘Maybe we should put some piano in here.’ I started playing some keys. I was not sold on that idea, it kind of felt too light and so then we opened the topic and then we just started scraping the strings and plucking the strings, there’s some plucking of the piano strings in there as well. I think it was him or my bass player at the time, that was in the studio with me, he was like, ‘What if you sang in it?’ And I sang in it and then it was like, ‘What if you just scream in it?’ It was trial and error really. Being in that space where you could just explore sounds and stuff and it’s in that fun time where you’ve laid all the stuff that you knew you were going to lay.

John Murch: Let me ask this question, because you have done a support for Harrison Storm. In fact, it saw you landing here in my hometown of Adelaide, South Australia on one of the more stormier days in August, 2019.

Taylah Carroll: Yeah, that was really fun. The first leg was quite stressful because I had never done it before and I felt very unorganized. I was working full time before and in between the legs, so I didn’t have any time to sort stuff. It was stressful but definitely really fun. Talking to people afterwards who came up and said that they really liked what I did and there were a couple of occasions that people would buy T-Shirts and I would just be like, ‘What? Why are you buying one of my T-Shirts?’ And of course you make them for people to buy, it’s nice to support somebody and play your songs at a show that that person didn’t go to to see you. And then for them to come away and go, ‘I want to buy a top with your name on it.’

John Murch: Visually you’ve got Nick Mckk working with you. What’s that relationship been like and what kind of direction have you been giving them?

Taylah Carroll: Well, I mean, obviously I was drawn to Nick because of what he brings to the table himself as well. And then I conceptually, I would with the first video for example that I did with him, I knew where I wanted it to be and that was guided more by the song and what I just happened to visualize. I’m quite a visual person, so I will write a song and video clips kind of come to mind a lot of the time, and I love video clips. So, that’s not a conscious marketing thing, it’ll be just more of this is what I visualize for that song, what I want to wear or how I want to portray myself in that way. But it’s a collaborative thing for sure.

Taylah Carroll: Nick brings heaps of his own stuff to the table and other creatives I’ve worked with bring their own things and it’s kind of, I guess, my creative decision, is picking them, being like, I really like what you’re doing, I want to have some of that or project some of that as well.