Q&A with talented singer/songwriter Dione Taylor - a musical odyssey explores the deep sacred, healing journey back to the self

"Positive Music is timeless and full of energy and light. Positive music brings people together, it doesn’t discriminate or exclude people because of their racial, spiritual or socio-cultural background. Positive music inspires people to work together for the greater good. Positive music heals, it doesn’t steal."

Dione Taylor: The Spirits of Prairie Blues

According to the Yuchi Indian Tribe there is a powerful legend of the Tanasi River or “Singing River” in Tennessee. Inside the waterway lives a woman who sings songs to protect those who hear her. Inspired by this mythical folklore, Dione Taylor took an insightful road trip to Nashville Tennessee and found inspiration for her vivid new album, Spirits In The Water (2020). This musical odyssey explores the deep sacred, healing journey back to the self. “Legendary stories and family history travel through us, flow into the waters and down the bloodline,” explains the Regina, Saskatchewan born singer who first made a name for herself as one of this country’s most talented singer/songwriters. Continuing on with her unmistakable ‘Prairie Blues’ sound, Dione’s music is a mixture of Roots, Blues and Americana. She brings us on an intriguing and magical, thematic journey through song with stories of Mystical Truths, Race Inequality, Women’s Rights, Heartbreak, Injustice, Freedom and Perseverance. Dione’s sharply honed songwriting chops shine through on original songs featuring both intellectual depth and emotional eloquence. This diversity of tones and tempos on Spirits In The Water ensures that the listener’s attention never wavers through the album.

Dione Taylor / Photo by CRILAPHOTO

Music has always been an important and integral part of Dione Taylor’s life. A pastor’s daughter, she was born and raised in a family she describes as “really connected to the gift of song. My whole family sings and plays instruments in church,” praises Ms. Taylor, who began playing the organ at age four and by ten was the music director and organist at The Shiloh Assembly Church (Apostolic) in Regina. Having first burst onto the music scene with her Juno nominated debut album “Open Your Eyes”, Taylor’s career trajectory has been truly remarkable. With performances at Folk, Blues, Jazz and Rock Festivals across North America, Dione is a seasoned and electrifying performer who constantly energizes her audiences. She has also become a familiar face at music conferences like Folk Alliance International, Folk Music Canada, Folk Music Ontario, Contact East, Women’s Blues Revue and the Blues Summit.

Interview by Michael Limnios       Special Thanks: Sarah French & Dione Taylor

How has the Blues and Roots Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

When I began to write songs about my experience growing up as a black, Canadian female in Regina Saskatchewan I felt such a strong connection with the blues and roots culture. The blues, to me, is not just a style/genre of music that’s played in some seedy dive bar by old people. The blues stems from the African American experience through work songs, freedom songs, spirituals and every day life happenings. It’s a living, breathing and ever evolving narrative of the black experience not just in America but worldwide. When I hear songs from artists such as Son House or Sister Rosetta Tharpe I understand, and I can relate to their raw, emotional style of playing because their music is so steeped in spirituality. My life and my journey is also steeped in spirituality and my music, through blues and roots culture, is an extension of that. 

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound/style of music is called the Prairie Blues. It’s a term I coined when I put out my previous album, Born Free in 2015. The Prairie Blues is a dynamic blend of blues, folk, roots and Americana. My music is definitely inspired by the Delta Blues sound but lyrically, it’s 100% Canadian because it’s from my perspective. Because I grew up in a Christian Apostolic household (my dad is the Pastor of the church), I wasn’t permitted to listen to ‘secular’ music. So, the majority of the music I heard was southern gospel …including banjoes, slide guitar, swampy drums, fiery tambourine with urgent and passionate vocals. When you listen to my music, you’ll hear all of those elements. Even if you’re not familiar with the church headspace the Prairie Blues is absolutely inclusive because it’s all about spreading unconditional love and acceptance.

Creatively, my purpose is to write not just from a personal place but I also hold space collectively for others to feel love and joy and hopefully be inspired to tell their own stories through music.

"Women are as talented as men in music. Oftentimes, women aren’t afforded the same opportunities and support as men which is unfortunate. Because the world is shifting systemically (thankfully!) and as more people become hyper aware of the double standards and inequities within the structures of music, I believe nothing, but great things can and will happen." (Dione Taylor / Photo by CRILAPHOTO)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my high school music teacher at graduation. She said: “You’re going to get a lot of Nos but remember all you need is one Yes!” She’s totally right. Don’t focus on the negative, accentuate and focus on the positive. Another important piece of advice that was given to me that I'd like to share with others is to find your own voice and to stay true and authentic to your own self. It’s easy to follow the crowd and it requires way less work to copy and paste your sound to mimic the latest trend. Be yourself. Write the music that you like. And if you don’t fit in a ‘box’ create and build your own one.

What touched (emotionally) you from your road trip to Nashville? Are there any memories which you’d like to share?

My new album Spirits in the Water is inspired by a road trip I took to Nashville where I learned about the legend of the Tanasi River ('singing river’). According to the Yuchi Indian Tribe there is a woman inside the river who sings songs to protect those who hear. If the muddy water speaks then what secrets, truths and stories of happiness, hardship, murder, greed, love and pain are buried there?

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

What I miss the most nowadays from the music of the past is singing on stage and seeing and feeling the energy of the audience. I know, as artists, we are trying desperately to stay connected and remain focused on live streaming and online performances but it’s just not the same as performing live. I miss hanging out with my band mates. I miss hugging people. I miss traveling. It’s been quite a challenge dealing with life over the last 6 months since Covid_19 descended on our lives. My hope for the future is that people will learn to respect the arts and artists and that they will see the value and appreciate what we bring to the world just a little more than they do right now.

"The blues, to me, is not just a style/genre of music that’s played in some seedy dive bar by old people. The blues stems from the African American experience through work songs, freedom songs, spirituals and every day life happenings. It’s a living, breathing and ever evolving narrative of the black experience not just in America but worldwide." (Dione Taylor / Photo by CRILAPHOTO)

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Women are as talented as men in music. Oftentimes, women aren’t afforded the same opportunities and support as men which is unfortunate. Because the world is shifting systemically (thankfully!) and as more people become hyper aware of the double standards and inequities within the structures of music, I believe nothing, but great things can and will happen. It’s especially imperative for young girls and young women to see successful women in the spotlight as positive examples for them to aspire to be. There’s already so much conflict and division elsewhere…as musicians, we ALL need to work together for the greater good of humankind.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

One important lesson that I’ve learned from my experience in music is to listen to my heart. Staying true to my inner voice and respecting the boundaries that I have set up for my overall mental, spiritual and physical health is essential for my wellbeing. At this point in my career, my goal is to uplift and to elevate anyone who is open to receiving my music. I’m only interested in aligning myself with like-minded people who are actively working towards making the world a better and more peaceful place through diversity and inclusivity.

What is the impact of music on the racial, spiritual and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Positive Music is timeless and full of energy and light. Positive music brings people together, it doesn’t discriminate or exclude people because of their racial, spiritual or socio-cultural background. Positive music inspires people to work together for the greater good. Positive music heals, it doesn’t steal.

"One important lesson that I’ve learned from my experience in music is to listen to my heart. Staying true to my inner voice and respecting the boundaries that I have set up for my overall mental, spiritual and physical health is essential for my wellbeing."

(Dione Taylor / Photo by CRILAPHOTO)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

If I could take a trip in a time machine for a whole day I’d go back to January 2020 (pre-COVID_19) when I was in West Palm Beach vacationing and visiting my close family and friends. I’m extremely grateful that I got the chance to spend quality time eating delicious food, listen to funny stories about my family history and just enjoy the company of those who I hold so dear in my heart. It’s strange but while I was there, I had this eerie feeling that life was going to change drastically in the near future. I had no idea it would be altered this much.

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