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Caleb Taylor’s Soulful Self-Reliance

Written by on May 23, 2023

Fresh off the release of his latest album NüSoul II, we tapped in with Chicago-based soul singer and “nüsoul” pioneer to learn more about his new project and his sound.

Hailing from Danville, Illinois, Caleb Taylor is a Chicago-based self-made soul singer who embodies the essence of independence and self-reliance. Taylor’s musical prowess is evident in his remarkable vocal range and power, as well as his skillful guitar playing, consistently producing lush instrumentals and captivating solos. He has honed his talents through self-teaching, mastering not only singing but also audio production, guitar, bass, drums and piano. 

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Taylor’s artistic journey led him to establish a lane of his own with NüSoul, which he describes as “a new neo-soul,” ultimately crafting a sound and musical identity unmistakably his own. 

“It’s the world a hybrid artist thrives in,” Taylor explained. “It’s being able to float in and out of sounds using different tones and lyrical content.”

He’s dropped several projects over the past few years, including the release NüSoul in 2022 which was recently up followed by NüSoul II on April 28. On this project, Taylor takes a more collaborative approach, working with other artists on all but two tracks. He allows the music to speak for itself, giving listeners a new experience from his first project in the series.

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Following the selection of NüSoul II single “More Time” for our May “Poised To Break Through” playlist, we had the privilege of virtually connecting with Caleb Taylor to delve deeper into his artistic journey. Taylor discussed his evolution as an artist, his future endeavors and what lies ahead this year for his devoted listeners.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Can you explain the concept of “NüSoul” and how it defines your music?      

“NüSoul” is a new neo-soul; it’s the world a hybrid artist thrives in. It’s being able to float in and out of sounds using different tones and lyrical content. In an ideal, it’s like hearing a song where the first half is “Untitled” by D’Angelo and the second minute [and] 30 [seconds] is “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller. And the beat flip is seamless, so much so [that] you almost think it’s a new record, but the content is close enough that you realize it’s the same artist. “NüSoul” incorporates pop song structure, hip-hop drums and rhythmic vocal delivery, as well as an R&B undertone to the all-around classic neo-soul sound, with lyric content borrowing from each. It typically has multiple beats in one song between two or three. The vocals being brought in within ten seconds, the beat drop or hook happening within 30 to 45 seconds. The building blocks of this particular genre are guitar and falsetto.

As the one-year anniversary of your album NüSoul approaches, how do you reflect on the project and its impact on your career?       

I think the project helped me bring the creation of this genre to a head, as well as allow me to have something to build on over [the] years. This will be something like Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter series — I see myself making it to NüSoul V. I think the thing I love most about NüSoul is that it’s an album that took two years to make. The following ones, I don’t think I will take as long on, being honest. Because it was the first, I really wanted to take time to understand what my pocket was.

How would you describe the evolution of your sound from your earlier work to your most recent album?

I think the biggest difference is me being a way better musician on pretty much every instrument, so that’s brought better musicianship and better production of the records. Also, my writing has grown from writing almost a thousand songs, at this point, and I’m able to only use the best lines when I create. My new sound, if I’m being honest, is more refined because I cut lyrics and cut melodies and cut drums, and re-do them until I get what feels most right. I think, because at this point of [having] done so many records, I find myself in a position where I’m not as easily impressed by myself … early-on. 

In your opinion, what sets NüSoul apart from NüSoul II, and how did the creative processes differ between the two projects?

NüSoul II has more moments where the music is taking the forefront of some solos, some just textures ranging from more bass or guitar to vocals, and it also uses more electric piano. I used way more musicians overall, too. I used my main guys that I collaborate with, Denzel Bell and Nick Pickett laying bass on 50% of this project. I only played two records completely alone, as opposed to the last project where seven out of eight tracks are solely me playing every instrument. More synth, too. A lot more synth. 

What message or emotion do you hope to convey through your music, particularly in your latest album?

My latest album, I think, is just showing the element of transparency with emotion, how something makes you feel as well as what you want and who you are. 

Could you share the creative process behind your single “More Time” and how it contributes to your album?

Kinda similar to how almost all my records are made. I made the guitar lick and put it into Logic to make the loop, which is pretty much 80% of the song’s production. Just a snap and guitar. I wrote the hook instantly then, but I wanted to add a feature to the version on the EP, so I reached out to Ballad. He did his thing and then I had my bro Denzel Bell lace it with bass for the chorus and for Ballad’s verse, then I laid my verse and played bass over it. I wanted to let Denzel have a moment at the end, so I left his solo as the closing remarks. 

We noticed you’ve collaborated with various instrumentalists. Is there a particular instrument you enjoy integrating into your music the most? Why?                                                         

Yes, I love bass. To be honest, on “Recycle Love,” I already had laid the original bass line — it’s still there, it alternates between me and Nick Pickett — but I still wanted another bass player. On “DayDreaming,” I used Denzel Bell and Nick Pickett just to get two different bass perspectives. And on “More Time,” I played bass on my verse just to get another sound that went against what Denzel laid in the chorus. I love bass. Also, I’m a huge fan of violin. I really enjoyed being able to arrange Delia’s lines and develop the sound I heard in my brain for the strings on “DayDreaming.”

As an R&B artist, what do you believe is the key to creating a truly captivating and memorable live performance?

Man, in the words of Prince, I’m a musician. I actually play instruments, I don’t sample. It’s me, and when I go up on stage, that’s actually me singing. My mic is on. I hate when people sing to the track with the vocals in it. To me, actually singing live and actually doing it a lil’ different every time makes a memorable live performance.

What is your favorite song to perform live? What do you like about it? Do you have a favorite song to cover?

My favorite song to perform live is “Favorite Time of Day,” because people love it every time I sing it. And it works easy on my voice, because it’s how it naturally works, so I can sing at 6 a.m. without having to warm up. My favorite cover to sing is “What You Won’t Do For Love.”

Other than those two projects, what else have you been working on since our last conversation in 2021? Any more exciting updates?       

NüSoul II, the album is coming in July, then I’ll be doing NüSoul III the EP this fall, Sep. 23, as well as four other EPs. My goal is 40 new records released in 2023. I’ve got 10 completed at the moment, and another 10 in the pipeline. I co-produced Bryan Andrew Wilson’s acoustic version of his single “The Ride,” and that’s been dope. It’s reached over 260k on Apple Music, it’s at like 2,600 Shazams and it’s my favorite creative collaboration I’ve ever done. It means the most because it takes me back to my gospel roots.

Can you share any upcoming projects or collaborations you are currently working on? Yes, NüSoul II will have production collabs on two of my records from it, a few of my bros from chicago Taedakidd, Chubbs & wizzwizzett. Also my bro from Atlanta, ATM. Me and over average Zay been in the studio working. That’s my bro, we been locked in for like three years now. I’ve also been doing a lot of production lately, so I’ve got stuff in the vault with my bro Noc, @whatupnoc! Being honest, this space is new because I don’t really collab a lot, and when I do, it’s normally for people in my camp. But these days, I’m finding myself alone a lot more often, and I’m enjoying more sessions with just two or three artists or producers and us really making something special.

Keep up with Caleb Taylor on Instagram and Twitter, and listen to more of his music on Spotify below.

Interview and written introduction by Omi Salisbury

Answers edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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