Hailing from Ireland, Hudson Taylor is a duo comprised of brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson-Taylor. With two full-length albums, four EPs, and millions of Spotify streams, they have come a long way from busking in the streets of Dublin. Rebecca got to chat with them about their journey, from humble beginnings to touring with a handful of the most well-known musicians today.
Hey guys! How are you doing?
Alfie: Very good, thank you.
Let’s talk about your live performances. Did you always want to perform together? Or was your passion for music and performance something you developed on your own and then combined together later on?
Alfie: Growing up as kids, we were always surrounded by music. We always sang around the house, and we grew up in Ireland as well, which is a very musical country. It started around 2008 when we were on a family holiday. Harry brought the guitar along, and we both were interested in the same kind of music, so we knew a lot of the same songs. One night, we walked out to the beach, Harry had the guitar with him, and there was a group of about five other people there. They asked if we could play a song for them, and that’s how it kind of started. I think we played an Oasis song, and maybe a Beatles song— those were the only two songs we both knew all the lyrics to.
Harry: Alfie naturally took the melodies and has continued to sing that part, and I guess then I took the harmonies. Eventually, both of us became more proficient at playing the guitar and piano.
Alfie: Yeah, and the band kind of fell into place over the next few years. I think I actually wrote my first song on that holiday; Harry taught me two chords on the guitar and it was terrible. But that whole experience kicked it all off. After that trip, the people from the beach that night asked us to put the songs up on YouTube so they could listen back home in Germany. So, we went home and did that. The first song we put up was “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees. We kept doing that, and we were getting like one hundred views at the time, but we couldn’t believe that one hundred people were listening to us online. Then, we had a recession in Ireland, and my mother didn’t have much money to give us, so she suggested that since we both loved playing music and were still young, we should go do some street performing. So we did.
Harry: That experience really allowed us to discover what we wanted our music to be like.
Alfie: Yeah, and the performances and everything as well. We learned an awful lot.
Have you ever thought of playing in separate bands?
Harry: We have had opportunities to play in other people’s bands, so we kind of have a taste of not being in the center of attention. That is a nice thing that I crave with Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor is about me and Alfie: we are brothers, and our name is Hudson Taylor. It is nice to do something where there is not so much pressure and spotlight: you are either in the background doing vocals or playing guitar with someone else’s band.
Alfie: It is also different music, so for us, it also broadens our horizons musically, and it's a great thing to do. But in terms of solo projects, we don’t have anything like that yet. Maybe one day, but hopefully it comes in a healthy way, not a bitter way.
How has busking on the street influenced your live performance? Do you think you are more comfortable on stage in front of large crowds because of your experience in the streets of Dublin?
Alfie: Yeah, I think so. Before we go on stage, the thing I always remember is that when you are playing at a concert, most people know you are playing. They are either buying tickets to see you or coming early to see you as the opening band. But with busking, nobody is there to see you, so we grew very thick skins. Most people just walked by. You maybe get one out of every 100 people to stop and listen. It made us focus on our performance more, and one thing we learned is that if we are enjoying ourselves, people stop to watch. We might have sounded terrible, but we were genuinely having a lot of fun. We also used a few tricks here and there. Harry is quite acrobatic, so he used to jump up on the trash cans on Grafton Street and he would be six feet in the air—people can’t really ignore someone doing that. We don’t do those things on stage now! The first time we went on stage, we were terrified, but we figured out how to shake off any nerves we had. After that, we were addicted.
Harry: It teaches you independence as well. We got a bit of money from passersby, and that was a nice rewarding bonus for 16 and 17-year-old lads at the time.
Alfie: Yeah, and all of our first gigs came from someone who saw us playing in the streets. People would ask us to play at their sisters’ wedding, so we did gigs like that.
You have toured with artists like Jake Bugg, Gabrielle Aplin, and Hozier. Do you prefer more intimate shows or larger, sold-out performances?
Harry: Yeah, I mean, every day you don’t know what to expect. Some random support show we might have done comes back, and those might be some of your best shows. It certainly is great to play a hometown show, but at the same time, you can go perform in another city nearby and get a completely different reaction. Sometimes when playing in a more rural area, or a city that isn’t well known, the crowd can be a lot more laid back. We like to switch up our set: sometimes more of a rocker-type set, other times a more stripped back, casual set. It depends, but we have so many ways we like to play a gig. If we are in a busier city on a Saturday night, with our drummer and everyone on stage, the set is usually great. But it can be equally as great if it’s a Tuesday night in the same city. Usually, the crowd is a bit more chill because everyone has to go to work the next morning. Culturally as well it differs. For example, American crowds are completely different than Irish crowds, which are completely different than English crowds. Each culture has its own thing.
Alfie: As far as supporting someone goes, like the Hozier tour, it is very similar to busking because no one is there to see you. People come because they love the headlining act. It is more about how people react and respond to your music the first time they hear it. We absolutely love people singing at our shows. When we are supporting, we usually play massive rooms. We aren’t really used to that—all of our shows are quite intimate. But we don’t really prefer either one, they are different experiences, and we have equally as much fun either way.
check out their latest ep: hudson taylor on audiotree live