“I’m not interested in music. I’m not interested in being a musician. I am a musician, purely through function. The thing I’m interested in is art. I’m interested in great artists, music just so happens to be the medium”
Paul Branford a.k.a. Tayo B is an up and coming artist whose wit and talent show promise of big things ahead. Born in Manchester, Tayo moved to Leicester to study medicine in 2015, where he eventually realised his true calling, music. Tayo left his medical degree to pursue his career as a music artist and he hasn’t looked back since. Smooth summery beats, laden with his rich, yet silky vocals are what makes some of his current releases such as ‘Move With Me’ and ‘Romance’ so delectably enticing. They fill us with fantasies of a never ending summer but, as we discuss later, there are far more seasons, and new sides of Tayo B, to come. We were lucky enough to chat with him about the journey to where he is now, and everything from manga, to Charli xcx, to what a huge impact situational factors and exercise can have on our mental wellbeing.
Christina: So what’s the story of your journey as an artist, and how did you come to choose the stage name Tayo B?
Tayo B: I moved to Leicester in 2015 to start at University and you know, university was fine, it went quite well but I realised after a while, that it was just not what I wanted to do for the next few decades. In 2017 I took a year out. During that time, I got involved with HQ (‘HQ Recording’ the label he is signed with) here. I began making music in my bedroom as well, you know invite friends over, we’d make some beats, but one day I went to HQ with a friend who showed one of them here (HQ Recording) some of my music. He said “yeah do you wanna do a release on the label?”. And then, I guess from then I just didn’t leave (laughs). After that they were like “well you’re here all the time, you might as well have some keys” (laughs). And when we came to release the music, Paul Branford just didn’t sound very sexy. So Tayo is my middle name. From that TIE-OH or TAY-OH you pronounce it.
C: How do you prefer it to be pronounced TAY-OH or TIE-OH?
Tayo B: I literally don’t mind, I say TAY-OH. And then if someone is Yoruba, which is the tribe which my family is from in Nigeria, they say TIE-OH cause it’s easier for them to pronounce or Americans, Americans like TIE-OH too.
C: Was that part of the reason why you chose to use Tayo B as well? Was it a call to your heritage?
Tayo B: Not really, in some sense it is. I feel as though I’ve grown into the name, at the time of choosing it wasn’t that, I just wanted something that sounded like a modern artist name. The name Tayo means joy in Yoruba or joyful, I quite like that. Is it a call to my heritage? In some sense, yes, but that wasn’t the intention.
C: So you were studying medicine when you were at university? Why did you decide to leave, was it too overwhelming or was there no passion there?
Tayo B: Yeah, I guess it was a pretty multifaceted decision to leave, or many different pressures, if you like, which eventually led me to make the decision. I went for a career as a doctor to do the usual things when you’re young, like you think “that’s a good job”. You think “what’s the most impressive thing I can do” and unstable careers are not seen as that, particularly when one of the boxes you fit into in school is the academic box. If you are getting the grades to apply to medical school and they feel you can do it, when you say, “I think I’ll apply to medical school” nobody says “you know what, maybe you should just go for something that is completely unstable and that most people fail at”, so then we go to medical school.
I was interested in the subject matter but I wasn’t at all interested in, like, having to get up early in the morning to go and force myself to do something which is barely gratifying. But there is this perception that medical school is very very difficult. It’s not, it’s not. You have a lot of things to learn, you have a certain level of responsibility and it’s perhaps more stressful than other degrees but it’s not that difficult a challenge. The challenge for me was forcing myself to do it.
Fortunately, by that time I had begun to make music again and I had found a place where I would be able to develop until I was ready to have a real career in music, which we’re pretty much there now. I just have a lot, a lot, a lot more practising to do. Medicine is an excellent career for anybody who’s built for it. Anybody who’s not built for it… if you need creativity, and there’s a difference between being interested in and having creative interests and creative needs, if you have creative needs, a person like me, it will suffocate me and it will suffocate you.
C: I guess it’s about following your passion and what drives you isn’t it?
Tayo B: I think so, it’s an interesting thing, the way I feel about the ‘follow your dreams’ thing, I think it’s perhaps a little bit different from the common thing which is said, which is like ‘everybody should follow their dreams, if they work hard enough they’ll get there’. But you know, if you take, athletics, for example, you may have somebody who’s very very interested in athletics, and they’re willing to put the work in, but somebody else who is just as interested, puts the same amount of work in but then, you know, has 10% better genetics, they’re the one that goes to the Olympic Games. So I think it’s important to have passions, but I think we also have to be realistic.
Sometimes I think it’s a very underrated thing, just having a job. Like, just having the job is great. If somebody who, in that job, you’re reliable and people around you want to work with you. You’re a f***ing champion, you’ve made it. It might not seem that because you haven’t made X amount of money. And then, you know, the people you see on TV every day, they’re making like six, seven digits or whatever, but you know, you don’t know somebody else’s reality. And not everybody needs £200,000 a year.
C: So, who or what inspires you in your artistic career?
Tayo B: I would say that great artists, inspire me. It took me a long time to figure out why it was that certain people who were not musicians for instance, like an author, why that inspires me more than a lot of the music I listen to. But I think now, the way I would articulate it is, I’m not interested in music. I’m not interested in being a musician. I am a musician, purely through function. The thing I’m interested in is art. I’m interested in great artists, music just so happens to be the medium
So, one of my favourite artists, who sadly passed away this year, is Kentaro Miura who wrote and illustrated the manga series Berserk, which is my favourite story that I’ve ever read. It’s a phenomenal piece of storytelling, a phenomenal work of illustration, just the level of detail in some of those volumes is just out there. The people who reach, not just that level of technical mastery, but use that level of technical mastery, to create things, which communicate something beyond lines, beyond beats and melodies in a bar and so on. There are levels to art, for me, true art or high art is the thing that interests or inspires me. I mean recently for inspiration, I’ve spent more time (listening to music). I listen to so little music, I try to stay busy and I don’t like being distracted when I’m doing things when you would normally listen to music.
C: So you don’t really listen to a lot of music then?
Tayo B: I do but I go through phases. So recently I’ve not been listening to a lot of music. I am trying to take the time to listen to music, particularly new music. But I think that’s just the kind of consumer I am, like for instance I’m not really an early adopter. I’m more interested in what’s tried and tested. I have this very strange habit, or pattern of behaviour where I don’t really listen to an album or engage with an album, until it’s been out for a couple of years. I recently, well I say recently, the back end of last year, I became a huge f***ing fan, huge fan of Charli xcx, and her 2019 ‘Charli’ was like the first album I bought physically in years.
C: Does she inspire your music at all? How would you describe your sound?
Tayo B: The sound I have out now is kind of interesting moments of pop production, sometimes with a summery feel sometimes, you know, just different feels or whatever. That’s fine, but moving forward, obviously I’ve not put anything out in a long time, because I wanted to take time to improve. One of my favourite things that always happens in manga is to move the story on, a volume will end and all the main characters say bye to each other. Then the next volume starts and it’s two years later or whatever and they all look so much older. So yeah I’ve been kind of taking this as my training period.
An album is coming. The first project is, as I’ve been writing them for the past few years, all the kind of ‘accessible’ pop songs I have. I’m going to put those into the first project because they work together. So there’ll be elements of like, my voice, weirdly the singer that my voice is now is most similar to is George Ezra. So it’s George Ezra with a little inch of John Legend. So the first one is going to be accessible pop songs, the songs that your mom would like, you know (grins)? And then the second one, we’re going to go a little bit more indie, a little bit more soul, more sex appeal than your posh boy songs, and then from there, s**t’s gonna get downright weird. The sound that I’m going for, obviously music is a highly competitive market space and I’m pretty sure we can achieve it here at HQ, is that kind of radio ready, polished pop sounds where everything is of a certain quality but then also the lyrics are catchy, they’re interesting, but they’re not, you know, super challenging political metaphors or whatever. You can have interesting chords in there but, you know, the general public is not ready, is not made for jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I love jazz but everything has its place, and learning what the places of things are over the past few years, it’s given me an understanding of at least how to start creating something which fits in that market space, because that’s what I intend to make my way into.
C: So what have you been up to in the past year during lockdown? Am I right in saying you were part of 2Funky Arts’ Project LIVE, and Festival2Funky?
Tayo B: Yeah, we did Project LIVE and I did a performance for Festival2Funky. Always very enjoyable. A shout out to Vijay. Always very grateful for what Vijay’s doing in the music community in Leicester. As time moves on, we have more champions like Vijay. That’s one of the big things that is going to help the grassroots level develop from there, to get the next level and the next level and so on. We need more of that, but Vijay was one of the earliest in there. And so as we go forward and there’s more money, there’s more things going on, Vijay’s going to be a big part of that, I look forward to seeing that. Apart from festivals I’ve just been a gym-rat.
C: Does that help with your creative process at all, going to the gym?
Tayo B: So, going to the gym. If you call it body conditioning, so obviously you have the physical conditioning, the mental conditioning, and then you have, you know, physical appearance, which is a result of hitting your goals, your diet goals and your exercise goals. But the reason I’m interested in it is again, because music’s a competitive market space. There’s a reason that most people in the charts are hot as f**k, so what are you gonna do? Get on the f***ing treadmill. But then the mental side of it, there are a lot of things to take away from learning how to achieve goals in the gym, for instance, like repetition. Repetition, the idea of progressive overload, as you become accustomed to a challenge you then gradually increase it but only gradually, you know like a proper recovery.
The gym is great because it’s very simple, you just go in, pick some s**t up, put it back down, you leave. It’s the same as when you want to do something creatively. If you want to be a music artist you need to learn how to become the best version of what you can be, as a musician itself. You should be spending more time actually doing the exercise than posting yourself on Instagram for instance. The people that perform best in the music industry, they’re not just the best people at posing, they’re the people who are the best at music. It does help me creatively in the sense that it keeps me focused. Being able to focus on something simple, like how I go to the gym today, having that simple thing is like ‘What now? I dunno if I can get out of bed and go’, it gives you a simple foundation to then build more complex things on like learning about guitar chords, learning how to song-write and so on.
C: It sounds like the fitness side of things has helped you with keeping mentally focused. You’ve spoken to me in the past about your struggles with mental health, especially around university, was the gym something that’s helped you overcome those problems to an extent?
Tayo B: I’d say yes and no, because I think the term ‘mental health’ is actually a large misnomer in some ways, because it suggests that, if you are feeling a certain way, for instance, if you feel depressed and then this leads you to behave in a depressed manner and you’re drawn off, you’re very melancholy, you have thoughts of suicide and so on, it’s like, ‘oh, well it’s some kind of illness that has a mental origin’. But I have found out, at least in my case, there was not some form of chemical imbalance in my mind which was leading me to feel a certain way. The context of my life and the way my completely healthy mind was computing it was ‘this is f***ing s**t and it’s not right for me’. If you are in the wrong environment, and the context of your life is incorrect, it’s not because your mind’s unhealthy, your mind’s completely healthy. It’s like ‘why do I feel s**t?’, cause your life’s s**t.
When things are particularly bad, the gym, meditation, eating healthily, sleeping properly did not really help, because those are like, great things that, when I’m feeling good, those are things which helped me get better cause they’re the things which helped me perform on a higher level. But that’s a very small weapon when you’re lost at sea, having one little oar is not going to help you. You need to, in some sense, find your way to dry land. That’s what’s, not that it’s missing from the mental health discussion but, it’s not something that the mental health services will talk about.
C: Are you doing any new music releases? Do you have an album on the horizon?
Tayo B: There will be albums on the horizon. I have the first couple of projects written, almost in their entirety. The plan is to begin 2 x 6 track projects. They’ll be releasing as singles, but they’ll all be under the same campaign, the same artistic expression, just different installations of the same product. I’m not sure when that’s going to begin, but my plan is to perform that, just to figure out how best to connect the intention behind the songs with what the audience needs, before I get in the studio. I am producing for Harri Georgio, his latest batch of singles, I’ve produced a couple of those, and they’ll be getting released in the next 12 months.
Christina: You’ve also taken part in some 2Funky projects recently. What was your experience with Project LIVE?
Tayo B: Amazing, amazing. Working with the band, working with such high level musicians, was fantastic. It’s also the network thing as well, I hate the term ‘networking’ but I like the term ‘network’, Andy who played keys with me, he’s now my piano teacher, Dave who played on the drums is an absolute f***ing killer, Wayne on the bass, you know it’s great playing with them and then actually seeing them play as musicians, following the project and so on, when you saw the actual level of these guys, how they’ve honed their instruments for decades, I think it’s important whenever you do something, it’s important to have your impression of yourself or where you’re at and completely shatter it, and not in a negative way, to see how high the mountain goes. I mean in some sense there’s still levels beyond that, but that isn’t important. To see people that level and to play with them is fantastic.
Then Lisa, who was the musical director, I remember when I was 15/16, I used to have this garage compilation album, and I used to love it, and it had Artful Dodger, (sings) ‘enter selecta’, all that, and then this one tune on it, Bad Habit, (sings) ‘I’ve gotta bad, bad, habit baby’, f***ing love that song, and this was when I was 15/16, still living in Manchester, I hadn’t even thought about Leicester at that point, I didn’t even know it was a place. So Lisa wrote and sang that song ‘Bad Habit’, so you know, one of my musical heroes, so having that person say to me ‘you’re a songwriter, you’re a proper songwriter’ was like ‘wow, hey, maybe I’m a songwriter?’ Maybe I wasn’t as s**t as I thought I was?’. So yeah she mentored me, mentors me still if I have questions or if I need to ask about things, she helps me with that and Project LIVE is great because it introduced me to more of the musicians who’ve already broke through, they’re at a way later stage of their career, because when you’re just around pre-career artists, you only have that view and in some sense your elders are the people who are the same age as you, in the same box as you but they just have more monthly listeners on Spotify, which is not a good measure of what it takes. To have those mentors has been super rad.
C: What was your experience with Festival2Funky?
Tayo B: So that was 2020 when we did it all pre-recorded so I was really happy to be invited as part of the lineup, obviously to work as a performer during the pandemic it was great to have that opportunity and then I loved it cause I could have the bragging rights to say I was on the same line up as Big Narstie, obviously I never actually met him, we were never even in the same city (laughs), but, I was on the line up!
You can find Tayo B’s music on Spotify and keep up to date with his new projects on Instagram @tayobworld and @hqrecording.
By Christina Goworek