It's been almost a year since Taylor Henderson's life changed thanks to a show called The X Factor. He didn't win, but over the past 12 months he's proven you don't need to take the title to achieve success. His first single, "Borrow My Heart," topped the ARIA charts, and his single "When You Were Mine," the first off his debut original album Burnt Letters, has been getting plenty of radio air time. Burnt Letters is actually out tomorrow (July 11) so we caught up with Taylor this morning to talk about his personal connection to the songs, the extra special touch he's given the album, and what he likes to do away from the music.
POPSUGAR Australia: How was your trip to the snow?
Taylor Henderson: It was so good, oh my gosh. I haven't had a chance to have a break for so long because this album has been going crazy. I've really put in a lot of work to get to where it is today. So it was really nice to go the snow, or just to have a break. I brought my girlfriend with me, but that was probably a stupid move because she cannot snow, ski — at all. I go boarding like every year with my family, so it was interesting to get her there.
PS: But it's nice with the fires and hot chocolates . . .
TH: The hot chocolates. Yeah, yeah, OK! No, it was really good.
PS: It's been almost a year since The X Factor changed your life. What have been the highlights, and possibly even the lowlights?
TH: Well that's a good question, because the thing is, when you come off that show, you don't know what's going to happen. Like I never expected any of this to happen. So I guess, the best things that have ever happened to me, coming out of that show . . . One thing is I'm releasing songs that are actually part of me. Obviously my first song, "Borrow My Heart," I was almost a bit nervous because that song was given to me. But now it feels like a part of me, because I perform it all the time. I think one of the best things is when you perform a show, and I sing songs that are mine, and people will sing the words back to me — that's the weirdest thing ever. It's something you've always imagined as a kid, someone singing your own songs back to you, let alone having a room of over 1,000 people just belting the words back at you is pretty incredible.
But I guess, some of the lows as well . . . What can be quite — it's not frustrating, it gets you thinking because . . . To me, and my family and friends, and people who actually know me, I like to think I'm a nice guy. But it's funny when someone, who doesn't know you, has seen something and makes their mind up like that. Their decision's made, and sometimes their decision is something where you'd never have that intention on anyone. Someone can make their mind that they just flat out do not like you. That can be quite harsh, and I think that's something I've never had to deal with before, because generally if someone's had a problem with me, I'll confront them. But you can't do that, you can't just go to people who sit at a computer all day and decide to type things out. That can be quite a frustrating thing to have people who are out to get you sometimes.
PS: A lot of the time it's people with not-very-nice things to say who will take out the time to say it. And you have a lot of people who will defend you.
TH: It's interesting. Sometimes you sit back and watch everyone fight at each other. It's a good point you said that, because if it was all positive it would probably be boring. You do need that balance, you just have to learn to keep yourself balanced through it.
PS: What has helped you keep that balance?
TH: I don't know. I think it's because I never know when this will end. Tomorrow isn't a promise. You don't know what's going to happen. It's like, live today, let every moment sink in, and enjoy it. Yes, I'm not on a stage, but I'm sitting here, and I get to do these cool interviews with people, and I like that as well.
PS: How was recording this album different to your first studio album? Aside from the fact that these are all your songs.
TH: Well, yeah! The first album was my interpretation of other people's songs. What was interesting was I put my own twist on all those songs, basically, on the last album, and there was such demand for new music. It was interesting because I can understand when people come off a show, and it sucks because you don't want that concept, but sometimes people can see you as a karaoke act. I didn't want that to happen, and it's been pretty incredible how it's turned out, because a lot of people understand and really follow me, because I play guitar and I write and I sing songs. This new album, there are songs from my past, to new songs I've written now. The whole album's very raw, and it's very honest.
PS: Which songs are you most proud of, and why?
TH: It's like picking a baby! It's hard, because as you said, I've written all over this album, with some other amazing writers as well. I love "Already Gone," the new single, because it's about missing home. It's very much what I miss all the time, just the simplicity of being home, sitting back and seeing everything for what it is. I also love a song on there called "Host of Angels." It's actually about my little sister. My parents split up when I was younger. It's like, when you're younger, you think you're the only person going through that, and I got pretty torn up about it. I found out when I was 13 but my little sister was five at the time, so she's had that her whole life, and now she's 13 so she's the same age. She had a completely different upbringing to what I did — mine was quite stable, whereas she's had a bit of an unbalanced [upbringing]. The song is about — long story short, I'm so sorry — the innocence in a child, and how it's quite refreshing, but it's very delicate, and can be brittle if it's not taken care of properly. So that's what that song is about.
PS: Everyone knows you're very close to your dad, so were you and your sister just raised by him?
TH: Well, kind of. There were some things that happened and my parents obviously weren't right, so things went wrong from the beginning. But everyone's fine — Dad will come over to Mum's. Everyone's sweet. Dad's got a partner, Mum's got a partner. They shake hands respectfully, you move on.
PS: Whose idea was it to put the handwritten note in 200 physical copies of the album?
TH: That was mine!
PS: It's kind of like Willy Wonka!
TH: Exactly! I didn't even think of that, and it was my little sister who was like, "It's like Willy Wonka. Do you get to go to a factory or anything like that?" I'm like, "No . . ." I think the best thing of having some loyal fans is . . . There will be people who will happily buy an album off the shelf, and there are other people who want more. It's hard, I'm just one person, so I thought I'll bring out an album, and for the people who want that little bit extra, I wrote a personal letter and signed them all. I wrote the same letter 200 times, oh my gosh.
PS: I also thought it was an interesting concept since a lot of people buy digital these days. Will the records be sealed?
TH: I think it will be sealed when it's in there, but maybe the guy behind the counter will just quickly chuck it in [laughs]. I'm pretty sure they're sealed, and that's the idea of the album, because it's called Burnt Letters. It's signed, sealed and delivered. I sat there, wrote and signed every single one.
PS: What do you like to do that's not related to music at all? What do you do to give yourself a break from music?
TH: I've always been a really competitive person. When I'm singing on stage, pouring out my heart — you have to be game on because people have reached into their pockets to see you perform — when I'm doing that, it's very intense, and it's one side of my brain I'm using. So the other side — like when I play basketball, I'm very aggressive. I'm fouled off within five minutes. I love sport — I play tennis, I play footy, I love extreme stuff, like when I went to the snow. That's why it was hard, because my girlfriend goes down the kiddie run and I wanted to go down the black slopes. I love that kind of stuff. I play volleyball.
PS: When do you have the time?
TH: Well that's the thing, I don't really! Every time I'm home, that's why this song "Already Gone" is about missing home. Little things like that. Someone will say, "I played basketball o the weekend," and I'll be like, "Oh, I used to do that every night since I was so young." It's weird how I used to nag Dad to drive me to my basketball game, then I got my licence and drove to my own games. It's weird I can't just go [and do that]. It's like my two loves are battling each other!
PS: What have you done to reward yourself for your hard work and success?
TH: I don't spend anything. I don't know what it is; I'll look at my bank account and go, 'I've got that much. I don't want to spend it.' The only thing I've really bought . . . Well my girlfriend's car got stolen and I was so frustrated, because in the car I had a suitcase filled with clothes — I was on tour at the time. I literally went out the next day and bought clothes because I had a show to do. All that was gone. I'd just bought a new laptop I hadn't even touched. Cameras, everything. And what was in there, was a guitar. So then I went and bought a guitar, which was really nice. It's probably one of the only things I've bought since I've been doing this. Isn't that really sad?
PS: You can probably invest in a house soon!
TH: I am looking at some apartments and houses and things like that, so that's what I am doing. I don't mean to save, I just don't spend! It's not like I'm . . . what's the word?
PS: A cheapskate?
TH: Yeah, I'm not like that! If something's expensive, I'll buy it. Like I just went to the snow and paid for it all. I'm going to America in February, so that's something else. So they're the most expensive, like trips and the guitar. I should probably buy a car as well.
Source: Sony Music