These were years of innocence, excitement, joy, and TV-brainwashed wonder. Basically, all the things a young boy could ask for before his pituitary gland irreversibly corrupts him.
Like with every year, there is way more available than will be uploaded. But, especially with the first 11 years of breathing, eating & sleeping. Why, you may ask?
First of all, one of the purposes of The Abravault is to organize and make sense of my career. I know that that other stuff from this period is organized and archived in its own place and in its own way. Really its everything after my adolescence that truly needed some organizing! Secondly, I need to draw the line somewhere so I don’t spend my next year of my life constantly adding to this vault – so naturally, documenting the first eleven years of my life seems a bit absurd, considering the effort that went into collecting and cataloging the rest. Sometime, it may make sense to hire someone for that job.
If you really want a greater sense of my youth, you’ll have to go through the family photo books with my Mom, and look at really old VHS’s of me learning how to walk and stuff, but that would get weird unless you’re my girlfriend. However, I’ll say a few things about my youth:
I had a great childhood – and have always had very wonderful, supportive parents. Lots of wonderful things happened to me, and every day was an adventure – until puberty.
I begged my parents for an agent at the age of six, so I did a lot of acting growing up: school plays, modeling, lots of commercials, small TV roles. I vividly remember auditioning for a small role in the now legendary movie ‘Hedwig & The Angry Inch’, which became a smash Broadway musical as well. I had to sing part of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’. I was in a dentist’s office, and literally auditioned by singing it into the phone to the brilliant star and director, John Cameron Mitchell. And yes, I got that part. You can hear me when Hedwig has his head in the oven.
The first song I ever remember hearing is ‘Fire & Rain’ by James Taylor, and then ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by The Steve Miller Band. I’m certain those were the firsts. There’s footage of me listening to a boombox as a very small toddler and enjoying it, my 3-year old older brother shutting it off and laughing manically while I cried. He was always a very smart, sneaky troublemaker. My mom thought I was autistic until I was four, since it took that long for me to start speaking. I like to think I was simply absorbing the world around me, and words just weren’t necessary yet. I dabbled with music throughout my youth – my first influences were classical composers, really. I would dress up like Beethoven and Mozart and run around the house. My first instrument was actually violin when I was five. I remember the first song I ever technically wrote was with the violin: It was about breaking up with a girl because her farts were too strong. I also made up a song with the lyrics: ‘Listening to my headphones, doing nothing/I live in a bed/Jenna Mae is dead’. After my brief classical phase (before larger bursts later on), I became fascinated by Elvis when my parents played me a music video that a friend of theirs had edited together of him gyrating. I was told he was ‘the king’, and I believed it. I began going to different talent shows as an Elvis impersonator, complete with blue suede shoes (which were really blue fabric glued onto sneakers). I performed at countless little talent shows – I even remember performing as Elvis for my Grade 3 class. Then I got into The Jackson Five and would listen to them constantly on tape on my rides to school. ‘I Want You Back’ is still one of the greatest, most nuanced pieces of pop perfection I’ve ever heard. So glad I was getting exposed to that at such an early age. I also remember being on the bus and getting everyone to join me in singing ‘O Canada’, which made the bus driver have to have a chat with my Mom about how that was ‘unacceptable’. I kept doing it anyways, of course. There’s kind of too many shows to remember from when I was really young – countless really. One more I vividly remember is being maybe six, and entering a singing competition at a county fair. This contest consisted of countless fifteen year old girls, one after the other, singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic, because that was the big song of the season. Then, I got up and sang ‘Rockin Robin’, and got first prize. It was an early lesson in the value of originality 🙂
Around the time of most of this content – when I was nine to eleven – I was just a nice kid who loved Digimon & Pokemon, Crazy Bones, whatever the next fad was, and I loved playing pretend with my best friends. I was very nice and supportive to my friends – again, until around puberty, and until I was an easy bullying target for being different, especially once ‘Inside The Osmonds’ aired, since that was a higher profile thing for me to be on. But that’s all ancient history that I am honestly complete with – and whatever pain remains, I am grateful for. I’ve done all the necessary inner-work on the subject that I can see.
I think my imagination and my sense of humor got their gates lifted wide open after my Dad thought it would be a good idea for us to watch ‘Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life’ on December 31st, 1999, so we could at least discover ‘the meaning of it all’, in case Y2K was real. So, I was maybe eight, and I came to class the next day sharing all these new hilarious curse words with all the kids. I also remember watching South Park for the first time as a result of staying up late for New Years, and that also warped my then fragile little mind in ways I am tremendously grateful for.
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Click On A Title Below To Be Directed To The Section:
Full Albums: My Friend Today, Taylor’s Christmas
Everything Else: Videos, Lyrics Poems Etc, Demos/Dictations Etc
My Friend Today (2002)
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Reflections, March 2015:
‘My Friend Today’ was an E.P (Five song album) that features me singing on various Osmond songs, and a couple unrelated tunes. It was created as an odd cash-in on my appearance in the ABC biopic ‘Inside The Osmonds’, and because I have a loving father who wanted to nurture my music career – and we were in a culture where young pop stardom seemed like a natural and effortless thing to happen.
Even though it was released in early 2003, it very much feels like a totally different chapter in my life, as much of it was conceived of in 2002. For simplicity sake, various performance videos from 2003 where I perform songs from this are also included on this page rather than the 2003 one.
There were no-holds barred in created this E.P. We got in the best studio musicians from around Peterborough, and recording at a state-of-the-art (for the time) facility. This who thing is a funny, odd little detail in my career – and one of a few rare opportunities to hear how ridiculously high my voice could go before puberty set in. The funniest thing from this period is the footage of me performing at malls or the CD release party and selling copies of the album that way, complete with backup girl dancers and awkward choreography. We had some brilliant marketing happening – T-shirts, posters, radio appearances; I even remember us spontaneously taking music video footage in a limo with a bunch of teenage girls. Like, literally, a limo pulled up out of nowhere while I was playing an afternoon gig, and a few minutes later, my Dad had paid the driver to drive me and some of the local ladies around. It was so utterly spontaneous. I remember us passing an endless line of people waiting to get into the Havelock County Jamboree, so curious about who was in the limo. When I waved at them, of course nobody knew who I was. But for a brief time in Peterborough, Ontario, I was getting very loudly advertised, and getting attention for it.
The title song, ‘My Friend Today’ was a song written decades earlier by Joe Vance, an internet songwriting pen pal my Dad set me up with. We would write songs, lyrics and ideas over various chat forums. He was a terrific encouragement to my early growth – and has graciously offered a lot of the videos you’ll see in the videos section from this time. I would end up writing my first lyrics that Joe would set to music, leaving us with ‘I Can’t Talk (But I Can Sing)’.
This CD is also notable for having my artwork on the CD itself. I drew ‘Piggy’ and ‘Beavy’, two characters who would appear in various ways throughout my life thus far – Beavy as a totally different concoction in my musical ‘The Beaver Den’, and ‘Piggy’ in countless things – and ideally, a TV series I plan to create.
More reflections are below the playlist.
‘I Can’t Talk’ is a surprisingly coherent lyric for my age, and a fun premise for a song. The second line makes me cringe ‘It surpasses talking’… Its just so badly placed, very weird emphasis on the ‘it’ based on where it is in the bar, and I just sound like I’m struggling to sing it. I even remember wanting to re-do that line, but everyone else thought it was fine. It gets better after that 🙂 The chord progression is very sophisticated – would suggest everything else to come from me, in a way. Its solid work from Joe Vance, creating the music and melody for this, just based on the lyrics I sent. I think I got a little bit of their help with the lyrics too, to be honest with you. ‘Kisses will be, floating on the breeze’, doesn’t sound like something I would make up. ‘Spinning round on a chair, hoping my words will go somewhere’ is a very apt description of the songwriting process in general :). This is before the music bug had totally burrowed into me – it would take till 2003 for it to go from a hobby to an obsession, after listening closely to some Elton John albums.
‘Sweet And Innocent’, The Osmond song… If you want to know how to #EpicFail at not making friends your age in the early 2000’s: Make an album with Osmond covers on it, as well as another song wondering why you don’t have friends, and if anyone will be your friend today. It works every time. ‘You’re not hip, so get with it girl!’, has never seemed so funny to me. ‘Come back when you’re older girl’, How young was this ‘girl’ I was singing about, considering I was eleven? Eight? And yet I ‘love the little wiggle’ in her walk? Odd subtext aside – Don’t get me wrong, I love that people were willing to create this EP with me, and am enormously grateful for their support. I have no idea if I would have created any more music had it not been for the encouragement (false or otherwise) I got from this record, and how much I enjoyed being part of its process.
‘Go Away Little Girl’ has the highest notes out of any of them in the last minute or so. The synth sounds and horns never bugged me then. However, to my 2015 ears now, its so clear that its soo fake. Funny how clearly fake synth taking over so many roles was the standard for so long in pop music – in a way, it still is, but only to feel ‘nostalgic’, or simply because in modern day club pop music, its supposed to sound as artificial and electric as the club experience.
‘Puppy Love’ I was, somehow really feeling. Its definitely the best of the Osmond covers on this. It also has a ton of ridiculously high notes. Especially near the end after the modulation as its fading. If you know the original, I had to raise the last note of the second line of each verse in order to hit it, since my voice hadn’t really changed yet. I’m very much impersonating Donny throughout this.
‘My Friend Today’, written by my online writing partner, Joe Vance, many years prior – waiting for the right person to sing it. I guess it was me! How nice. Sweet electric guitar sound from Barry Haggarty. This is the most solid original out of the two, I think. The subject matter is more universal, and its a nice sentiment. I remember a last-minute lyric change happening that I orchestrated, from ‘The others think I’m different/Cos I don’t like the crowd’ to ‘Cos I’m not like the crowd’. Unfortunately, only one take of that line was done, and it sounds very uncomfortable and pasted-in to me. I was a bit too passive with the creation of this. Passivity in creative projects was never a concern for me after that – quite the opposite really! Something sounds off at about 2:56, I think a harmony I’m singing starts sharp. Speaking of which, I should also mention this song was also my first time in my life trying to harmonize with myself.
Fun fact: While I was playing Eliott on ‘Doc’, a PAX TV series that starred platinum-selling country artist Billy Ray Cyrus, we played him this song through a CD player. I remember patiently waiting as he sat in one of those canvas chairs that litter sets while they were setting up for the next angle. He loved it! Or he was just being nice to us – However, if so, he laid on the false praise thick, which doesn’t seem consistent considering how religious he is. He said something we quoted him on multiple times that we used to help promote the album, that this song was ‘destined for the top of the charts’.
Taylor’s Christmas (November, 1999)
Reflections, March/May 2015:
My mind was so simple and pure! Still as a Buddha, but obsessed with Pokemon.
This naive bit of hilarity was also printed on… tape. Yes, it goes back that far! My parents probably asked me to do this – they were always looking for ways to support and nurture my growth. Still do! Recorded/printed in November 1999, just as a fun way to cap off the year and to give out to close family and friends. I would have been nine. I was taking singing lessons, and had already been entering singing contests & playing various shows for years at local fairs, etc. My voice teacher (and later, my first guitar teacher), Terry Finn, would also be my piano accompanist at these early shows. Every day of the week would be a different activity for me: Figure skating, soccer, acting auditions, etc. Singing was just another one – I knew I wanted to be performing my whole life, but I didn’t have a definite sense that music had to be the way in which I would be entertaining people.
Everyone has to have a Christmas album for some strange reason. So I guess this is mine. Fun fact: Bjork’s first album was also a Christmas album that was recorded around the time she was my age, (For her, in the late seventies).
Its totally heartwarming and hilarious hearing this back, just for some of the little things – I’m just a kid with barely a thought in my head, just having fun. As a result, there’s some totally unintentionally funny ways I enunciate certain lines, and adorable times where I barely have enough breath to finish what I’m singing. One funny enunciation that sticks out to me in my memory is when I sound like I’m outright demanding ‘figgy pudding’ in ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’. Or when I rush through ‘He knows when you… are awake’ in ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’.
The last track was my idea, just me thanking people for listening to the album. I remember feeling very proud of that little bit of creative input that went ‘above and beyond the form’. I was a trailblazer man! Nobody else was doin’ stuff like that back then! Early 20th century avant-garde composer Harry Partch would be super jealous of this innovative contribution to music history. I’m super cereal right now you guys.
I remember doing a whole Christmas show after recording this. Somehow, my grandparents had gotten, seemingly, the entire senior population of the Kawarthas into a church to listen to me. Hundreds of people had come out just to see little nine year old me… the pressure was high. And there was a freaky picture of Jesus on the back wall starring at me. Needless to say, I was incredibly nervous and butchered every Christmas song. I would forget lyrics, start the wrong song by mistake. It was like that bad dream where you’re in front of people naked. Once I had gone through that, I was pretty much fearless on stages; I’d already done what my worst show would ever be!
At this time, I lived on a lake called Stony Lake somewhere in Eastern Ontario. It was a wonderful way to grow up, in a beautiful house by the water. It was totally out of a saccharine 90’s movie starring middle-class white people. We discovered that the legend himself, Ronnie Hawkins, also lived on that lake in a little mansion. I think Billy Joel ended up buying it later on, or maybe that’s not true. Anyways, my Mom created a plan for me to get to sing to Ronnie: We re-purposed the lyrics to ‘Rockin Robin’ to make it ‘Ronnie Hawkins’. After much preparation, and the difficult journey for a young mind of re-writing the lyrics with my Mom – my Mom called his people, I think around his birthday so they would be more welcoming. Ronnie’s people agreed to bring me to him to sing it. I remember standing on what seemed like an infinite green lawn with my Mom. A white mansion stood in the distance. Suddenly, a white limo pulled up to me. The window pulled down and The Hawk was there in the flesh. I sang the tune to him and he gracious appreciated it. He’s always seemed like a very down to earth person – I met him another time when I was a kid at a Lakefield grocery store. He was parked out front in a lawn chair, spontaneously spending his morning attracting customers and signing autographs. For many ‘famous people’ that would be a pitiful display – for him, it was just an act of generosity.
Oh! And one more fun fact: I acted in a short-lived CTV series called ‘Power Play’ when I was about eight, for a couple episodes. I had done a lot of commercials by then, but this was my first time on TV, with dialogue, which was very exciting to my super-supportive parents. My Dad in the series was played by Dean McDermot, who would go on to marry Tori Spelling and become a ridiculously wealthy husband due to lots of tabloid & reality TV junk. Around the time Power Play was airing, I also remember my mother and I bumping into him at the same Lakefield grocery store mentioned above. So, if for some reason you wanted to know where Dean McDermott shopped in the late 90’s, now you know! I hope you feel empty inside.
Videos, 03 – Earlier.
So this is an interesting collection, and stuff that you won’t find anywhere else, unless someone’s a dink and copies the videos. There’s a couple things here that I’d found spontaneously on Youtube many years ago that someone had uploaded. Others have been graciously provided by Joe Vance (my internet song co-writer from this time), as we would mail various things back and forth to each other back then, and he had various things in his records. A few I’ve also uploaded personally.
This collection is far from complete, and who knows – perhaps we’ll dig through all the old videos one day and put them all here. But probably not. I’m sure they’ll all get digitized regardless.
Video reflections are below the playlist. I usually don’t write as much for videos, as the video descriptions attached to the videos themselves solve a bunch of that for you.
Video Reflections, April 2015:
‘The Big Game’ was the first footage I ever tried to edit myself. Its horrendously low resolution for reasons beyond me – but I enjoy that about it in a masochistic way. If we didn’t have Beach Boys music with it, it would be truly pointless to sit through. Just a soccer game my brother was playing, maybe I was too. Dad was a volunteer coach 🙂
‘My Friend Today’ world premiere from 2003. The video description, if you click on the title of the video, explains itself really. This is me getting interviewed. I can’t be bothered to watch 🙂 Its weird to think I am technically the same person. I remember I also did another interview on some bigger local radio stations around this time.
‘C.M: The Other Characters’ is a slideshow I’d made back in the day of images of various characters of mine. Some are in card form, as I made a card game called ‘Cute Mutants: Plan A’ with packs of cards. The kids in my class actually got pretty addicted to it, and I probably made thirty bucks or so off of selling hand-made card booster packs. There was a Plan A set, which consisted of about 20 cards, and a Plan B set, which I think had 50 cards and was made later. I think this was included on a DVD I created that I dropped off at some cartoon company. They probably didn’t take unsolicited junk – but hey, a 12 year old could dream.
Then we go to my my full performance at ‘Artists For Animals’ in early 2003, a charity CD for the humane society for which ‘My Friend Today’ was featured as the first track.
‘McCormack’s Gravy’ was a commercial that I was in as a kid. This puppy aired for nearly a DECADE across Canada, which is virtually unheard of! So, the residual cheques were quite nice from this, and I’m sure helped pay for University. I remember how tedious it was to film: Commercials take a long time, because marketing people are intense sticklers. They want to ensure you are unconsciously convinced on multiple levels to purchase their product. They had to constantly spritz our food and our gravy in-between each take to make it look fresh. I think this took fourteen hours to tape. I remember auditioning for both roles in this, and that I was going to be the lead in it, until the last minute. Commercials are a strange world, a world I generally avoid out of artistic integrity, regardless the monetary impacts. I remember doing a radio advertisement for BASF a couple years ago – I had to play a pimply voiced teen. It was the easiest money ever – ten minutes, in and out. Then, a year after that, I discovered how they were like Monsant-O’s little cousin. Damn, dirty money!
‘I Can’t Talk’, an official-ish music video made at the CD launch on our property. Personally I can’t watch this, its a bit like trying to sit through Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ (although the song definitely trumps that one!), except I’m the star, which just makes it twice as painful. However, I’m very grateful all these people supported me at the start, and I think this was a necessary journey – but of course this is all, regardless, embarrassing. Maybe a better analogy is that its a bit like Alanis Morisette before ‘Jagged Little Pill’ – the weird 80’s stuff that you sort of laugh at, but you knew was necessary to create to get to where she got. We actually had some people making proper music videos that day, but they took the footage, the pay for filming, and ran with it. We could never find them again. This is something compiled by Joe of the footage the family had taken themselves of the day, and I think he did a lovely job with what was available. I had a lot of ideas for different shots and they were very gracious in helping me. To make matters a little strange – my ‘love interest’ in the video is a girl named Taylin, who played young Marie Osmond in the TV movie where I played Jimmy Osmond.
Then, we have a live video from the CD release, complete with choreography from a bunch of dancing girls. We literally went all-out with this CD release show, I wasn’t kidding… Both an option with some wacky filters, and a straight ahead version. There’s also one of ‘My Friend Today’ included here.
Then, we have me covering a lovely song of Joe’s called ‘Alone In The Dark’. More on that in the demos section. As well as Ringo Starr’s ‘Act Naturally’.
‘DVD Video’ is literally a ripped DVD of lots of stuff. It starts with an embarrassing commercial with my brother. But hey, its out there in other places too – tis the fact of life. Its not making it a difference that it’s also here. There’s Osmond footage, performance footage, lots of the commercials I was in growing up… a bunch of this is from the 2003 in the latter part. You can tell cos I’m playing electric guitar. I had very strange posture on stage in those early days – my shoulders were usually hunched up, like some boxer without a neck.
‘Spring 2002’ is interesting. I remember we were filming for Doc and then I had to leave the afternoon we finished filming to make it back in time to sing ‘When I’m 64’. It was a showcase called ‘Spring Tonic’ that would happen every year at Showplace in Peterborough – a very nice and big venue, where all the huge acts will play if they ever stop by Peterborough. I remember this was one of those pivotal performances for me – I felt so at home in front of such a giant audience. I reveled in it. I loved it. I think this is where performing went from an enjoyable thing to an outright addiction. Its leveled now from an addiction to a desire, which is a much better place to be.
Then, I have old Entertainment Tonight footage, somehow in Spanish, that has a couple moments where you will clearly see me meeting the Osmonds. Pretty crazy to be on ET. That’s a hugely viewed monolith of TV, especially back then. We’ve got lots of footage. This is from the last day of shooting, where the Osmonds came down to do a concert at the end of it and totally break the fourth wall. While a bit of a publicity stunt, its also a pretty big deal, and a huge deal for Osmonds fans to see them all together like this. They all lip-synched to ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’. I remember drawing out all the Osmonds in guinea pig form and getting most of the Osmonds (Or all of them) to sign their guinea pig counterpart. Imagine what something like that would fetch on E-Bay!
I also added in a clip from the finished TV movie. The whole thing is on Youtube, at least as I type this. I lip-synch to ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’, Jimmy’s big hit, near the end. I was totally ridiculous in this, in a great way! Very creative ways I lip-synched, fun mouth movements. Very entertaining, which is all I wanted to be. I remember they were tempted to use my life vocals rather than the track in it. A minute all to myself on ABC in millions of homes. Pretty freaky!
Then, at the end of the playlist I include the old ‘Demo’ video, since it has a little footage from ‘Doc’ and other appearances from around this time.
Lyrics, Poems, Etc
Click here – literally, right here – and you will find a folder with some of the lyric/poem/etc fragments or final results that were typed out in these formative years, for an insight into the creative process. While there’s a lot of bad ideas here – at minimum, there’s usually a couplet or two that seem pretty good every couple of files. The mind of a totally uninitiated songwriter is a fascinating thing! The idea here isn’t just to present things I’m proud of, just like with the rest of The Abravault.
Demos, Dictations, Etc
Dictations are usually just about getting the seed of an idea down, so its not forgotten. Its not about performance or quality at this point. From this period, mostly late 2002 – These are mostly very short dictations. Most of the dictations from this time were literally this random, silly, and uninhibited. Another thing to note is that most dictations from this timeframe (2002, and a little into 2003) were all done on a tape recorder – some are digitized below simply because I held the tape player up to a computer microphone as a kid.
Reflections on certain tracks can be found underneath the playlist.
Reflections, April 2015:
‘Alone In The Dark’ is a very pretty song Joe wrote. This is me singing part of it as a dictation, then he added the piano and echo after the fact. My rhythm is really off, and the band track is trying to catch up. This wasn’t made for anyone but the two of us, so, no real obsession over excellence here. This brings back a lot of nice feelings. The applause he added is fun and ridiculous. Its also odd that it took the ‘audience’ to the second verse to applaud the song :), its like they all needed to hear the verse one whole time in order to think ‘Oh yeah, I recognize this song and like it, so I’m gonna applaud it!’
‘Melody Oct 18’ is literally from a tape recorder I would carry around with me everywhere back then – in addition to sometimes doing the dictations directly to the computer. I remember getting the tape recorder as a gift, and using it for the first time in my trailer while filming ‘Doc’. Using it, I discovered that I could perpetually think of ideas. Often I would just press record and see what would happen – the nature of being recorded necessitated I come up with something. It was a big deal for me. I suppose that’s the way its been for all of my music throughout my life: recording myself necessitated me to keep on creating, and to keep listening and improving my sound and instincts.
Then, you get to have a ton of ridiculous dictations that were generally recorded through a little computer microphone. Those dictations are by far the easiest to get a hold of. These are all pretty unintentionally funny, incoherent and all over the place. Gotta love the enthusiasm though.
And the whole Abravault gets to conclude with a painful dictation of Bohemian Rhapsody… You’re welcome! When you’re 11, its fun to sing anything, and to hear it back. Its the mindless addiction of being able to record yourself, and not knowing when to stop. Much like the mindless addiction of creating this Abravault. Time to take a breather from it, get back to making new memories! – T