Despite the pandemic, Toronto singer/songwriter Teagan Johnston has still managed to stay productive by writing a new album, featuring the new single, Nineteen, released February of this year. Johnston discusses the process of writing a song, as well as acting and writing music for horror film, The Strings, and how that differs from an album.
How did your latest single, Nineteen, come to be?
Johnston: Nineteen is a part of a new album I have recorded, part of ten songs, that are all just kind of exploring a break up and heartbreak and the different aspects of it. My intention with all the songs was to explore the deepest, darkest feelings of feeling heartbroken totally, without limits, without, “Oh I should be over this person,” or “I should be stronger than this or feel better.” Just allowing myself to be as sad as I could, because I was really enjoying listening to other songs where other artists were doing that for me at that time. That song is part of many narratives and stories I was exploring through one break up.
The song was released with a music video, can you tell me a little but about the video?
Johnston: It is myself performing with a performance artist, Holly Timpener. They live in Montreal and they have been a friend of mine… and I have always had them in mind as someone I wanted to work with. And so I called them up and said, “Hey, I have this song and I would really like to make a music video of you.” I had this vision of them playing with red string in a space, and they said “That’s great, but why don’t we do it together?” We started formulating the idea from there, and I guess really the concept with the string. For those who haven’t seen the video; it is both of us, each in a room, and we are both individually playing with string. That idea was kind of toying with how we feel connected to people, once they are not in our lives and we are not physically talking to them everyday, and how we are untying these relationships we have gone through constantly.
What was it like acting and writing the music for the horror film The Strings?
Johnston: It’s one of those things that’s super funny because it ended up being such a great thing and it’s gotten more and more recognition this year. The director, writer, and cinematographer actually plays a ghost in the film as well, Ryan Glover. Ryan was just a filmmaker who was making music videos for me and then he came to me one day with the idea for this project and asked me if I would be interested in it. That was a pretty strange year of my life, in that I left Toronto and was moving around with wherever a project would take me. So, I was in New York for a little bit, then I was touring in Europe, then went home to my parents house for a couple weeks, then we had this project out in PEI. For me, I was kind of like, “Oh great, somewhere to live!” It turned out to be a very special project, and was really fun to be involved in.
How would you compare writing an album versus a film score?
Johnston: They were very different, which I really enjoyed, because I haven’t had many opportunities to write outside of myself, as most of my music is very personal… The music that I wrote for The Strings, [Glover] wanted it to be more electronic based, and instrumental. We had this whole set up we designed together on the floor of this house we were filming in, and it was just a tonne of synths, a drum pad, and a bunch of looping pedals. He really just gave me the space to play with it,and it was really fun.
Do you think that that different side of writing and experimenting has influenced your personal music writing?
Johnston: Yes, I think that experience of [Glover’s] confidence in me to just make this music on my own definitely instilled more confidence in myself to produce my own stuff in a new way. Even this new record, playing all the parts myself, I don’t think maybe that’s something I would have been quite so confident in, had I not had that experience before. There was a lot of equipment that I got to play with on that set that I did end up continuing to use afterwards.
Do you see yourself doing more of this work in the future?
Johnston: I would love to, if I should be so lucky to. I definitely hope so. I think for me, I just love the opportunity to create and collaborate with people and I hope for more of that.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity