In a time where “fake news” is a thing, there’s something particularly refreshing about music that’s honest, raw, and vulnerable; especially when those authentic narratives are told with the uncomplicated delivery of an acoustic guitar and a sole vocalist. Enter Taylor Janzen, the 19 year old singer songwriter from Winnipeg who sings about topics as serious as mental health or emotional abuse, but fills her social media with more lighthearted musings (like her love of Dennis Quaid).
Janzen just released her debut single “Stations” at the end of June, but last week, she’s graced us with her debut EP–called “Interpersonal.” If you’re looking for a new artist whose tweets are just as relatable as her lyrics, look no further and dive into our conversation with Janzen below. We discuss her songwriting approach, having Hayley Williams as a fan, her favorite Dennis Quaid movie and so much more.
What do you consider to be your first music memory…Either what really got you into music or what got you interested in playing it?
My first musical memory was when I was 5 or 6, my mom had bought me the first two Avril Lavigne records…I think the second album had just come out. She bought me the first two, and I was in love with her. I thought she was the coolest person. I wanted to be her. I just remember thinking she was the coolest ever.
I went through that Avril phase too so I can relate! So your debut EP is coming out this month, and you co-produced it. What can you tell me about the whole process behind it and working as a co-producer?
When I wrote it–I didn’t really sit down and write it. I pulled from different songs and tried to make it as thematic as possible, and cohesive. I wrote them over a year. It was a very interesting process to work with someone else. I’ve never done that before, but I worked with my friend Shane. He is brilliant and we did it out of his house, but he actually knew what he was doing as opposed to me making weird stuff in my basement. He was so cool to work with. He’s a great friend and great musician, and he helped make them sound a lot better than I think they originally did. It was interesting to work with someone else cause I’d never done that, but it was a really cool experience to have someone else’s perspective and someone else’s ears on it.
As far as your two singles that you’ve released…You have “The Waiting Room” which tackles the subject of mental health, and a lot of people find it taboo to talk about and it really shouldn’t be. Then with “Stations,” you talk about emotional abuse. Did you find it challenging to open up about subjects like that, which are so personal, or is it more rewarding for you to be able to let that out?
I think the first moment that these are shared is always the scary moment. Actually the scariest moment is when I played them live for the first time. One of the songs on the EP called “Colourblind”–that one was probably the scariest song I’ve written. I would put it on my set list and then take it off right before I was supposed to play it. I would just switch it out with a cover, and be like I’m not playing this song! People are gonna think that it’s too much. Now it’s one of the songs that gets the most reaction out of people. That one and “The Waiting Room.” It’s the one that I’m most proud of, and it’s really interesting how the ones that you’re usually most scared of are the ones that people like the most or connect to the most. Cause they’re honest. And they’re transparent. So it’s scary at first, but I think once you can get into it, it is less scary.
Yeah, there’s that reward that comes with the risk. Then I know Hayley Williams has voiced her love for your music, and I know you’ve done Paramore covers in the past. So how does that feel to have her support?
That is so crazy. She’s so cool. She’s one of the first artists, or Paramore is one of the first bands that I ever fell in love with in a real or personal way. I remember basically watching Hayley Williams be able to stand up there and be a woman and not be afraid of her loudness. I think sometimes as women, we’re told to tone ourselves down so much and just to watch someone embrace those parts of herself and not be scared of herself, that was the most empowering thing and that’s always been something that inspired me. The fact that she would listen to anything that I would ever write, is crazy to me. She’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable being myself.
Are there any other women in music that you find to be great role models or inspire you?
Oh man yeah! I’m just always so inspired by women who are not afraid of themselves. Like Torres I always say is one of my favorite artists. As a songwriter she’s so open and honest and smart about the delivery. Then I’m always super inspired by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Like Karen is just so cool and so herself. She doesn’t focus on like…I love the way her voice is. She doesn’t try to make it sound pretty, it’s more emotive and expressive and I love that. Or you know, I could go on, but Brandi Carlile. I love the dynamic of her music.
Yeah, I love how those women are examples of completely different types of music, but they’re all so inspiring. So kind of switching gears a little bit, I saw your tweet the other day from when you were in LA. You took a picture in front of Dennis Quaid’s star on the walk of fame and you referenced his bit that he does with Ellen yelling “Dennis Quaid is here!” So what is your favorite bit he does with her, cause he’s done a few.
He has! I think the original one was so iconic. I think would be my favorite, but I love the one where he goes to like that massage therapist and she makes him eat the tomato. He suffers for his art. Truly! I love Dennis Quaid. I just want to talk to him. I feel like he’s just so calming. I have a song named after him.
I saw that when I researched! You really do love him.
Yeah, when I was in LA I wasn’t there for a long time, so I only had time to do one cool thing that wasn’t related to the industry. So I wanted to see Dennis Quaid’s star.
Priorities! What would say is your favorite Dennis Quaid movie?
Oh, Parent Trap! 100 %. Why is he so cool? He just seems like the cool dad.
So I was going to ask, and you just kind of mentioned it, but was this your first time in LA when you had that show there?
Yeah! I’d never been to LA yet.
What else is on your bucket list in LA, or anywhere else in the states?
I would love to see all these cities in America. I was recently in Nashville and that was really cool. I want to go to New York. I’m easily impressed by things since I’m from Winnipeg. I love Winnipeg…but when I was flying into LA I was so impressed by like how not-flat it is. I’m very intimidated by big cities, but I’m also really fascinated by them. I really want to go to New York one day and also go back to LA.
Did you have any culture shock moments in LA?
Everyone really likes avocados. Also my manager got his burger lettuce wrapped when we went out for dinner.
It’s such a health freak city!
I’m just kind of blown away by the people and how busy and huge and spread out [the city] was.
Besides LA, you also played the Winnipeg Folk Fest and The Real Love fest recently. So how did those go? Any highlights?
Yeah so my show in LA was the first real show I played out of Manitoba. I’m excited to do more of that! Winnipeg Folk Fest went so well, then Real Love Fest was out in Teulon, Manitoba and I had to drive a lot for it. It was really fun. I was really tired from LA, but the atmosphere was so chill that it did not bother me at all.
Any other plans to tour once the EP is out?
Yeah, I’m for sure working on getting something. It takes a lot of planning!
Any other local bands that you’re really into that I should check out?
Yes! I love the local scene so much, I have like an embarrassing amount of pride for it. I think my favorites right now are Boniface… it’s actually named after the neighborhood they grew up in and which I grew up in, called Saint Boniface, so it’s like extra local for me. There’s also Olivia Lunny, she’s an incredible singer songwriter. She’s really feel good, I love listening to her when I drive everywhere. Then my friend Cassidy Mann also just released a single. It’s incredible. There’s a lot of really really good music here. I think because it’s so secluded people don’t really hear about it?
Awesome, I will check them out! Any last closing comments?
I never know what to say at this part. My EP comes out on August 10th and I’m really excited and hope people like it.
And support Dennis Quaid?
Yeah! Show him some love!