PREMIERE + Q&A: Songwriter Taylor Janzen Redefines “Sad Music” With Debut EP, ‘Interpersonal’

image

Photo: Sergio Necoechea

Taylor Janzen is only 19, but she’s already been able to do what most adults can’t. Her debut EP, Interpersonal, is a collection of four guitar-based songs which all contain brutally honest lyrics regarding mental health and broken relationships. 

She teased the project with her sophomore single “The Waiting Room,” a chilling song detailing a dismal waiting room experience which left her feeling worse than when she entered. Janzen recently played The Winnipeg Folk Festival alongside Phoebe Bridgers, who she is often compared to for her emotive vocal ability. The Canadian singer-songwriter was also recently featured in The New York Times for her lead single of the project, “Stations,” which cuts to the core with the line “I’m just a station that you stop at.”

Interpersonal is certainly an EP one could listen to when feeling sad, but it is a lot more complex than just “sad music.” Janzen has the ability to cut human existence down to its bare bones without making listeners feel hopeless. The world needs more music like Interpersonal right now, because it provides empathy and frank confessions of pain in a world of people striving for the illusion of perfection. And did we mention she has the voice of an absolute angel?

We caught up with Janzen about mental illness, her personality and learning to love Winnipeg.

OTW: How did you come up with the name, Interpersonal?

TJ: Any other music that I’ve previously put out, the lyrics have been more introspective. And this one is too, but it feels more relational. So it kind of talks about how our mental health is affected by our relationships, and vice versa.

OTW: How has speaking out about mental illness been rewarding for you?

TJ: I found that at first it’s really difficult and really scary, but the songs that are the most scary for me are usually the most rewarding. So songs like “Colourblind” or “The Waiting Room” are usually the most rewarding for me to play. I think being able to articulate yourself and articulate the things that are not so fun to deal with is huge. And I love songwriting for that reason. And I love being able to share that with other people who maybe haven’t figured out how to articulate that yet. Because if I can help kind of guide in the right direction of that, I think that’s the best part.

OTW: What would you say to someone who is sitting in a waiting room right now, going through the same things that you did?

TJ: I think in that moment there’s not really a lot to say just because it’s such a unique experience for every person. But I would say, as much as it’s really difficult to keep trying and trying and trying to get help, even if nothing’s working, I think that it’s worth it to keep trying. Obviously it’s really exhausting and frustrating, but I think it’s always worth it to try.

OTW: Your music obviously deals with some very heavy topics, but I found it hopeful rather than just sad. I think people hearing it will feel comforted and even inspired to speak out because you were able to do so.

TJ: Thank you! And I think that it’s kind of interesting when people blanket it as “sad songs” when there’s so many other different complex emotions other than sadness with these songs.

image

OTW: How do you think your personality is different or similar to your music?

TJ: It’s similar and different in a few different ways. I would say on one hand I love songwriting because it helps me get that part of myself out. Because no one really wants to like hang out with a sad song. Like ever, right? No one wants a sad song to be their best friend, no one wants to date a sad song. So I found I can embrace the other parts of my personality and the parts that are kind of out there and a bit more fun and loud and unapologetic because I have a place where I can be introspective and talk about really hard things. And that part of me can be really celebrated as well.

OTW: What is your biggest pet peeve?

TJ: Loud chewing, but also loud breathing but also nail biting. Those like mouth noises are just really gross.

OTW: Mouth noises are never good. On the flipside of that, what are some things you find attractive or inspiring?

TJ: I’d say one of the biggest things that inspires me in general, as a writer, person or friend, is usuall a conversation that I’ve had with someone. I pull a lot from just talking with the people that I’m close with and being able to gain their perspective and learn about what they have in their life and what they’re learning and how they’re growing. I find that’s the biggest thing that I get any inspiration at all from.

OTW: You’re 19 – what does your life look like right now?

TJ: I guess life right now looks like me playing a lot of music, writing a lot and spending a lot of time with the people that mean a lot to me. And also I’m in a period of my life where I’ve traveled a lot and I’m kind of falling more in love with Winnipeg. I spent my whole life wanting to leave, and now I just love it. It’s interesting.

image

Photo: Sergio Necoechea

OTW: That’s such a cool new stage, it seems like everyone takes the place they grew up for granted.

TJ: Yeah I agree.

OTW: What do you love about Winnipeg? I’ve never been there.

TJ: Ooh! I love the music scene here, everyone is super welcoming and kind. I think the main things I love about it are the people and the art and the atmosphere.

OTW: So if I were to go to Winnipeg for one day, what should I do?

TJ: Hmmm well I really love the Human Rights Museum. It’s this huge beautiful building that has loads of information about the history of human rights. It’s not a feel-good thing, but you get to learn about the things people have been through and how it affects society today. It’s very important and informative. And also go to The Handsome Daughter to catch a show because I love that venue. I’m actually headlining my first show there on August 10th!

OTW: Ooh we might just have to take an office field trip to see that! So you’re obviously pursuing your career in music (and killing it might I add), but have you thought about college or gotten any pressure to consider that route?

TJ: I’ve been really lucky with that because my mom is super cool and has never pushed me to do something just for the sake of being another person’s version of successful.  So I have no plans for the moment to go to school, just because I’m bad at school. It’s a lot of money and I don’t want to pay to be bad at something. 

OTW: What’s next for you?

TJ: Well I would like to start playing some more shows outside the city, maybe some around Canada, we’ll see. I also want to start working on new stuff soon, and my main goal is to start incorporating more full band aspects to my music.

OTW: Final question, who are your Ones to Watch?

TJ: I’m gunna say Boniface. They’re a band from Winnipeg, and they’re named after a neighborhood in Winnipeg that I’m also from. They’re incredible.

Listen