Analogue Music | Taylor Janzen

Taylor Janzen

By Matt Conner

Taylor Janzen's music was in perfect hands.

The compelling and confessional style of Janzen makes her one of the most exciting young singer-songwriters in music today, spiritual songs intertwined with present emotion—hope and fear, doubt and belief. As Janzen writes, "Here lies the paradox/ a shouting match with silent God."

Such a young artist should be protected, in a way, from too much push or pull. Janzen will undoubtedly flourish if given a chance, which is why Mike Mogis was the perfect producer for her latest EP, Shouting Matches. The producer has worked with similar artists—Joseph, Phoebe Bridgers—and Janzen belongs in the same conversation.

If you like Julien Baker and friends, you've found the newest tributary of that sonic stream in Winnipeg's own Janzen. Just a teenager, Janzen has an exemplary gift of setting her wrestling matches with the cosmos to such beautiful melodies. Read on to find out more of her story and listen closely to a thrilling young artist.

Analogue: As I listened to your new EP, I was filled with an instant longing to tell anyone about it who would listen. I wanted to start here because you're also trying to get people to listen as a new artist with so much noise. How is that tension for you?

Taylor Janzen: It's an interesting contrast, because when I write songs, I'm not writing for anyone else. It's purely for myself. I don't think about what other people are going to say, because in my mind, I'm just writing it. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'll release it. But then when I end up liking it, then I'm like, 'Oh crap, now i have to release it.'

When I release something it's more for other people. I write about very personal things and things that are very serious and I always hope that someone can fidn something that relates to them that makes them feel a little more validated. The process there is scary sometimes because it is so personal. I never know what people are going to do or say, but I find the most personal songs I write are ones that people will respond to the most. That's crazy to me. It's also a bit overwhelming but it's all part of it. It turns it from something just for me into something that can hopefully help other people. That's the goal.

I find the most personal songs I write are ones that people will respond to the most. That's crazy to me.

Analogue: Are there some you've tucked away because they're too personal?

Taylor: There are some songs I've tried to tuck away. [Laughs] Then they end up coming out anyway. The only ones I really tuck away are the ones I don't think are good. If I'm not excited about it, I don't do anything with it. But both of my EPs have songs I didn't think I'd release. On my first EP, I have "Colorblind" and "Better Now," neither of which I thought I'd do anything with because I thought they were really personal. I thought, 'People don't need to hear that.'

Then on this EP, I strongly felt I would not release "Toronto" and "The Prodigal Son," but then I put them on there because I'm torturing myself and it's fine. [Laughs]

Analogue: Can you take us into that process? Are there people around you who talk you into it? Is it entirely internal?

Taylor: Let's take "Prodigal Son". When I wrote it, I thought it was a lot. Simultaneously, as much as I'm embarrassed by it, I'm also really proud of it. It's like there's a person inside me that forces me to release this stuff. I usually just feel it in my gut that I needed to. I also wanted to explore some things musically in that song that I couldn't unless I released it.

Analogue: When you say it's too much--

Taylor: Well, at this point I don't think it's too much, but when I release a song that feels like I'm sharing too much of myself that I can't take back, I worry that people won't like what they see or hear or that it's just too much of me. The war I had is whether or not I'm giving strangers too much of myself. I don't think so, but that's the fear going on before I release music.

Analogue: Do you think there's a reckless way to do that?

Taylor: I've never heard a song and thought, 'This is too much of one person.' I've never heard someone else's song and thought that I'm hearing too much of them, which is interesting bceause I'm so quick to think that someone else will think the same of me. Whenever I hear someone honest about their lives in such a deep way, I'm always thankful for that artist and the step they took to share themselves in that way. I don't know what's in my brain that thinks people will think negatively of me.

Analogue: I'd love to get a sense of your own musical background. Did you come from a musical family?

Taylor: Not really. I mean, I was always encouraged to play music, because it was always something I loved. It was always my favorite way of expressing myself. That was always something I've been encouraged to do—not forced to do it, but I love it and my mom has never made me feel it's a waste of time or something I shouldn't pursue as a career. I grew up singing in church and talent shows until I graduated and then I started playing around Winnipeg. Now here I am.

Analogue: Do you remember the first impulse to write songs?

Taylor: Yeah it was when I was quite young. I've always had big feelings for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, the only way I could properly express them and articulate them was to write about them. I liked singing so I just put them together and would write very bad songs about my feelings. Eventually, they became okay songs about my feelings. Now I'm proud of these songs about my feelings. So that was the main impulse there. [Laughs]

Analogue: Are you pretty prolific, then, as a songwriter?

Taylor: There are a lot of unfinished songs. As a songwriter, I'm not very patient. If something is not working, I'm quick to give up on it, which has always bitten me on the ass a little bit before. On the song "New Mercies," when I originally wrote it, I thought it was boring and it wasn't working for me. Then a few months later, I revisited it on a whim and added the bridge and suddenly it's my favorite song I've ever written. Spending five extra minutes is what it needed. But usually if a song isn't working, I'll scrap it and forget about it.

Analogue: Looking at the timeline of your EPs, you were writing and recording even in high school?

Taylor: Yeah, "The Waiting Room" was a song I recorded around 16 or 17 in my basement. I literally had a mic and my computer and an acoustic guitar. I didn't have a mic stand, so I put it between my knees and squatted and that's how I recorded the guitar. I wrote "Dennis Quaid" when I was about to graduate high school. So I'd say those songs were the high school songs.

Analogue: How is the Winnipeg scene for you and your music?

Taylor: I love it here. It's so welcoming and it's a nice size. It's not so small that nothing is happening, but it's also not so big that everyone is stepping over each other or that it's super competitive. It's very welcoming and easy to get into. You make a few friends and play shows with them which leads to more friends and more shows with them. Everyone has so much talent yet they're so proud when you do well, which is awesome.

VISIT: Taylor Janzen