Published Aug 10, 2018With a mere half-dozen released songs to her name, Taylor Janzen will up that number to eight with the release of her Interpersonal EP. Throughout its 15-minute duration, the 19-year-old lays her soul bare, translating personal struggles with religion and mental health into precious stones of solace.
The singer-songwriter's powerful simplicity and heartbreaking depth has already garnered comparisons to the likes of Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, both of whom Janzen looks up to. "It's a huge honour for me to even be mentioned in the same category as them," she tells Exclaim! "I think the main difference between them and also myself is we all write about our own experiences, and our own experiences are so different as people, because that's kind of how every artist is."
Similarities between Janzen and Baker don't end at their personal lyricism. American mastering engineer Greg Calbi worked on both Turn Out the Lights and Janzen's Interpersonal. After recording the EP this past February at her friend Shane's house in Winnipeg, it was sent over to Calbi (who's also worked with the likes of Big Thief, The National and Arcade Fire) to master. "We were really excited to have someone like that in the project and being able to hear what we had worked on… that was super cool for us," she says.
Born and raised in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg, a ward that covers the southeast part of the city, faith played a large role in Janzen's upbringing. "I grew up going to church. My family was very in the church. I went to a Christian school." Yet, the burgeoning artist still felt a sense of disconnect. "I couldn't express my negative emotions properly when it came to religion," she explains.
"I don't connect with religion in the same way that people surrounding me did, but I think that's the point of spirituality and faith is that everyone connects to it differently. When I was growing up, I felt like just because I didn't feel the same way as everyone else meant that I didn't feel anything, and that was incorrect."
Faith is still a huge part of Janzen's life. "I've moved beyond an external religion and now it's more focused on an internal spirituality and faith that helps kind of ground me, rather than making me feel guilty for everything I do," she says, laughing softly. Striking that balance is no easy feat, but it's something Janzen diligently maintains in order to better her mental health.
"I felt like I couldn't talk about the negative things without being maybe a bad Christian, or I felt like I had to be happy all the time because I grew up very Christian," she elaborates. "That definitely impacted the way that I saw my own mental health journey, because I shoved things down for so long. But I think that music is perfect for that, because you can talk about things in your own controlled setting and make something that's really difficult into something that is relatable and beautiful. I think that's the point of art in general."
Janzen's art is a devastatingly raw expression of her innermost thoughts and battles. On "The Waiting Room," she sings of a particularly fruitless doctor's appointment. "I was passed around a lot in the mental health system," she explains. "When you're depressed, you don't want to do anything, but in order to get help, you have to do so much to get that.
"It's kind of counterproductive in that sense where it's like you don't want to do anything, but you have to do so much, and you have to work so hard to get the help that you need. I think that that is more damaging than anything, so I think it just needs to be a bit more accessible and we need to care a bit more about the people that we're trying to help."
Following the release of Interpersonal, Janzen aspires to play more cities outside of her hometown and record some new material by the end of the year. Even with the odds of stardom leaning towards her favour, she remains balanced. "I think, for me, as long as I make sure — in any situation that I'm in — that I'm consistently making an effort to ground myself and keep myself, I guess, in check and spend time with myself, then I think that I'll be okay."
Interpersonal is available now.