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Singer / songwriter / saxophonist Nick Teehan notes that he finds inspiration in the loneliness and solitude of post-industrial Ontario. Originally from Oshawa and moving to Toronto to study jazz, Nick enjoys searching out old architectures like rusting bridges, abandoned factories, boarded-up churches and parks. He focuses on the creative aspect of art and music and all things unconventional. An out of the box thinker and musician, some of Nick’s musical influences include Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen, and Irving Berlin. He takes music back to an era of ballads and explores the sounds of yesterday with sounds of today, making them his own. We got to know him a bit and so can you, in this interview…
How would you describe your music for someone who has never heard you before?
The word "whimsical" comes to mind. I sing music about a lot of imaginary things, a raccoon who's in love with Davey Crockett's wife, or giving in to oppressive but supportive robot overlords. So far as what is sounds like, it's hard to describe, but you can never go wrong with a little sousaphone and sweet melodies.
What is one song that you would tell someone to listen to make a lasting first impression?
Stripmall City is a song I think has a great feel to it. It's a ballad about returning to your hometown; the return brings different changes reminding you of how time has passed. I've been writing a lot more songs like this one lately, that focus on personal feelings of loss and inadequacy, and how you deal with it. I think ballads are great in general. There aren't enough good ballads being written these days. That's probably not true at all.
Who or what inspires you?
My surroundings and relationships, most of all. I'm always intrigued by how other people get around their lives, and how we might intersect. Also, science fiction, folk music, Charlton Heston, Toronto's live music scene. I'm also very inspired by playing different instruments to reflect my mood.
What do you do after a stressful day to calm yourself down?
Usually as little as possible. I'm a busy guy, so I really need to rest. The other day I found myself sitting at an all night diner writing on napkins. Later on, I played my tiny casio and sang little songs, usually about killing people that bother me or about not wanting to take out the garbage. Acting odd tends to alleviate stress for me.
Can you name an artist, dead or alive, that you would love to work with?
I don't know if it would be exactly a collaboration, but if I could have one piece done on my behalf, I'd like my picture painted by Alice Neel. She was a twentieth-century portrait painter who did a lot of great artist portraits. I'd have her paint me nude, maybe. Also, I'd love to sing with a band like Tom Waits has used over the years, with Marc Ribot and Greg Cohen.
Have you ever had a moment where you felt as though you had “made it” as an artist?
No. I do feel, however, that I've been doing artistic things for a while now, which I find very gratifying. I can't imagine "making it" one day: "Circle the wagons, Teehan's made it, we can all go home". It doesn't feel right to have an endgame to all of this creation.
How responsible do you feel as an artist to support causes, like charities or missions, is it all a part of the package? Or is it there for you if you want to go that extra mile?
I think it's about who you are. Mental health awareness can help a lot of people, it has helped me, it's been a big part of my life. I generally don't support a lot of things, as I think an artist’s job is to create. I think my music will help people more than anything I can say about various issues.
What’s in your iPod or playlist right now?
I just have CDs. I got a "best of bluegrass" compilation recently. I'm in it for the banjo.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
"Don't let those sons of bitches get you!" That was passed from my grandfather, to my father to me. I will surely warn my own son, one day, about those sons of bitches.
If you could perform anywhere in the world where would that be?
I'd like to sing in Scandinavia, with a band of Alpenhorns, or croon Irish ballads at a pub in my ancestral home town. The locals might hate that sort of thing, though.