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Interview: Teena

Written by Kiersten Gerard

Teena is a Long Island based singer-songwriter with a collection of thought provoking and heart tugging songs available to stream. We were able to sit down and chat about the writing process, favorite music memories, and middle school woes.

What has your relationship with music been like throughout your life and who first got you into it?

I had this computer that I got when I was in middle school and I started finding newer artists. When I was in middle school I was all into that kind of bubble gum pop rock type stuff. I started finding lyric and music videos on YouTube and I really started connecting with artists like Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco. I remember coming home from a rough day at middle school getting bullied or something like that and then just going on the computer and screaming along to lyric videos. I started to realize how powerful music was in my life because it was kind of like an escape, a release from stressful times and long days.

When did you start making original music?

I started making my own music when I was 15. I dabbled in my own stuff and I started writing a lot on guitar. I came up with one song, it was called “like me” I remember, and then I put a pause on that for a few years until I got college. I went to SUNY Fredonia and I went through a really difficult situation with a heart break. That’s kind of my go-to topic. I always write about love songs and that kind of thing. It was really hard and I needed that kind of therapeutic, cathartic thing to pull me out of my feelings. I started going on Garage Band and experimented with that, I started writing my own lyrics in a journal, and I really spent time with myself creating. Eventually I got together with a friend that studied audio production at Fredonia as well so she helped me create my first album cranberry. It’s not on Spotify anymore but it explored themes of life and heartbreak and just existentialism in general.

What is your writing process like?

Usually I start with lyrics, sometimes I write from a title. Sometimes I’ll rattle off different colors or things around me like a microphone or headphones, I’ll just write down a bunch of things around me, and then I’ll write down and rattle off a bunch of feelings I’m feeling. I’ll use all these different things I’ve thought of to create sentences and ideas. It’s a weird way of working but I feel like it comes from such a true place of what I’m experiencing and what’s around me. Sometimes I’ll even start out with poems I wrote and put music behind them, and sometimes I’ll play guitar or piano, start jamming and grooving, and sing whatever comes to mind.

What is your favorite song to cover?

One of my personal favorites would have to be “Sour Breath” by Julien Baker. It’s such an existential, sad song and I really connect to her style. I’m very sensitive and emotional, I feel very deeply. It’s kinda like a breakup song but it captures that raw deep emotion of feeling sorry for yourself for something you couldn’t work out. It’s just very beautiful. It’s so easy to sing as well. I play it at almost all of my gigs. It’s just got that raw depth and emotion.

If you could open for any artist who would it be?

It would have to be Caroline Polachek. I do not come anywhere near her prowess but let me just tell you she is my idol. I really love her music. She’s just so unique and she’s such a testament to powerful women in the industry. There’s this stigma that women in the industry can’t really be over 30 but she’s 35. She’s such a unique producer, she explores all these different soundscapes that male producers and other people in the industry haven’t even found. She’s very comparable to the artist Sophie as well. They have that really unique style, kinda like glitch synthy indie pop. But also kinda EDM ish. I’d definitely open up for her.

What's your favorite venue to play?

I’d have to say probably the knitting factory in Brooklyn. It’s great honestly. First of all like the sound and the PA were perfect, the mic was great and so was the energy. I was actually booked by this company called Sound The Groove and it was a showcase. They put on a bunch of different artists that I ended up connecting with, they were some amazing talent. I really had so much fun. It’s got a big stage but it’s a small intimate venue with a bar in the back so it’s just really chill.

What is your favorite live music memory?

There was this one time when I was playing a show at Amityville Music Hall I met this other band that was also on the line up, Necter. The front woman of the band was telling me all of these things that made me feel really good. It was a pivotal moment because I was only first getting into live performances and meeting other musicians at bar gigs and she really hyped me up. I was so flattered. That’s when I realized the power of playing live gigs and also showcases in general when there’s other musicians there’s a power of being able to meet and connect with them and share art. Such a beautiful thing seeing what makes other people tick.

What is one song that can always make you smile?

Right now one song that makes me so happy and is my power anthem is the song “Fan Behavior” by Isaac Dunbar. He’s so incredible. It’s really powerful because he knows that he’s wanted and he knows that people look up to him but at the end of the day it’s kind of just a mask because he's really just a softy and wants to find love and form relationships and connections. Really empowering with a really funky baseline.

What is some of the best advice you’ve received?

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my sister. She told me that at the end of the day you really only have yourself. Instead of looking at what everyone else is doing and comparing yourself to other people, put the ball in your court. As musicians it’s really easy for us to compare ourselves to the people around us. By worrying about all that you're building yourself up for this sense of disappointment.

What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

It’s important to remember why you started. You created all this music to be true to yourself. To do it cathartically. It is a business but it’s also important to remember that it comes from you. Making it big should be because it’s your truest form. Never conform to the standards of the industry. If you’re trying to chase record labels and get deals just make sure you’re not altering your sense of style. Stay true to yourself. At the end of the day all you really have is yourself and your art. The way that you process things and create things is uniquely you. So never change that. To people that write, try to write about really niche moments. Try to just sit down and write about really specific situations in your life. The most important thing is don’t compare yourself to other artists. You’re gonna get somewhere if you want it enough. If you invest enough time and money you’re gonna get somewhere. Don’t have such a picture of what your dream is. You can always keep going and keep achieving but don’t think that you getting a record deal or something like that is the end all be all. Because most times it’s about being yourself. Don’t do it for the money, do it for yourself.

Anything to plug?

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @teenatown and check out my website at www.teenatown.com!

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