Sad music makes us feel better
A freshly-turned 18 year old singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada is starting a much needed conversation about mental health, fear, and faith, and we can’t help but want to share it with the world.
Meet: Taylor Janzen. With her debut EP, “Fear & Faith,” sending shockwaves through various social media platforms, it’s time we sit down and discuss why you should already be a fan of Janzen’s.
With over a decade of performing in church under her belt, and an ever-growing songwriting obsession that developed in middle school, Janzen is no stranger to music. She even competed in Paramore’s karaoke competition, aptly named Paraoke, that takes place on the band’s cruise: Parahoy! Spoiler alert (from three years ago): She won! Janzen earned the Paraoke crown at just 14 years old. Since then, she’s honed her craft and started her own musical journey.
“[Music] has always been the one thing that just made a lot of sense to me, which is a big deal when you have ADD and a lot of things don’t make sense to you,” explained Janzen. “Music just felt like the one thing I never had to struggle to grasp, so I’ve stuck with it my whole life. I’ve gotten more serious about my songwriting in the last few years, though.”
Though her focus on songwriting is still somewhat new, it’s difficult to believe that Janzen isn’t in her mid-20s, as she describes scenarios in an astonishingly mature and engaging manner. Artists like Brandi Carlile, Julien Baker, and Ryan Adams gave Janzen the a-ha moment; the one that made her say, “Holy shit, this is what I want to do. This is how I want to write.”
“I was really inspired by artists that have the ability to be openly transparent in their writing, which really spans across all genres, but specifically I’ve always really looked up to Torres,” said Janzen. “Without her music, I would have never felt empowered enough to write the way that I do and share it.”
From religious turmoil to mental illness to begging for peace, the Canadian musician is sure to catch the ears of anyone who will listen.
“This year, I started being more open and showing people my songs more often, not really thinking anything of it,” said Janzen. “I’ve always been quite private with my songs because I write so openly and transparently about my life and experiences, and being that open requires vulnerability, which is obviously terrifying. But as I showed more people and saw their reactions to them, it became more apparent that it was a narrative that I needed to share, and there’s so much more of it outside this EP.”
The title track of the four-song EP gives the listener an idea of the kind of tools she has in her songwriting arsenal. She’s just as talented with a metaphor as she is on the guitar, and can change her vocal tone to match any emotion with the switch of a chord.
This is most evident in “Fear & Faith” as Janzen questions her beliefs in a tone laced with confusion and desperation.
“Take my filth and hollow me out,
I’m tired of living in a battle ground.
I cussed You out, then declared your name;
I don’t know why they both feel the same.”
I could sit in my bed, coffee going cold beside me, and type out all of my favorite lyrics from this song, but it’s best if you listen the way it was meant to be heard: through Janzen’s raw, skilled vocals.
It’s old news that mental health should be taken more seriously in social and professional circles, though if you surround yourself with musicians, like me, you might have only seen these points being made in that sphere. What you don’t hear about very often is the other side of the coin; when people seek the help and support they need, and don’t benefit from it the way it’s designed to.
That’s where Janzen’s music comes in, i.e. a track entitled “The Waiting Room.”
“I feel like that song is the most honest out of all of them,” said Janzen. She shared the three-and-half-minute confession with me about a month ago and, of the four tracks she sent me prior, “The Waiting Room” was by far my favorite. Raspy, pleading vocals aside, it was the lyrics that caused my breath the catch in my throat.
“It brings up a part of the mental health discussion that I feel isn’t talked about enough,” explained Janzen. “Society has been getting better when it comes to recognising mental health, but there’s still gaps in the public narrative that I desperately wanted someone to fill. There’s this misconception out there that once you admit you need help and actively seek it, you automatically get better. My experience was wildly different from that, and I can’t be the only one, so it confuses me as to why I rarely see anyone talk about that aspect of mental health.”
Even without her explanation of the song, it’s clear that Janzen’s experience is different than what is advertised by our surroundings in her lyrics:
“And I hope I never have to see this office again,
Spitting out my demons to somebody I just met.
She’s taking notes just to remember my name,
‘Cause the only one who listens is the person I pay.”
It feels like we, the general public who even acknowledge that mental health is real (yeah, I’ve met people who don’t think it’s a thing…), push so hard to encourage people to seek help, but once they do, we fall silent. Why does the platform end with the first therapy session? Why does it not extend to endless road ahead, filled with potholes and dead-end signs?
By listening to experiences like the one Janzen describes in “The Waiting Room,” we can better the platform and push forward to what’s next, instead of pretending that the problem isn’t there.
The topic of pretending, via “Pretend That It’s Not There,” and the plea for silence, for rest, and for calmness, via “Peace,” are the other two tracks that make up the “Fear & Faith” EP. I could go into more detail, break apart the lyrics, and tell you how gut-wrenchingly wonderful these songs are, but why don’t you listen with fresh ears and tell me what you think.
What’s next for Janzen, you ask? Well if you’re a fellow Winnipeg resident, the Winnipeg Folk Fest is the place to be. The festival’s young performer’s program, designed to promote young songwriters in the city, has allotted time for Janzen to perform. Other than that, her plan is to play “these songs around Winnipeg to anyone who listens.”
Now that you’re probably Taylor’s biggest fan, hop on over to her bandcamp and keep tabs on the Canadian musician. Let her know what you think, and be sure to bombard her DMs with pleading messages like I did, begging for music. Or maybe just tell her you like it.