taylor janzen's new video addresses teen struggles with mental health
The 20-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter premieres the visual for 'Shouting Matches' on i-D.
Image by Lyndsey Byrnes.
Winnipeg musician and "enthusiastic cat mom" Taylor Janzen spent the first day of her twenties at home with her cat Rory Gilmore. “Yesterday was my birthday, so I’m just relaxing today,” she says when we call to discuss her new music video for “Shouting Matches," which is premiering today on i-D.
The concept for the video was to recreate the cover of her sophomore EP. Items from her childhood, including a trophy, a guitar pick and a maneki-neko figurine signify the colored shapes that are superimposed over a statue of the Virgin Mary. Janzen is painted gold to mimic the statue. “I kept looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, ‘what is this?’" she says. “It was a crazy experience. Also, it did not come off. I got painted a month and a half ago and I went to get my hair done last week and [the hairdresser] was like, ‘why is there gold on your scalp?’”
Janzen lives in Winnipeg in the Canadian prairies. While the area is best-known for its agriculture and oil, rather than its music scene, Janzen still loves it. “I just think it’s a really nice home base,” she says when asked if she’s ever considered relocating to a larger metropolis. Her music, however, is perfectly in tune with the sparse, understated landscape. There’s an existential quality to it that echoes the nation’s great folk singers, who like Janzen, created music to better understand themselves, and in doing so, created a space for others to do the same.
Released in August 2018, Janzen’s first EP titled Interpersonal detailed her struggle with mental health and coercion she was subjected to in the church. The songs are frank and honest, a testament to the young pop stars mettle. She wrote standout track, “Stations,” when she was seventeen — just her and a guitar spilling their guts out. “I almost [sic] don't really remember writing it because I kinda just emotionally puked it out,” she told The Line of Best Fit. Her second EP, Shouting Matches, was recorded with a full band, and propels her music into more refined territory. If you were to draw a line between Phoebe Bridgers and Hatchie, Taylor Janzen would land right in the middle.
What can you tell us about the song “Shouting Matches”?
Have you ever taken the enneagram personality test? It’s something that has come into my life in the last year and I find it really interesting. It [charts] nine different personality types, and it gets very deep. When I was reading my type I was like, ‘oh wow, this is crazy,’ and it helped me articulate some things that ended up in the song. The song is about my tendency to cling to my own sadness a little bit, which I think a lot of people do, especially when sadness has become something that is so regular for you. Sometimes it’s useful, but sometimes we live in it. It’s about finding a balance [between those two things.]
There is a trophy in the video that you got for reciting the most number of bible verses at one time. What do you think the award says about you as a person?
I went to a Christian elementary school and every year we had a bunch of verses we had to memorize. Then if you said them all at the end of the year you got a trophy. It says that I’m quite competitive when there is a trophy involved — at least I was when I was younger. I just really wanted that trophy. I’m surprised I hadn't thrown it out. I think I’m a hoarder.
There is also a guitar pick that was signed by Avril Livigne and a copy of The Parent Trap on VHS. What do those two items represent?
My first musical memory is being obsessed with Avril Livigne. I wanted to be her so bad. The Parent Trap was one of my favorite movies growing up and I have a song named after Dennis Quaid, who is in that movie. It kind of started as a joke, but then I interviewed him [for Paste magazine]. It’s this whole thing, but that’s why The Parent Trap is in there. Because I love the movie and I love Dennis Quaid.
How has your relationship with the church evolved over time?
When I was younger it was very much an obligation, both internally and externally. Now my relationship with spirituality is very internal, it’s a guiding light for me. It’s something that helps me feel grounded and more at peace, but it’s not something that feels like an obligation. I still view certain churches as a great way to have a community, but I know that they have a longstanding history of using god as an excuse to hurt people. I think there is a way to do church right, but there are also many ways to do church wrong. It’s still something I’m trying to figure out.
What do you love about Winnipeg? Do you have any desire to leave and live elsewhere?
I spent the first 18 or 19 years of my life thinking, ‘man, when I graduate high school and have enough money, I’m going to move to Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal.’ A really cool city that is not here, because Winnipeg is so small. The closest city of relevance is Minneapolis, which is 8 hours away. I graduated high school and I thought I’d take a year to work, save up all my money, and then I’d go to Toronto. But I started playing music and got involved in the music scene here, and making friends through that has helped me understand how nice it is to [live in] a city where I feel comfortable. I have a mindfulness ritual I do every time I travel. When I come back to Winnipeg I take the car and I just drive by myself, because it’s really nice to drive in a city where I know the streets.
You’ve written about your struggle with mental health, and about how difficult it was to get help. What was it was like trying to get help and having people constantly put roadblocks in your way?
When I was in high school I had a lot of mental health issues. I went to counselor after counsellor and they would all tell me something different. They wouldn’t really listen to me. It was referred to as teenage angst, [but] I knew there were deeper problems. My mom was the one who booked all these appointments for me and never stopped trying to get me help, so that’s probably the only reason I ended up getting help.
Do you think there needs to be more mental health advocates who are your age?
I think that’s definitely something that needs to happen. There needs to be mental health advocates at any age. The world is getting better at talking about it, but I notice there is this narrative of, ‘you’re sick, and if you muster up the courage to get help then you’ll get it and you’ll get better,’ but that’s the end of the story. But there’s so many other things that happen after you get help that are not often discussed.
Have you had fans express their gratitude towards you for helping them navigate their own struggles with mental health?
It’s happened a few times now and it’s always a really mind-blowing moment for me, because I write music mainly for myself. The fact that anyone sees their own experience in my songs is very encouraging for me, and it also makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.