Overcoming fear with honesty

Singer-songwriter finds a new way to be herself

Singer-songwriter Taylor Janzen is a self-proclaimed Julien Baker Evangelist, crediting the artist with inspiring her to open up emotionally within her own writing.

“When I first heard her music, I was sitting by myself in my room listening to her song ‘Rejoice.’ I emotionally shit my pants,” Janzen says. “I just couldn't believe that someone could be that honest and get away with it. The moment I heard her be that honest, it changed the way that I wrote, because I felt inspired to be more honest in my writing.”

While she began to feel validated in her experiences, Janzen needed to grow comfortable with putting her music out into the world due to the vulnerable nature of her confessional style of songwriting.

Janzen had been secretly writing songs for years before releasing her debut acoustic EP Fear & Faith in June 2017.

“When I started writing, I didn’t even wanna show my friends my stuff. I had like, one friend I would show my songs to. Most of my friends are music snobs, so I didn’t wanna show them anything.”

She mustered up the courage to start being vulnerable with an audience by showing her work to friends whose opinions she respected.

“I thought if they liked my songs, then they must be okay, and if they didn’t like it, they’d tell me. I was very scared about it, but they ended up liking my songs. I was shook,” Janzen says.

“I recorded Fear & Faith EP in my basement. I didn’t have a microphone stand yet, so I squatted, playing my guitar with the mic wedged between my knees,” Janzen says. “(M)y cat would try to jump up into my lap. I’m pretty sure a few meows made it into the recordings.”

Janzen is a lover and writer of sad songs that serve as catharsis.

“I think that it’s important to acknowledge your sad feelings and honour them,” Janzen says. “When I express myself through my music, those feelings don’t manifest as much in other parts of my life. I feel more able to be myself day to day because I have an outlet.”

Lyrically, the songs on Fear & Faith touch on themes such as living with mental illness, going to therapy and grappling with questioning her faith.

“I was scared of both the people that I know and don’t know, knowing so much about me. They knew me as this random person who walks around their community in plaid pants with blue hair, not as a person who feels all these things and goes through so much,” Janzen says. “When I did release my music, it was really exciting, because I felt like I could be myself in a new way.”

Janzen says she feels blessed to be coming up in the Winnipeg music scene, due to it being so vibrant and welcoming.

“The more I immerse myself in the music scene, the more I realize how nice everyone is and how talented they all are,” she says. “People don’t step over each other here. Everyone who is doing well in their musical endeavours here wants others to succeed with them.”

Published in Volume 72, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 15, 2018)

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