Singer-songwriter, poet, and painter Sarah Teitel debuted her first studio album, Who Are You Holding, on iTunes and on Indie Pool this month, but the Toronto-based artist wants to celebrate the album’s release with a killer party that truly represents her as an artist. But how could you throw an album launch party when you can switch artistic genres like Schumacher changes gears? With a multi-disciplinary art show, of course! On Friday, September 26th, Teitel will give a performance at Project Gallery (1109 Queen Street East) that coincides with an art show featuring the paintings and drawings she created for the album. We caught up with the well-rounded artiste extraordinaire to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I’m a multimedia artist living and working in Toronto. I love words, melodies stick in my head forever, and I am perpetually amazed at how people are so complex yet simple at once.
You’re both a rising musician and accomplished painter. How did your love of the arts develop growing up? Did one come first and influence the interest in the other, and how do they compliment each other now?
I’ve always loved the heightened sense of being that engaging in creative activity allows me. As a child, that love manifested in epic sessions of Barbie doll-playing. The drama was high. The Barbies were always dying in childbirth. Ken would mourn.
As to which came first, music or visual art… I think I began to explore both in a serious way at roughly the same time – in my early 20s. Initially I thought I wanted to be an actor, and then that started to feel limiting. Also my teeth aren’t perfect. I realized I wanted to determine the shape of what I was expressing. I started making songs and pictures…
Absolutely, my music guides my hand when I am drawing/painting, and the images I have set down inform the lyrics and the tunes I come up with.
Who Are You Holding is inspired by Welsh folk songs and the music and lyrics explore the “complex nature of the self.” Tell us a little bit about the journey of self-discovery you went on while making the album.
I sing a Welsh folk song on the album, but the influences are more diverse than that. I was inspired by Italian Renaissance music, as well as African and Celtic music. I think that what I discovered while making the album, or what I was concerned with, or what was brought into relief, was (what I believe to be) the truth that we are one and many at the same time. Every day I wrestle with myself. I want what I do not want. I hope for what I most dread. I am strong in precisely the way that I know that I am weak. How can this be? And how, understanding that this is, can I be at peace with it?
I certainly would not presume to speak for others. But my sense is that these questions are fairly universal.
While the songs on Who Are You Holding are influenced by Welsh folklore, the album is nevertheless coming out in 2014 when the music industry itself continues to go through many changes. How did you address the modern era as an artist?
I have a Facebook artist page, and I have a Twitter feed, and I’m going to try as best I can to use them in ways that help to promote my work, and that feel genuine. It’s tricky. I’m part of a cusp generation. I have a younger sister, and the cyber-world was always a presence for her. I remember a time before the internet. But I appreciate the connection technology can facilitate. And I’m not opposed to exploiting it.
We love that you’re releasing your album at Project Gallery along with paintings and drawings you created for the album. How do the paintings and drawings at the gallery reflect the album?
Almost all of the artworks feature two or more faces. Many of them depict one face whispering to, or putting some type of pressure upon, the other(s). This is what is at the gist of the music. The idea that we are braided, that we are multiple. We hold so much. We hold opposites.
What are three non-musical things that inspire you as a songwriter?
Weather, guilt, smell.
Where is the most inspiring place in the world to write music, in your opinion?
Anywhere that is close to a good (or even decent) glass of wine.
What musicians should everyone see live, be they up-and-coming or classic?
Joel Plaskett, Beyonce.
What song is always on your playlist?
Leonard Cohen – “If It Be Your Will.”
What album would you say you’ve played the most in your life and/or currently?
Leonard Cohen/Jennifer Warnes, Famous Blue Raincoat.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
Quotes Bar and Grill, where I was a waitress for many years. It shut down a while ago. It was across from Roy Thomson Hall, and we got a lot of orchestra members. I adored working there. We were treated with the utmost respect. I learned so much about people and music.
What products are always in your beauty bag?
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Sunscreen, SPF 30.
How would you describe your current personal style?
I was really into style, and felt quite confident stylistically when I was younger. Then I went through a phase where I was very daunted by fashion. I’m coming back to it now, rediscovering. I’ve always loved the aesthetic of dance. Not of dance performance, but of dance practice. Functional fluidity. Layers, fabrics that move and breathe. I will always have a soft spot for leg warmers.