Teeks On His New Music & Unpacking Toxic Masculinity
The soulful singer talks about his debut chart-topper 'Something to Feel' as he prepares for a sell-out tour of the country in June
“Being in touch with your emotions is not considered a masculine thing but because I was in the process of making this album I was like, ‘Nah man, fuck that,’” Teeks laughs. His is a baritone of a laugh. A manly laugh.
Then he says, “I came to the realisation that that’s completely off the mark. I understood the power that comes from vulnerability and emotional awareness.”
In Teeks’ case it’s more like a superpower. The soulful singer-songwriter is able to elicit a deep emotional connection and response from the listener faster than a speeding bullet, with his songs hitting more powerfully than a locomotive and able to leap any defensive resistance from the listener with a single bound.
Not for nothing did he title his long-awaited, hugely anticipated debut album, Something to Feel. From the second the first deep piano chord hits on the opening track Just for Tonight the feels come flying at you with Teeks soaring over the modern soul and R&B landscape with sincere confidence and a fragile strength.
Over the course of the 12 songs — most of which have surfaced on his three prior critically acclaimed EPs Under Grapefruit Skies, I and II — he’s afraid, he’s regretful, he’s crying, he wishes he was brave, he wishes you would stay, he’s down on his knees, he wishes he could change things. You can say it gets emotional.
But it’s perhaps a sad reflection on modern society that his album title, his heart on sleeve lyrics and his openness to opening up feels almost radical. It’s reflected not just in the festering toxic male culture bubbling away on social media but also in the country’s high depression and suicide rates in young men, and especially Māori men.
“I’m trying to do what I can to change that narrative,” Teeks says. “If people have the affirmation to express themselves... that's what I hope this album can do for people. That’s the most important thing,” he says.
“The expectations people have on men, especially as a kid growing up, like, ‘don’t cry’. Why? What does that mean? I’ve done a lot of unpacking of that because I feel like a lot of dudes grow up thinking, ‘nah’ to expressing themselves. Being comfortable talking about how you’re feeling is definitely something I’ve been mindful of. Acknowledging everything you feel is important for your wellbeing as a person.”
Teeks says he took the first footsteps on this journey in 2017 with the release of his first EP. Subsequently, he says Grapefruit Skies is the sound of a 23-year-old trying to figure out who he is and trying to find his voice.
“After that project I really honed in on who I wanted to be as an artist and what I wanted to say and sound like. I took a couple of years to live and experience life and all the different ups and downs and emotions,” he says.
All the messy bits of life, the emotion and energy, got channeled into his songs and the creation of the album, which he co-produced with acclaimed producer/engineer Simon Gooding (Ed Sheeran, P!Nk, Neil Finn).
“This album, the process of recording, was very empowering for me. It took a little bit of time but I got there in terms of trusting my own abilities,” he says. “It was very empowering to finally record and bring my songs into life and into existence in the way that I heard them in my mind and in my heart. There was a lot of growth for me. I feel like I matured and developed a lot over the past couple of years putting this album together.”
Then, in what can only be described as one helluva understatement from an artist who is clearly on the path towards global recognition, Teeks says, “I really feel like I’ve come into my own.”
Something to Feel is out now on vinyl, CD and digital. Teeks begins a six-date national tour in June. For tickets visit Thisteeks.com