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Q&A with Ottawa singer-songwriter Nicholas Durocher, known professionally as Talk, up for five Juno awards.Carina Allen/Supplied

Capitalizing on the viral success of his emotionally charged 2021 single Run Away to Mars, the singer-songwriter who goes by the moniker TALK continued his rocket-like ascent in 2023 with the release of his first full-length album, Lord of the Flies & Birds & Bees.

The Ottawa alt-rocker, born Nicholas Durocher, is in contention for five statuettes at this weekend’s Juno Awards in Halifax. Sunday’s gala, broadcast live on CBC, will be hosted by Nelly Furtado.

In advance of the Junos and a spring tour that takes him from Quebec City to Vancouver, the 28-year-old newcomer talked about his stage name, his money (or lack of it) and his new life as a major label artist.

Where did the name TALK come from?

From a Coldplay song called Talk. That, and I talk a lot.

I think I can guess, but what do you like about Coldplay?

I’d be interested to know what you think.

Coldplay has an emotional, sweeping and euphoric style, with sensitive lyrics. I hear the same things in your music.

That’s what I think too. I love everything they do, but specifically the early albums. The music is straightforward, raw and vulnerable. I also like their message of peace and love, and accepting and spreading happiness and joy. As an artist, it’s all you can really try to do when things are the way they are in the world.

You mentioned vulnerability. I hear it, and fear and anxiety and doubt, in your music. Yet, the music is bold and galvanizing – like you’re leading a parade.

The best way to describe all that is hope. Everybody experiences fear and doubt. I do too. I’m a regular guy. But I won’t let it take over my life. That’s the vibe I go for.

You’ve said your hit song Run Away to Mars was written at 3 a.m., in your bedroom at your parent’s house in Ottawa. Where did it come from, though?

Loneliness. I was inspired by outer space at the time. I was watching a lot of sci-fi movies. I have some of my best ideas at the witching hour, and I happened to have a guitar by my bed. I didn’t really leave my room during COVID. All I was thinking about was creating music and recording. All of the song came together at the same time. It was like being struck by lightning, I imagine. I don’t remember much from the night. I had been sleeping, I know that. I have a voice note on my phone from 3:30 in the morning. It was almost the entire song.

You’ve come a long way quickly, and there’s a line in the song about running out of oxygen. Do ever wonder how long this success of yours can last?

I’m very fortunate that I have incredible people around me. I feel I’m on a good path for a long career. When I wrote that line originally, it was, “How long can I feel this way?” But it does, 100 per cent, hold true for my career – how long can you continue to do your best and be your best?

You’re up for the songwriter award at this year’s Junos, which is a testament to your craft. Is that the most rewarding of your five nominations?

It’s a great thing, and it was a surprise. I’m nominated alongside Connor Riddell, who I work on every song with. He’s one of my best friends. It’s also the one category that’s outside of TALK. I’m nominated in my own name, Nicholas Durocher. So it’s a separate thing.

In your press bio, you’re described as flashy and eccentric and colourful. But the songwriting award has nothing to do with those adjectives. Song publishers want Paul Simon and Chris Martin, not flash.

I work very hard at songwriting. It’s one of the parts I love most about this job – the puzzle I get to put together. I’m trying to make something that makes me cry or makes me fired up or anything in-between.

Now that you have a publisher and you’re signed to a major label, you can’t wait until inspiration comes to you. Has the process changed?

Yeah, there’s a schedule now. It’s difficult to plan when you’re going to be creative. But there’s ideas all the time for me. Now it’s just a matter of keeping things organized. Waking up and not having anything else to do but be creative, with no restrictions, is a thing of the past.

You signed with Universal Music. Artists have more options now than ever. Why sign with a major label?

I think the most important part of any label relationship is how good the fit is. I’ve been very fortunate that the people I work with have always wanted the best for me. That said, I’m an extremely stubborn and extremely self-confident person.

Major labels and stubborn artists don’t always get along. Don’t let them take your stubbornness away from you.

I won’t. My parents never could, and no one else could either.

You’ve scored some licensing deals, you’ve amassed more than 200 million streams and you’re filling big rooms. Are you doing well financially?

I’m doing okay. I think people assume artists make a lot more money than we do.

I would argue that with the streamers’ low royalty rates, people assume artists are starving.

We make money playing live. But once you cut in your agent, your manager, your merchandise cut for the venues and paying the band, you’re not coming out with crazy money. I’m still very much a mid-level artist who relies pretty heavily on government grants to make ends meet.

There’s the old joke about Juno winners not being able to afford the cab ride home after the ceremony. Promise me you’ll make sure Universal Music Canada pays for that cab ride Sunday night, would you?

I’ll bill them back. Don’t you worry.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


With four other major category nominations attesting to his monster 2023, the singer-songwriter TALK is a virtual lock to win the statuette for breakthrough artist of the year when the Juno Awards are handed out this weekend in Halifax. As for the other 45 awards, it’s hard to say who will walk home with the hardware. Here are five questions to keep in mind before all the envelopes are opened and the drama unfolds.

Will Charlotte Cardin reprise her 2022 Juno success? The Montreal singer-songwriter, who won four awards two years ago, has six nominations this year, more than any other artist.

What kind of protest can we expect? A topless environmental activist popped up onstage at the Junos in Edmonton last spring, and pro-Palestine protestors interrupted the Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto last fall.

Will Tate McRae win her first Juno? Though the Greedy-singing Calgarian is only 20 years old, she has racked up nine nominations previously and three more this year. Other nominees looking for their first trophies are veteran singer Amanda Marshall and superstar maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Where’s Drake? The hip-hop icon has boycotted his home country’s annual music celebration since 2017.

Will Taylor Swift win international album of the year? We hope not – 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is a rerecording of an album that first came out a decade ago.

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