Tegan Quin is a musician and songwriter for Tegan and Sara, an indie rock band formed by her and her identical twin sister, Sara. Originally from Calgary, Tegan now lives in Vancouver.
When did you know you would be a musician for a living?
When Sara and I were in our final year of high school, both of us really struggled with imagining ourselves going to university right away. At the same time this was happening, we started to gain a following and a little bit of press as musicians, because we’d been playing locally. We kind of just negotiated with our parents that we could take a year off and use music to travel and get some life experience. By the end of that year, we’d made a record, we had a record company interested, we’d signed to an agency, and so we negotiated to get another year. Before we knew it, we’d become musicians.
What did you parents say when you were negotiating?
From my mother there were a lot of tears and, “Don’t fuck up your lives.” But they both established right away there was something special about what we wanted to do. We paid rent. That was the deal. We had to pay to live at the house if we weren’t doing university. We took out a loan from my grandparents to make a record and paid them back within three months, and then took out another loan to start our merch company. Getting loans gave us extra initiative to go out and make money to pay them back. We very much thought of our band as a business. We called our second record This Business of Art for that reason.
When did you feel like you had finally made it?
When we signed a record deal. Even though it was a small indie label, it was Neil Young’s record label. I remember seeing the first CDs in the box when it got delivered to Mom’s house, opening it up and thinking, “Well, we’ve really made it.” Which is ridiculous now. We had not done anything other than borrow $20,000 to make a record.
What are some misconceptions people have about being a famous musician?
That you make lots of money, that it’s always a lot of fun, and when you’re not touring, you’re always on vacation. I kind of want people to think that because that definitely makes me seem cooler. As soon as you’re on TV, people immediately think you’re famous and successful. But those are incredible expenses. There’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that go into marketing a record, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that go into touring. And fame is a funny thing. The day before, we were in every newspaper in Canada because we won at the Junos. But when I got on a plane yesterday, no one said anything. Even musicians have the misconception that if you’re out there touring and on the radio, you’ll be popular. But it doesn’t work that way. You really have to work at it.
Do you have a typical day?
Last year was 285 days of touring, rehearsals and playing shows. Generally, you wake up on the bus. You’re in a new city, you shower and do press most of the day. There’s a soundcheck and dinner and usually two or three different kinds of meet-and-greets: radio, VIPs and fans. Then usually about an hour or two for the show. Then you get back on the bus, drive overnight, wake up and do it all over again. People are always like, “Do you write on the road?” And I’m like, “Oh God, there’s no time.”
How does it feel being on stage?
This is the thing that makes all that other stuff worth it. There’s no denying that [touring] is pretty hard, and it’s an exhausting time being on the road. But there’s really no other feeling I’ve experienced like standing on stage in front of thousands of people who are there to see you, who seem so genuinely thrilled, singing lyrics you wrote in your bedroom years before. There really is this incredible sense of accomplishment when you step on stage and realize all that work was for something.
If not a musician, what would you be?
We laugh all the time and say we’re basically business people. We want to start a business or run a record company. I feel like we have skills that are definitely music-related, but I think we’re just really interested in creating and marketing things. That’s probably our biggest asset to the world.