Team T&J are a fresh dose of Active and uplifting family entertainment for all ages. They create an environment where kids can explore and express their imaginations form the excitement and freedom of live music interaction.
This Canadian Powerhouse duo have just released their second album and I am HERE for it! It's fun, unique, and I can't listen to it without singing along at the top of my lungs. As soon as I heard this album I connected with their lyrics, stories, and melodies. It's hard to pick a favourite song from these ten fresh new tracks, but Fancy Pants and Fill Your Cup are on repeat at my house these days. You can tell that they have put so much extra care and attention into their songwriting and their production. This album is going to make some BIG waves and I can't wait for the world to hear it!
I was so fortunate to interview Team T&J recently and we did a deep dive into their journey of touring (with a new baby) and releasing their first album in 6 years!
What is your favourite song from your new album and why?
Beppie, we’re just so thrilled and touched to be among the first artists a part of Beppie’s Beats!! Your music is movin’ and groovin’ and we think most of your albums are made up of “hits”. And so you know, we couldn’t release a new album ourselves without attempting to be in the same ballpark. So each song on Who Am I? is the very best of TEAM T&J. When it came time to choose a single, we looked at our 10 songs and thought, how do you chose 1 of your babies over the other? We knew Who Am I? would be the title track and we knew we would book end the album with song #10 called I Am. When you hear them you’ll hear just how connected they are while be vastly different. While we love all of the songs, these two go hand in hand.
Who Am I? is about animals on the endangered species list. We don’t live among most of these animals, like Elephants, Penguins, and Great White Sharks. We see them in the picture books or a zoo if we’re lucky. Would we even notice if they were gone? Sadly maybe not. So, we paint a picture with our song that describes an animal on the endangered species list and ask the listener to guess. Do you recognize me?
Who Am I? “I’m the… elephant, tortoise, and the bumble bee, the penguin panda and sloth in the tree…. Extinction took away the dinosaur... I’m the great white shark and the polar bear, as humans we show and expression of care, so let’s raise our voice and make some noise, and roar….” The bridge sings “We are not one, without the other, heal the world, don’t hurt another…. Species lost can not be found, time to try another round….” And we begin to paint the picture of more animals.
It seems like the chorus really personifies ourselves as the animals. I’d love if you could touch on that a bit more. What’s the connection there for you?
When we look in the mirror, at some point in our lives, we ask ourselves, “who am I?” what am I here for? What’s my role in this world? And we answer it in the song. It’s what Mr. Rogers taught all of us… As humans we show an expression of care. To be seen, to be heard. That we are not one without the other. That’s where we came from on our last album STICK2GETHER, and that’s where we’ve evolved to on Who Am I? The endangered species list is really a list of all of us who share this beautiful planet. Without care for endangered species, when we look down the list, we might find ourselves. If we can act with care and love for all, our own selves within, and all living things, then that’s how we begin to feel really good emotionally and physically. The funny thing is, of all people, children are the ones who understand and connect with this best. We often just hope our music will remind them, and in turn, remind all of the grown ups including TEAM T&J that this is what it’s all about. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget, if I just take a moment of self care, and outward care, I might just feel a little better, and help someone else feel the same. It means a lot, and it’s all about helping to make the world a better place overall.
People won’t remember what you did, they’ll remember how you made them feel.
Your last song as you mentioned is called I Am. Is that how you come full circle? Who Am I? ends with the answer being I Am?
I Am is the affirmation. We all know to be able to serve the best of ourselves, it’s important to feel well emotionally and physically. Through our song I Am, we do our best to remind ourselves of this, and to be proud of who we are. T sings lead on this song. It took over 7 hours for her to sing this song in the studio because of how emotionally driven it is and what it meant to her while writing it. T has a beautiful voice, and it’s all the more beautiful when she doesn’t try to “be the singer”. Instead, we try to ground ourselves, to paint a melodic and lyrical picture. We ask each other, “who am I” speaking too? T sounds like an angel in our ear saying “it’s okay, you are good enough…” That has always been a struggle for her, and for so many of us. It was a song she wrote to remind herself that SHE is good enough. She’s really singing it to her younger self as a reminder to let all the doubt that’s become engrained, go. Remember why YOU are here. It all comes back to that sense expression of care. And we hope it will help kids and grown ups too, like T.
The song transitions from affirmations to a moment in time where J takes over the lead vocal to say “we need your eyes to help us see, we need your ears to help us listen, we need your heart to help us love, we need your voice please help us sing….” and a choir of over 100 voices sing a 6 part harmony reprise of the bridge in Who Am I? This completes the album.
We literally go through the steps of Who Am I? to I Am, to when you’re ready we’re looking for all of the helpers, to We, to We are one. So, it’s pretty deep. A lot of questions and a lot of discovery.
I heard that T wasn’t the only one who had tears because of this song…
She wasn’t. While J was mixing, he didn’t have enough computer processing power to mix it in one file. So he mixed the choir first one week and mixed the front of the song the second week. Then he put them together and decided to listen to how it was all sounding together. By the time the choir hit, he had forgotten what was coming, so it suddenly felt brand new to him. The parts continued to grow and build and when T belted out some of the final lyrics over top of the choir, he broke down and crawled out of the studio and T ran up asking him if he was okay.
What was the particular lyric that made J break down?
Out of nowhere T sings “ONE… We’ve got to stick together… And heal the world…”
It hit J in the feels because our last album is called STICK2GETHER. And it’s been a huge part of “who we are”. So here we are at the final moments of this brand new album, and we take a moment to reflect and tie it all together. It’s one of those things that hard core fans will notice after a few times. STICK2GETHER is our piano man. We may play totally different sets live, but we always bring it home with STICK2GETHER. So in a way, it brings us home in I Am, too.
How does STICK2GETHER tie in?
We hope that when a child grows up and they look around and think “that sunset is beautiful, that garden is beautiful, that person is so beautiful, but I… am not… and I don’t feel beautiful.” That they might reflect on the music we all shared and remember STICK2GETHER and Who Am I? and I Am and reflect to consider that maybe we can’t separate ourselves from all of the wonder and beauty in this world. Maybe, just maybe, "I am a part of what makes it beautiful." As simple as that is, TEAM T&J exists because we are always trying to remind ourselves of that. A lot of people who love us very much didn’t think we could make a living doing what we do. And we had no way to “prove” to them we could. It took and continues to take a lot of courage to follow your dreams, and to find those who are looking for what you have to offer. We have messages and emails from grown ups telling us how our music has so much meaning to them, and how we’ve not only been meaningful in their children’s lives but to them as well. And so… Our expression of care, is reflected back to us, and it’s a circle of energy. Doing what we do was important for us to do when we began. Now it’s bigger than just us. And we are the caretakers.
This album has been a labor of love for many years. How did you know you were ready to release it?
Is it out? Oh… yes it seems it is!! We started writing this album in 2017. We thought we’d have it ready by 2018. In the fall of 2019 we finished all of the vocals you hear on the album. The only vocal still to do was the ending of “Fill up Your Cup” because J extended it. Then Covid hit and we really went through a period of “what’s the point?” We lost our live shows which is how we make a living, performing close to 300 shows per year. And then it was even harder realizing, all of the families we would normally see, sometimes only once in a calendar year depending on the province or state, we weren’t going to see. Beppie… You’re not looking at two social media savvy people. We are two people who live in the moment. So the live experience is everything for us. The moment becomes the lasting memory, and that’s what we share with families.
We signed our first mortgage on Friday the 13th of March, 2020. Not the luckiest day to say the least. While at the bank signing our life away, emails and calls and texts were flooding in about major event cancellations, that resulted in 2 years of closures. At that point, between our rental home and new home, we spent 2 months living in T’s childhood bedroom where we recorded our single “Thank You” for front line workers, and kids being heroes staying at home. Nothing about this time in our career was easy. But the album took a back seat as we tried to navigate how to make a living. As events started coming back we looked at each other and said, now is the year!! I guess, so did everyone else. A lot of wonderful children’s music released this year!
As for the songs being ready? We had started to mix the album in our rental home studio. Now in the new home, J wanted to begin again so it was cohesive. Well, the problem with that is, J is a perfectionist. He produces the music from scratch. 1 kick drum at a time. He’ll build up a song completely and if it’s too fast or slow, or if the vibe or feel isn’t quite hitting the mark, he will start all over. Who Am I? for example has 226 individual tracks (parts). His computer can’t handle all of that, so he really had to figure out how to arrange it, produce it and mix it so it could be everything he heard in his head. If a mix doesn’t sound right, it gets remixed. If the instruments don’t sustain our interest, they get re-written or axed. Most people would have released the album in 2019. But if we weren’t as diligent, none of the songs would sound how they do. You might notice that as you listen there is no specific “sound” on this album. It’s very TEAM T&J but different. So if J hears something in his head, and he doesn’t know how to produce it, he’ll learn it, and make it happen. He trusted a good friend of his Jeff Alan Greenway to help him with some of the more difficult orchestration parts he was hearing in his head. If you saw some of the ways J expressed these ideas to Jeff, you’d laugh. Maybe one day we’ll post some videos on social media of their exchanges.
Mixes were ready to go 2 days before we had our son, Lyric, who is coming on a year old. Finally, while we were on the road this summer, we decided to have someone else master them. Mastering is the last ear between the artist and the fan. If something wasn’t sounding right, they’d tell us and we could go back to re-mix, once again. We’re not sure what would have taken longer, for J to master the album himself or to find a mastering engineer who would care for the work like we did. We found Mark Ashfield. He’s actually from the UK. We paid for some test masters from a few engineers, and J gave them what he felt would be the hardest song to master. In this case it was “Love the Way You Look”. J had mixed this 3 times over a 2 year period. Mark gushed about how well produced and mixed it was, so he was obviously the right choice, right?
Are you planning on making another album?
Yes. We have 20 plus melodies composed. Half lyric and ideas. How long that will take to do what we do? We’re never sure. We always think we can do what everyone else does and pump out great material once per year. But with a little baby, and taking him on the road, it’s not easy. Maybe we’ll try to hire some good people to help us, and see what happens.
The truth is, no client has ever asked to hear our music. We perform close to 300 shows per year, and they hire us because we can entertain and involve so many kids and families.
So to do what we do to make a living, releasing music doesn’t pay the bills as they say. It’s when we start getting requests from our fans and teammates that we get inspired to release for them.
Has having a new addition to your family changed the way you make music and perform?
Sure. We depend on each other to make a living, so when one of us goes on the road we both do. When one of us has to be on stage performing, the other one does too. So yes, we had a lot of inner panic ahead of having a baby considering how that would affect our business. Our son Lyric will have been on 14 flights by the time he turns 1.
At first we had some help, but as things got really busy, we had to figure it out just the 3 of us. Lyric loves our show, and now if anyone is trying to distract him from watching it, he might cry. So, as long as he can be a part of it or see it, he’s very happy to be there. Sometimes he’ll be beside the stage, sometimes in a pack n play quite literally behind our backdrop. And sometimes, when he’s off to the side and not happy about it, we have no choice but to introduce him to everyone, and he may sit there and give a bit of stink face, but people seem to really enjoy that we include him. Families have said to us after the show that it’s inspiring to see a couple make it happen, like if we can do it, they can too.
Lyric's goodnight song just happens to be STICK2GETHER, so he loves the end of our show. And well, it can also be the thing to put him to sleep. We love that about our show too.
What songs are you listening to right now?
I Am. It’s seems to be the only song that consoles Lyric on our long drives. If it doesn’t loop to the beginning soon enough you’ll hear him “ah…” and then he’s good for a few more minutes. We also sing a lot, and nothing necessarily cohesive. A lot of gibberish that may become memorable music along the way. In the car we have to remember to put on music. We’ve always been the type to participate in a thing more than be a spectator. Music is the same way. A lot of the events we play are sensory overload, so it’s nice to have some quiet. Other than that we sing random songs form artists, like yourself. We definitely sing Stomp to the left, Stomp to the right from your song Dino-Mite. Just such a cool groove and pocket it’s easy to loop and happy to have in our heads.
What is your favourite kind of pizza?
Ham, pineapple, roasted garlic, eggplant, sun-dried tomato, green pepper, mushroom, onion and black olives…
We usually split that into two though. But if we could have it on one, look out!
Listen to Team T&J's new album, Who Am I?
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