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All About The Weepies
The Weepies - Let Them Be Your Thrill
The Weepies are an American folk rock band. You may never have heard of them but I bet you've heard their music playing in the background of Grey's Anatomy, Dirty, Sexy Money and Scrubs.
The Weepies are a duo, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen.
Both Deb Talan and Steve Tannen were solo folk music artistes before getting together as The Weepies in 2001. Both had admired each others music when they often frequented folk music gigs on the same bill.
Deb Talan had already established herself as a solo artiste and songwriter of some talent.
Tannen also had his fans during his solo period but didn't record his first solo album, 'Big Senorita' until 2001, the year he met Deb Talan at a gig in Massachusetts.
How was Steve to know that at this time of branching out alone with a solo album he had painstakingly put together that love would come into his life and he would turn his back on his solo career.
Maybe it was an easy decision to become a duo when he finally got to sing with Deb. For years he had been singing along to Deb Talan's records and harmonising with the album and he knew instinctively that his voice was made to go with hers.
Deb Talan's success on the folk music circuit was already established - she released her first album, 'Songs For A Misfit Heart' independently in 1997. Deb Talan is a talented guitarist and lyricist, often relying on inspirations from her life for her song's subjects.
She also writes eloquently on the subject of love. She gets inside your skin in ways that other singers and writers cannot.
This article looks at the Weepies' together and also at Deb Talan and Steve Tannen's solo careers.
Deb Talan was born in the small town of Pelham, Massachusetts and went to Brown University. After university she joined the band, Hummingfish and moved to Oregon. She stayed with them for six years before branching out alone.
It is obvious from Deb's lyrics that she is a thoughtful woman who thinks a great deal about her place in the world. She often refers to other artists in her songs, like Vincent Van Gogh and Marc Chagall.
She also seems to use the celestial bodies as metaphors a lot. She makes you realise that as human beings we are very small but then juxtaposes this with the great artistic achievements of human beings and also their flaws, fears and triumphs. This 'place in the universe' motif is very strong in a lot of her songs.
And so to open with Deb Talan's skills as a songwriter, I offer you one of her most well-known solo songs, 'How Will He Find Me', a girl just looking for a boy to love her.
Steve Tannen was also born in 1968 (same as Deb) in New York City but he lived in Australia and Canada before settling again in the USA.
Steve graduated from Stanford with a degree in English and this took his into his first job as a script advisor working for Normal Jewison in Hollywood.
Music was his first love though and he began appearing at live gigs in L.A. and continued to write his own songs, eventually leaving his job to tour regularly on the folk circuit where he gained a strong, dedicated following.
His songs regularly look inwards at his own emotions and he reflects often on loneliness and of how loneliness impacts on us when we go out into a world which is not aware of it.
Steve can often write very amusing lyrics as well - some of the Weepies best song titled may well have started in his brain, for example, 'Dating A Porn Star'. He seems to enjoy looking at what its like to be on the wrong side of a relationship. This kind of self-examination can be viewed two ways, with seriousness or with a wry smile, Tannen seems able to do both.
His lyrics often identify the city as a wilderness and of man foraging in the wilderness and making sense of its bright lights.
So here is a taster of Steve Tannen in his 'wilderness' of a city, 'Good Times'.
And then they met...'.Happiness'....The Weepies
And so its 2001 and they both appear on the same bill at a club called Club Passim in Massachusetts. They have been admiring one another's music for the last few years. Steve Tannen has admitted that he listened to Deb's first solo album constantly for about a year and that when he turned up at Club Passim to play, there she was in the front row to watch him and he had been in love with her songs for a long time and he felt 'strange'.
He knew that in a way, it was his destiny to meet her and fall in love with her.
Talan has admitted the same thing but she watched the gig and left pretty quickly afterwards for the same reasons. She had been listening to his songs and was sort of scared to meet him. Would Steve live up to his emotionally charged songs.
Well the rest, as they say is history. In spite of Deb Talan's sprint away from Club Passim, they did meet again very soon after Steve tracked her down and they fell in love with one another and moved in together. Once they begain singing together, they realised their voices seemed to be a perfect harmonising match.
They released their first album, 'Happiness' at Club Passim in 2003 and were at that time unsigned, but still sold 10,000 copies. Soon Nettwork Records signed them to a contract.
'Happiness' is really an album about falling in love with all of its perfections and problems.
From that album, which is a pretty bare-boned folk album, I give you the beautiful 'Somebody Loved'. The song was recently used (and The Weepies appeared as guests) on Dirty, Sexy Money.
The Weepies -Say I Am You
Deb Talan and Steve Tannen moved to Pasadena and recorded their second album, 'Say I Am You' in their bedroom in a cottage there.
It is claimed that if you listen closely, you can hear traffic going by in the background as they recorded it. Who knows if this is true. Steve has said he can't hear any traffic but has admitted that the whole album was both written and recorded in their bedroom..
It is an astonishing album, and its lack of technical expertise gives it a joyful spirit and an almost organic quality.
The opening track 'Take It From Me' has some of the best love lyrics ever written, 'What can I compare you to?' has a delightful Shakepearean play on words and the comparison of Steve to her favourite pair of shoes, 'my bright red boots...if they had wings' is just lovely.
The entire album has too many wonderful tracks to list them all here so I shall content myself with choosing two (see videos) and hope you hop over to You Tube for those not featured.
Steve's 'World Spins Madly On' will leave you with an aching heart. He is able to touch people with his lyrics - there is a sadness there that the listener cannot ignore.
Fame At Last -The Weepies Tour and 'Hideaway'
In many respects, it was inevitable that The Weepies would eventually become famous in their small folk band sort of way but just how they achieved their fame takes us on a rather more circuitous route.
Nettwork Records had signed The Weepies after their first mini-album, Happiness had sold 10,000 copies and Deb and Steve toured the album along with their solo songs at folk clubs just as they always had. Deb released a further solo album and toured that as well.
So they were very busy. Say I Am You came out to a certain amount of buzz after 'Happiness' immediate impact.
Whilst The Weepies were not really much heard of in rock and pop circles they certainly made an impact in their ability to get radio play. This was mainly to do with their whole precept for getting together in the first place.
Their name 'The Weepies' is a reference to old 'weepie' movies. Going to see a 'weepie' meant that you were going to see a movie which would touch you emotionally and you might need a hankie, cry a little but hopefully come out of the movie having enjoyed the experience.
Deb Talan has said that that was their intention - their music could touch people in the same way as a 'weepie' movie.
So their music in many respects, whether they intended it or not, became a cinematic experience, words created sounds, sounds created images in the minds of listeners and their lyrics and music did arouse strong emotional responses.
Fortunately for them, another trend was also under way on U.S. television - using popular music as backing tracks during scenes. Music Editors seemed to prefer less well-known but up and coming music, the less intrusive the better. Fortunately, this put The Weepies in the frame.
The Weepies' music reached a wider audience thanks to shows like Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, Dirty, Sexy Money, Everwood, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl.
In 2006, Gary Lightbody Snow Patrol's lead vocalist nominated Say I Am You as the best US album to sell less than 500,000 copies and whilst it didn't make the shortlist, it did get some notice. Lightbody has regularly said he admires the band. He is, coincidentally, an excellent lyricist and like The Weepies, a musical storyteller.
'Hideaway' was their 'disappearance' album. Exhausted after their touring of Europe where they appeared at Oxegen and T in The Park and live at multiple venues in the USA, Deb and Steve went home to their new house in Topega, California and wrote and recorded 'Hideaway', an album all about getting some rest after a busy time.
2010 - Be My Thrill and PBS Kids One-Minute Videos
Be My Thrill was released independently in 2010, the same year as Deb gave birth to their second son, Alexander.
The album also features the vocal talents of Colbie Caillat on 'I Was Made For Sunny Days' and is The Weepies most successful album to date, reaching #34 on the US Top 200 list. It stayed at #3 on the Top US Folk Album Chart for nine weeks. They have since released a new song 'Same Changes' which was featured in the hit comedy movie, 'Morning Glory' starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdam.
The Weepies continue to write lyrically intense and emotional songs and they still take their albums on tour.
If you watch the video above of them playing 'Antarctica' live in Virginia, you will see that the small venue is their favourite type of venue. Yup, they can do T in The Park and Oxegen but Deb and Steve like to get close to their audience. It's like you and them on a musical lyrical journey together.
Long may it last.
Another project The Weepies have been involved in has been their PBS Kids One Minute educational videos where they create a song with a video to illustrate something that children will easily understand. I have included the one for the subject of 'gravity'. They probably enjoyed this project since they have 2 small children of their own.
Thanks for reading - now go find The Weepies on You Tube.