By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Topics like crisis of faith and female empowerment overcame the mind of Teressa Mahoney, who one day last October, woke up with the idea for a new collection of songs – ones that would be evocative, yet sensitive.
The end result is ‘Disillusions,’ the latest album from the Colorado-based Americana/folk singer-songwriter.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Mahoney about ‘Disillusions’ and more.
Music Bugle – What are your favorite types of songs to sing?
Teressa Mahoney – I like to sing songs that I connect with on some level. I do covers only if they mean something to me. I’m also a sucker for ballads!
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Teressa Mahoney – “Hey Honey” was probably the hardest song on this album to write. I think it went through about 10 rewrites. Finally, I asked Don Chaffer to help and together, we found the right words. Misogyny in the American evangelical church is a delicate subject and I wanted to treat it in a way that is true to my story, while not overstating the facts. I wanted people who are experiencing or perpetrating this problem to hear something that rings true when they listen to this song and . . . I wanted it to be funny. That was a tall order, but Don had this amazing co-writing technique that impressed me so much. First, he asked me about the story and my experience and why I wanted to write this song in the first place. Unbeknownst to me while I was talking – it was on Zoom – he was writing down phrases that I said. Later, as we were writing, he would throw out the phrases and somehow, they fit perfectly into the song. I think what we ended up with really gets to the heart of my experience with this issue.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your latest album ‘Disillusions’?
Teressa Mahoney – We did it during COVID, so it was complicated and kind of messy and took forever, but it is definitely my favorite album I’ve done so far. My producer, Lori Chaffer, was absolutely amazing. I love her eclectic style and how she brings in instruments that I never would have thought of. She also helped me revise the lyrics on just about every one to bring the songs to their truest versions of themselves. For six of the songs, we recorded vocals remotely, with me in Colorado and Lori in Nashville. I got to actually go into her studio for the other two songs. There was a lot of FaceTime, email and Dropbox going on throughout the process.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Colorado to someone who has never been there before?
Teressa Mahoney – My favorite thing about Colorado is the sunshine. We get around 300 sunny days per year. I love the ocean so much, but I don’t think I could ever give up the mountains – I would never know which direction is West without them. Just looking at them every day does a lot to ground me and make me feel connected with the Earth. It does snow in the Winter – and Fall and Spring and sometimes Summer, but normally, it is all melted by the next day and the sun is out again.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Teressa Mahoney – I love it when songs put into words something that I instinctively know to be true, but didn’t ever actually say out loud before. I think folk music gives listeners the chance to learn something new about the human condition and walk away from the experience a little wiser, changed in some way.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Teressa Mahoney – Ugh. I think that’s above my pay grade. I don’t know. I do know that coming up with content is not my strong suit. I struggle with feeling “sale-sy” when I post about my work, but it’s kind of a necessary evil, isn’t it? How else will they know? Probably like a lot of artists, I’d rather just do music, play live shows and connect with people than fiddle around with my phone all the time.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Teressa Mahoney – I played a lot fewer live shows in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, so it affected me financially, but I actually think the biggest change for me was the social and political clarity that I found. I first heard this analogy at an outdoor church service last Summer – It’s like we’re living in a lake filled with all these gorgeous trees and the pandemic caused the water level to drop dramatically. Suddenly, we can see the roots. We can see who people really are and what really matters to them. They were like that all along, but the truth of it was concealed by the water. I’m starting to write songs for my next project right now and I can’t say for sure yet, but I think one of the themes will be the polarization in America.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Teresa Mahoney – I’m listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Taylor Leonhardt. The first two are a bit of a departure for me, but I’m going with it.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Teressa Mahoney – I go outside. There is so much beauty in the natural world. Just sitting still in front of a tree can change my whole perspective. I never knew I was a water person until the pandemic happened and I took up paddle boarding. Lately, I’ve been doing that every chance I get.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Teressa Mahoney – “Never Give Up.” I have it tattooed on my arm. I see it every day. Some days, I struggle with depression and that little reminder can keep me going.