The Road to Beautiful: How Canadian Singer TALK Finds Community and Connection on Tour

t7-1 - Credit: Photography by Tyson Leith for Rolling Stone
t7-1 - Credit: Photography by Tyson Leith for Rolling Stone

The last few years have been a whirlwind for Ottawa native TALK. Since breaking out with the 2022 single, “Run Away to Mars,” the singer-songwriter has been chasing his dream on tour. His goal? Connecting with people on a scale he never imagined wherever he may be.

That connection he’s speaking of has led to nearly 100M streams of his breakout single on Spotify alone, and it’s only growing, soon culminating in an appearance at the 2023 Life is Beautiful music festival.

More from Rolling Stone

While on a stint in New York City in a post-tour haze, TALK took some time to unwind at the Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg with his buddies and girlfriend, along the way catching up with Rolling Stone and Marriott Bonvoy about creating connections, being on the road, and most importantly: why a bodega bacon, egg, and cheese is the quintessential New York experience.

This is the Tao of TALK.

Never Stop Talking

Despite being relatively new to the industry, TALK, whose real name he’d prefer to omit despite being available online, has always felt a deep connection with music.

“It’s all about love and acceptance and happiness and positivity. So that’s one half of TALK, and then the other half is that I talk a lot. I never shut up.”

And talk he does. During our time together, the singer wanders the property at the Moxy, stopping frequently to take in the colorful murals and eclectically modern design. (Moxy Hotels is one of 30 hotel brands in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio.)

Reflecting on his childhood, he muses, “I was kind of a social butterfly. I would stand up in the cafeteria on tables and sing stupid songs and make people laugh and have a good time.”

He continues, “My pastime as a child, other than music, was spinning in circles. It was very difficult to handle me.”

As he turns to an arcade cabinet located in a casual hangout space in the Moxy’s lobby, it’s clear that his boundless energy requires constant stimulation. For that, he has found the right place.

New York is the place to be.

Growing up in Ottawa, TALK was initially used to living at a slower pace, but the electricity of New York City always called out to him.

“I love the nonstop chaos, the overstimulation. I’m the kind of person that has the TV on, my phone on, some music playing. I like to be overwhelmed and New York is perfect for that.”

He notes, “There’s such a carefree vibe in New York; you can do whatever you want, and nobody cares. I would say that I feel less self-conscious [here].”

It’s tough to imagine someone of TALK’s stature feeling self-conscious. Clad in bright overalls with big, flowing blonde hair, he’s an impressive height and exudes an effortlessly affable vibe. Known for his meticulously crafted looks, both in custom-made couture (designed by his girlfriend) and intricately styled makeup, TALK looks every bit the artist he describes as being central to New York City.

“People aren’t afraid to experiment, people aren’t afraid to do cool stuff – they aren’t worried. I think the art in New York has been so successful because there’s so many people from so many backgrounds [in] the chaos.”

And of all the art in the city, none fills him with as much enthusiasm to discuss as his favorite corner store classic: the BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese).

“My first bodega bacon, egg, and cheese was a great memory. And then, I learned that it was on every corner and my mind was blown.”

Art and cuisine aside, New York City also has some deeply personal ties to TALK, as he routinely visited the area over the years, first to visit his older brother, and now for himself.

“My brother’s number one, I have some friends here too. The shows have been great here. So [with] spending time with family, doing shows here, spending time with my girlfriend here, there’s a lot of good memories. [My girlfriend] likes fabrics stores; She makes all of my clothes.”

Outfitted in some of those most eye-popping designs, TALK takes the opportunity to make some more of those memories, bringing his group on a half day detour outside the hotel to nearby Domino Park for (what else?) a hot BEC.

It’s all about connection.

Connections are important to TALK. Connections to food, to places, and most of all, to people. Like many, he’s struggled with the feeling isolated in the digital age – the façade of social media doesn’t always equate to meaningful interaction – but he’s found a lifeline connecting with fans of his music online. Now it’s time to relish the human contact afforded to him by his work.

“It’s the firsthand experience. When I’m at home and releasing music, I get tons of DMs that are so sweet, but seeing it and hearing it and feeling hugs from people? It’s different than just getting some messages.”

The impact of his work isn’t lost on the singer, and the feeling is mutual, adding, “The most inspiring thing is seeing people spend their time and money to come see me, liking me, and it’s us connecting. I’ve always heard of [it] happening, but never expected it at the beginning.

“I always write for me, and always make what I want to make, but the fact that it can impact somebody across the world is really powerful. There are some people [who are] like, ‘This is the best day of my life’ when they meet you. That’s crazy. The fact that it’s ‘that’ important to someone just to say ‘hi.’ That’s the inspiring part that keeps you wanting to deliver.”

But it’s not just the new connections that are important to the artist but also fostering the ones with his friends and bandmates traveling the world together.

“I have a long history with the majority of my band. [We’ve] all just been very close for a long time and the majority of us live together. It’s funny, the number one thing I’d point out is you start to form your own language. [Things] just develop, you spend so much time with these people.”

Our discussion shifts back to the Moxy where the artist can begin prepping for a big night out. They’ll be hitting the Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg’s resident nightclub, Jolene. For a crew that’s so committed to the work, it’s important to take advantage of the downtime.

Life on the Road

Touring isn’t easy for any artist, especially one who’s relatively new to the experience. But TALK is extremely positive on the matter – after all, it’s been his life’s dream.

“I feel like I always saw myself on stage. In more recent years, when it started to become real and the manifestations started [happening], it started being like, ‘Oh, stadiums!’ Always stadiums.”

Looking back on the connections he’s made on tour, TALK notes how artists get to know each other on the road.

“Back stage at festivals is great. I feel like that’s really the only way artists get to hang out in the summer [if] they’re touring around, being backstage at festivals or on the same stage or lineup.”

Part of the way TALK maintains his relationships at home is through gaming, which is one of the essentials to find while traveling.

“One thing when you’re always on the road, you really miss video games. I love video games; I feel like it’s my generation’s thing. And being reminded of that experience even just a little bit and relaxed by turning the mind off and playing some games, especially with friends, is a huge cool thing.”

But living on the road can quickly wear down an artist and finding the right hotel for comfort and rejuvenation isn’t always a smooth process.

On touring, he says: “Every day, I [have been] in a different hotel. Every single day. And they ranged from the lower end to the higher, whatever was available. I didn’t walk into an atmosphere that was as happy as this one. I don’t know if it’s what’s on the wall or how it’s spaced out; I don’t know what the cause is. It’s more the feeling.”

The multifaceted nature of TALK’s persona feels like a good fit for the Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg, itself not content to be just one thing.

“The sprawling nature of this hotel, how many areas there are. I feel like I walk through a door and I’m in a new hotel every time. It’s crazy. It must be a different building, but no, it’s all just this wonderful, large, extravagant, well-designed space.”

With a keen eye for detail and an appreciation for thinking outside the box, TALK points to a very specific surprise he had during his stay.

“Did you know that the phones have bedtime stories?! I discovered this accidentally. I feel like small details like that are undervalued in any hotel environment. It’s just such a lighthearted touch.”

Looking to the road ahead, TALK has a lot to be excited about. With the lion’s share of the year’s tour down, everything now leads to Las Vegas with the Life is Beautiful music festival.

“It’s the last festival that I’m playing and a culmination of practice and experience in multiple countries, fifteen festivals, hundreds of thousands of people – a lot of people, half a million people. I’m honored to end my first real year of festivals and the biggest year growth I’ve ever had in Vegas with Life is Beautiful.

But first? There’s plenty of night ahead and connections to be made.

The Road to Beautiful is a series of stories on how travel inspires Life is Beautiful artists, presented by Marriott Bonvoy and Rolling Stone.

Moxy Hotels is a part of Marriott Bonvoy, a portfolio of over 30 hotel brands and experiences that can inspire any stay. Where can we take you?

Best of Rolling Stone

Click here to read the full article.