Home Editor Picks TALK’s hit song Run Away to Mars came out of ‘loneliness and the pandemic’ | CBC News

TALK’s hit song Run Away to Mars came out of ‘loneliness and the pandemic’ | CBC News

TALK’s hit song Run Away to Mars came out of ‘loneliness and the pandemic’ | CBC News

Nick Durocher has had an odd couple of years. The Ottawa musician started out 2022 with his career heading in the right direction: booking a concert in front of more than 70,000 people — the largest show he’s ever played — and seeing his face on a billboard in the middle of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square under his stage name, TALK.

It was the culmination of almost a decade of work touring around the country as a bassist in a country band, crafting songs on his own when he found the time and trying to connect with audiences any way he could.

But in an unlikely stroke of luck, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit — when he found himself out of work and forced to move back into his parents’ basement — that he figured out the formula.

Durocher, then 25, used his loneliness — along with a singular fascination with outer space and Matthew McConaughey — to craft a song, Run Away to Mars. And after years of struggling, that proved to be the solution.

The mournful ballad went viral on TikTok, brought him thousands of fans and even got him a featured spot on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

CBC News sat down with Durocher to talk about the origin of the song, how he’s seen it affect others and the long journey to the glam rock and roller he is today.

WATCH | TALK’s Run Away to Mars: 

Right off the bat, I’m curious: Where did the name TALK come from?

So I never shut up. That’s the first thing. I’ve always had something to say, ever since I was a kid.

I also love Coldplay, specifically the song Talk, and I wanted to kind of carry Chris Martin and Coldplay with me. This decision was made, like, eight years ago now, and the TALK thing just kind of made sense.

Talking about eight years or back in the past, I’d love to ask you about your musical journey or musical career. It’s obviously simmering, jumping off in the past year, but where did you start?

It started when I was four, when I started playing drums  — I was pretty much Justin Bieber, if you ask me [laughs]. And then I kind of hopped around to a bunch of different instruments. I didn’t really fall in love with anything but found love with music in general. My older brother’s a great singer and so he kind of led the way. Not as a solo artist, but as a Broadway actor — he worked on Sesame Street and he’s Junior Gorg on Fraggle Rock now.

A man in a tie-dye shirt and bright pink overalls gives the "peace" symbol with both hands. He is standing in front of an empty stage.
Durocher poses at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on Dec. 16, 2022. He says it took years for him to accept both his love of music and his own trademark style. (Jackson Weaver/CBC)

But I thought it was kind of lame, the singing thing. Because I didn’t understand him or know him. But then high school came around, and I had a teacher who encouraged me to sing, and it turned out I could do it kind of good. And then it was a passion thing.

After that I toured, played bass in a country band for a little bit, and then the opportunity to write my own stuff just came to me. I just decided to give it a shot, like, maybe 10 years ago, and it brought me here — after a lot of trial and error, a lot of really bad songs, awful songs. A lot of deleted songs — stuff I couldn’t even find if I wanted to — deleted out of frustration. ‘Cause I knew what I wanted to make, and that’s what I’m making now.

We’re talking about deleted songs, or not great songs. You’ve obviously figured out your voice. You landed on a song that’s resonated with millions of people. Where did that song come from?

That song came from a lot of loneliness and the pandemic. Run Away to Mars came at, like, 2 a.m. on the edge of a bed in my parents’ basement. I had just watched Interstellar — it’s one of my favourite movies of all time; I think Matthew McConaughey is an icon. I love him so much [laughs]. And that was kind of going around in my head, like, he wanted to get far away or, like, go far away to save the world.

And so there’s a bit of that, there’s a bit of The Martian with Matt Damon, all these space movies of seclusion and the size of space. And I was lonely and I was, like, well, the farthest place I could conceptually get to: that’s Mars.

And so I just sat on the edge of the bed and it came out real fast, like, 15, 20 minutes. The body of the song was there. It was missing a few details, but it was pretty much there.

What’s it been like to see how impactful this song has been to people in the past year?

It’s a very humbling experience, people telling me their life stories and telling me, you know, they didn’t end their life because of the song and that it meant so much to them. It kind of grew outside of what it was to me. You know, it was a song, it was my song, but now it kind of belongs to everyone else. Like, there’s YouTube comments that were, like, “I’m like a big burly trucker. I never cry. But when I heard this, I pulled over and told my friends I love them.” Stuff like that, where it makes people spread love a little bit, tell people what’s going on, that whole thing. It’s been incredible. It’s been such a great experience.

But the song has also helped you connect, too — even to your francophone roots.

Yeah, my mom is fully francophone. It wasn’t my first language, but I learned in school, then I worked for a French company for a bit before I did all this. And my mom yelled at me in French, but I would refuse to talk French when I was a kid. My aunt was trying to pay me money to speak French. She’d be like, “I’ll give you five bucks if you talk to me in French!” and it never worked, I don’t think. Maybe once.

I just for some reason really didn’t want to do it. But now I like it, and some of the most dedicated fans are in Montreal and Quebec City. I played for, like, 70 or 80,000 people in Quebec City last summer. That’s kind of what kick-started this whole thing was that, and then the TikTok’s doing well, it was because of that.

You just said you refused to speak French as a kid. We were talking earlier about you not enjoying music despite your talent. Now you seem to know who you are, know what your music is. Was that a hard journey to reach the end of?

I think that’s what pushed me into it, is not knowing who I was, or pretending to be someone I wasn’t for years. But I’m too lazy. I just got tired of trying to be someone I wasn’t, and I met really good friends who told me, “This is who you are, it’s staring you right in the face.” 

Early in the pandemic I went on unemployment, spent a lot of my days looking for work — [laughing] government, I was looking for work. But a lot of my free time was just making song after song after song — just trying to get better and better, and then working with people who are better than me. Then things just started snowballing. And I’ve loved every single part of it.

What’s the future for TALK?

I don’t know at this point. I could not have predicted this. I just hope more of the same. I feel like I was ready for this last year, and it just took a little extra time, and so a lot of mental prep went into it.

And I feel ready, you know, I got a great, great label behind me and a great record. I’m working on an album right now that will be at some point this year. Don’t know when, but it’s looking really good — and I’m really hard on myself when it comes to new songs, and I love what we’ve made. So I have a really good feeling about it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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